As you can probably tell from my website, there are very few times when I’m actually completely at a loss for words. There haven’t been many artists in the past 10 years to illicit such a reaction from me, especially from a genre that I’ve always respected and loved, R&B. However, I’d been hearing a great deal of noise about a certain young man named Frank Ocean, an artist who’s creating music that’s not only innovative, but completely unheard of in mainstream music after the 90s.
Very little is known about Frank Ocean, really. There was a big to-do about his sexuality and some of his lyrics can be, at times, suggestive. However, before all that noise, there was one very real truth — Frank Ocean is one of the most exciting things to come to music for a very long time.
Before we knew him as one of the most impressive talents to come into the scene, he was known as Christopher Breaux, an aspiring songwriter with a knack for the poetic and a great sense of the potently beautiful. Being a child of New Orleans, it’s no surprise that he grew up around jazz, melding that sense of timing and eccentricity into the entropy that makes up his own sound. He continued to cultivate his sound at the University of New Orleans, where he lived until the unfathomable tragedy that was Hurricane Katrina swept through his hometown and uprooted his life.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Ocean was forced to find new means of continuing to create the music that saw him become one of most talked about artists of the last five years. Ocean’s understanding of music is alarmingly advanced for someone as young as he (born 28 October 1987). He manages to meld not only the precision of classical jazz, but the smoothness of R&B with the awkward gait of something similar to pixelated stereophonics.
Anyone who first hears him swears that the soul of an older man, a much wearier man, was transplanted into his body. His is a voice that’s truly touched by something so rich and full of life that it’s a marvel that this young man is only 24. Michael Kiwanuka is the epitome of everything strong and beautiful in music. His sound is so reminiscent of things gone by it’s ridiculous.
However, even with a sound that many tout as the very mark of Bill Withers, Kiwanuka has a grit and earthiness truly his own. It’s remarkable that his talent has been kept under wraps for so long, though I imagine him to be the kind of artist that doesn’t ere to the circular beat of time. The important thing is that we’ve come to know his beauty in a time of deep ugliness that riddles the airwaves with its impoverished version of sound.
Hailing from North London, very little is known about Kiwanuka. He was born to Ugandan parents and attended Fortismere School, where he, no doubt, excelled in music. He then took his talents and intellect to the University of Westminster. With schooling under his belt and music thrumming through his body, he started on the track of becoming a highly renowned and respected artist. After working as a session guitarist for the likes of London hip-hoppers Chipmunk and Bashy, he struck out on his own.
In a deep sea of red and flashing lights, there emerges a five-man vocal group as powerful in name as in number. Their talent is mighty, their ambition great. They are Dong Bang Shin Ki, the Rising Gods of the East. And they have suddenly become my newest obsession.
It’s hard to really say what exactly drew me to this band of singers and dancers. Could it be their charisma? Hardly — they’re all dorks. Could it be their dancing? Well, it is quite impressive. I’ve always been a fan of music from different cultures, specifically pop and soul because the universe tends to expand when those two genres are in the hands of artists from different countries. However, dancing doesn’t necessarily make a group worth my attention. After all, after dancing ability fades and good looks turn to dust, all you have is your voice, right?
Then, that must be what captured me so about these five young men. Of course, voices come and go. I think what genuinely sparked my interest in this group is their bond and their unique ability to effortlessly blend together. Their harmonies intriguing, to the point of outdoing many vocal groups that the States have to offer. But, wait. I’m getting ahead of myself.
Introductions are in order… I give you the members of DBSK.