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Nigerian Experimental Soul Artist Kingsley Ibeneche Expands On 'Realms'

The vocalist and dance performer explores the power of his Nigerian roots on this second release.

Kingsley Ibeneche makes deep, expansive tunes through the vehicle of soul music—bridging the gap between R&B and Afropop. Born Kingsley Ugumba Ibeneche to Igbo parents from the Udo and Obizi villages, the first-generation New Jersey native spent most summers as child shuttling between the east coast and Nigeria. It's during these trips when this rising artist first made lasting connections with this heritage.

"We come from a heavy line of artists, philosophers, and all around rebels," Kingsley reflected in an interview with OkayAfrica, "I have fond memories of going to Nigerian gatherings and seeing all the colorful garbs, hearing the traditional Nigerian highlife and African music play, and seeing all of our parents dance until the sun came out." The magic of these experiences was echoed through the rituals of his community's Nigerian-American church, where gospel music knows few limits. Kingsley's 2017 debut release CHi is a clear product of this spiritually grounded upbringing, championing the sacred-secular origins of R&B.


Kingsley Ibeneche - Sanctuary (Official Music Video) youtu.be

On the singer-songwriter's second effort, Realms, the Philadelphia-based musician delves into experimental soul with a sound that summons his African roots. Realms boasts a level of sophistication and technical prowess that's presented with ease and grace, speaking to the artist's personal and professional modesty. Paying homage to the buttery grooves of D'Angelo's Voodoo and the Terrace Martin-assisted progressive jazz productions of Kendrick Lamar, Kingsley's style is at once challenging and provocative.

Kingsley also took inspiration from the Nigerian pop music his family played at home to craft the Afrofusion workouts of Realms. "You could always hear chants of Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe, Oliver de Coque, P-Square," said Kingsley, explaining how the sounds of his childhood spill into the new music. "Those same chants I used as inspiration for this project."

Photo: Marcus Branch. Courtesy of Kingsley Ibeneche.

The ethereal, ever-changing soundscape of Realms was expertly crafted by executive producer Lee Clarke, who composes surreal and futuristic worlds on these six songs. With Kinglsey's mesmeric voice leading the way, it's easy enough to gleam over these sophisticated productions, but Clarke's subtleties make themselves known upon multiple listens. Boom bap ("Sanctuary"), free jazz ("Loud"), Nigerian highlife ("To The Citadel"), post-dubstep and rap ("The Sound") collide with spectacular results on the new Astro Nautico EP.

Along with Clarke, Kingsley enlists a host of underground Philly talents to lend vocals and additional instrumentation to Realms. Devin Farrell and Pontiac laid down vocal melodies, while Kevin Ripley performed drums and Jarrett Gilgore contributed a pair of fiery saxophone solos. The five featured musicians comprise Kingsley Ibeneche's live band, The Dirty Dieties, who help bring the music of Realms to life.

Performed live, the music of Kingsley Ibeneche takes shape as a soul opera, where theatre and musical performance meet to form an ambitious new medium. Aside from songwriting, Kingsley is also an accomplished dance performer, having graced the MTV VMAs and Saturday Night Live stages with the likes of Travis Scott and James Blake. Debuting in Philadelphia this spring, the live show promises to include movement, monologue, constructed sets, lighting design and projection. "My live show isn't far from a movie," described Kingsley. "I make sure to always have dancers to move with me in free expression. I sometimes call upon the audience to participate in movement. I love to have the communal feel of the village."

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Image courtesy of Adekunle Adeleke

Spotlight: Adekunle Adeleke Creates Digital Surrealist Paintings That Celebrate African Beauty

Get familiar with the work of Nigerian visual artist Adekunle Adeleke.

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists and more who are producing vibrant, original work. In our latest piece, we spotlight Adekunle Adeleke, a Nigerian visual artist, using digital mediums to paint dream-like portraits of Africans. Read more about the inspirations behind his work below, and check out some of his stunning paintings underneath. Be sure to keep up with the artist on Instagram and Facebook.

Can you tell us more about your background and when you first started painting?

I am a self taught artist. I started drawing from when I was really young. I mostly used graphite pencils and paper. But about six years ago, I think it was 2014, I wanted to start getting into color. I was a university student at the time and I lived in a hostel with three other people, so I couldn't go traditional so [instead], I started making paintings digitally, first on my iPad and then on my laptop with a Wacom. I have been painting ever since.

What would you say are the central themes in your work?

I personally think my work celebrates beauty (African beauty to be precise) and occasionally absurd things. I really just want to make paintings that are beautiful.

How do you decide who or what you're going to paint?
I do not have an exact process. I do use a lot of references though. Sometimes, I had an idea of how exactly the painting would look, others I just make it up as i go along.

Can you talk about a particular moment or turning point in your life that made you want to pursue art or a creative path?

I am not sure–I did not actively pursue art in a sense. I was just doing it because it was fun and I wanted to. Then people all of a sudden wanted to put me on projects and offer to pay for my hobby. I have thankfully been able to make art and also work in a separate field—which I also enjoy–by day.

"Canary" by Adekunle Adeleke

Image courtesy of the artist.

"Hibiscus" by Adekunle Adeleke

Image courtesy of the artist

"Chinua Achebe" by Adekunle Adeleke

Image courtesy of the artist

"Noir" by Adekunle Adeleke

Image courtesy of the artist.

"Goldi Locks" by Adekunle Adeleke

Image courtesy of the artist.

"Wax" by Adekunle Adeleke

Image courtesy of the artist.

"Nest" by Adekunle Adeleke

Image courtesy of the artist.

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Cover art of "Banjo".

Watch Cameroonian Drag Artist Bebe Zahara Benet's New Music Video for 'Banjo'

Video Premiere: Bebe Zahara Benet releases the colourful visuals for her latest single 'Banjo' ahead of her upcoming EP 'Broken English'.

Cameroonian drag artist Bebe Zahara Benet has just released the colourful visuals to her latest single 'Banjo'.

The single, which features on her upcoming Broken English EP, is the follow-up to several EPs she's released in the past including Face and Kisses & Feathers as well as a number of singles including "Fun Tonite", "Get Fierce (Lose Yourself)" and "Starting a Fire".

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C Natty/emPawa

You Need to Watch C Natty's New Music Video For 'Ojah'

Video Premiere: Check out the striking first release from Mr Eazi's #emPawa30.

C Natty arrives in style with his new single "Ojah."

The track, which is the first release from Mr Eazi's new group of #emPawa30 artists, sees the Nigerian artist delivering a highly-infectious and grooving concoction over jazz-leaning afrobeats produced by Killertunes.

The new music video for "Ojah," which we're premiering here today, is equally as stunning and follows the story of someone who doesn't take others' advice. C Natty told us the following about the DK of Priorgold Pictures-directed video:

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News Brief

South African Hip-Hop Producers Tweezy and Gemini Major Set for Instagram Live Beat Battle

Two of South Africa's hip-hop super producers Tweezy and Gemini Major will face-off in upcoming Instagram live beat battle.

After Instagram live beat battles such as Swizz Beatz versus Timbaland and Mannie Fresh versus Scott Storch amid the lockdown to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, it was only a matter of time until the hip-hop community across the world followed suit.

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