When it comes to human emotions there can be no greater contrast than that between love and hate. And I guess that goes for cartoon characters, too. Bugs Bunny loves all the other characters he meets, even the ones that hate him – especially the ones that hate him, in fact, because they lead to such great fun. So, taking my cue from the lovable Bugs, I’d like to enhance the contrast a little this time. Instead of the usual folk, prog and jazz artists I’ve chosen a proponent of soft soulful rock songs for this track-of-the-week.
Michael Kiwanuka is very aware of the stark differences in affluent Western societies. Although he was born and brought up in the Kinks old stamping ground of Muswell Hill in North London and is, therefore, as British as the Union Jack, his parents are from Uganda and his skin is the colour of dark roast coffee. He hasn’t experienced blatant racism, which says a lot about his affable personality, but he is clearly very conscious of being a “black man in a white world”.
And yet, the song he calls Love and Hate is not about racial prejudice or abuse. It’s not even about being different. It’s about being persecuted by self-doubt. After the success of his first album, Home Again, the man himself found it hard to believe he deserved the acclaim. And when his Love and Hate album went to number one on the UK charts he attributed its success solely to his producers, Inflo and Danger Mouse. Although he was the songwriter and headline performer Michael Kiwanuka felt like an imposter on his own record.
Calling all the people here to see the show
Calling for my demons now to let me go
I need something, give me something wonderful
Is it possible that Bugs Bunny ever suffered from a lack of confidence? Perhaps, when he was just a fluffy little kit, he was afraid to leave his mother’s side. But it’s hard to believe that the cool and cocky character we see on the silver screen could ever have suffered from feelings of inferiority.
Little Bugs must have found a way to overcome his nervousness somehow and Michael Kiwanuka was able to do the same with his third album, which is titled simply Kiwanuka. Using his own ‘unmarketable’ name for the album was a small act of defiance that reflects a new-found confidence from the black British artist who was the BBC’s Sound of 2012 and has had a dozen other award nominations since then.
As a bonus this week, here’s a track from that self-titled album.
For every Bugs Bunny there must be a Yosemite Sam; it’s the contrast that provides the entertainment. So, I give you Michael Kiwanuka as the loveable Bugs; will you be the hateful Sam? It’s a thankless job, but someone has to do it.