Kelela in London

Kelela in London – Music Review

The name Kelela is a name on the rise within the music industry, if you didn’t already know. Her 2013 ‘Cut 4 Me’ mixtape has been making waves from across the atlantic and even here in London. With a growing fan base here in the UK the singer stopped by for two rare London shows.

Praised by industry artists such as Bjork, and even appearing on compilation album, ‘Saint Heron’, released by Solange Knowles’ record label; Kelela’s sound fits in with the new sub-genre, “alternative” R&B; however experiments with sounds and production not necessarily associated with that genre. Working with the ‘Fade to Mind’ label from the USA, and their sister label right here in London, ‘Night Slugs’, it is no surprise why I love her music. Night Slugs are quite known, and have been described as a label that nurtures different “strains of synth-stained post-grime music”, which is the perfect way to describe her mixtape. Make sense…?

Under the archways of a busy Elephant & Castle, Kelela was set to take the stage at a small dingy Corsica Studios. Low lighting and the hollow screeches from the train tracks above provided the perfect setting for a dark intimate show.

Supporting the show was Novelist a DJ from London who warmed us up with a few old garage classics as well as grime/garage beats that he was MC’ing over, for about thirty minutes. This definetly kept it interesting. I felt like I was in the early “00’s” in an abandoned warehouse raving it up with my friends.

Sirens and gunshots echoed through the speakers, while a new intro to ‘Enemy’ played Kelela finally graced us with her presence just after 10pm. Even through the LED lights and the smoke from the fog machine, Kelela had strong stage presence. She managed to portray the anger and distress in the song, but still opened the show with grace. Not long before she switched into the slow jam ‘Go All Night’, a personal favourite. The highlight of the night had to be when she performed ‘Send Me Out’, after that I was ready to go! The song’s classic R&B lyrics with breathy seductive vocals, was what I’d been waiting for since I heard she was coming, and she embodies those traits very well; from image to sound. Her set also included songs such as, ‘Floor Show’, ‘Something Else’, ‘Cut 4 Me’, ‘Bankhead’ and ‘A Move’, which is said to be the first single off her upcoming album.

All in all it was a great night, I didn’t expect her to be on any longer than she was. (Don’t ask me how long she was on for!) It was worth the money. She engaged in a bit of small talk between songs but mainly thanked us all for spending our hard earned cash to attend. Thing is, you cant expect much from an artist who is still underground with a mixtape, she did enough to keep me interested, after all it was only Elephant & Castle, not the 02 Arena.

Kelela truly is one to watch. What I admire more than anything is her appreciation for the UK music scene, she seemed to have a relationship or at least an understanding with DJ Novelist, rather than just some DJ that “fit the bill”. I love when artists, especially those from America come to us [the UK] for inspiration, it clearly says something about the music and musicians we have here. Some artists don’t give recognition to the artists they use, where as some do. (See: Drake, ‘Nothing Was the Same Album) No matter what anyone says the UK music scene has always been ahead.

If you are into artists such as Jhene aiko, The Weeknd, and Frank Ocean, to name a few then I’d say giver her ‘Cut 4 Me’ mixtape a listen.

-Stephen Paul

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