Living & Lifestyle

Meet Jennifer Kamikazi

JENNIFER KAMIKAZI SHE IS A SINGER-SONGWRITER FROM RWANDA BASED IN THE UK.

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Photographed by Charlie Thornton

Jennifer Kamikazi is a singer and songwriter based in the UK. For the past two years, she has been singing to people understand the importance of social and virtual worlds. She’s also helping create a virtual world within soul music.

Jennifer Kamikazi’s honest and authentic storytelling is rooted in thoughtful observations of society and everyday environment, exposing topics of loneliness, fear, and insecurity. Yet she manages to tackle these with gentleness and optimism, mirroring her nature both on and off the stage.

As a proud London-raised Rwandan, Kamikazi takes inspiration from the music of her East African heritage, alongside well-loved folk contemporaries such as Keaton Henson and Ben Howard, with whom she shares a wise and ethereal tone. Introduced to indie/folk through contemporary Christian music, Jennifer writes her own modern Psalms; friendship, love is intimacy are inseparable themes to her songwriting.

Kamikazi independently released Wildflower, her debut EP, in 2016 which generated remarkable success with over half a million plays on Spotify and thousands of Soundcloud listeners. Her upcoming releases in 2019 are set to continue this ascendance starting with single You & I, accompanied by a captivating music video which honors the intimacy of the song. If this single is any indicator of what’s on the horizon we can gladly expect more gently uplifting music to come.

Kamikazi has already traveled Europe premiering her signature sound and is a regular performer for Sofar Sounds and Ronnie Scott’s. 2019 will no doubt be an exciting year for Kamikazi with new music to come, a tour to the Czech Republic and gigs around London; there’s no doubt she is one to watch.

Tell us about yourself / A little introduction for our readers

My name is Jennifer Kamikazi and I’m a singer/songwriter from London. I’ve been performing and writing music for over 5 years now. After graduating from university with a Biochemistry degree, I discovered my love for singing and songwriting and decided to pursue music. I always loved learning new things and chose the sciences because it satisfied the curiosity within me. However, I never knew what I was passionate about until I purchased my first guitar and that was the end of that.

Tell us a bit about Wander in wonder; is this your first project?

‘Wander In Wonder’ is my second EP after releasing ‘Wildflower’ which I recorded with a producer/friend of mine called Feranmi Oguns from OL Creative. I really love working with Feranmi, he’s presence is magical. He is such a visionary and a dream to work with. The EP was co-produced with Bastian Testori and Jacob Riddall. These guys are amazingly talented and we had so much fun working on the EP. The response I received from my last EP ‘Wildflower’ is what encouraged me to continue writing and release this new EP. I can definitely hear the growth in my music and songwriting and hope people hear it too. I’m looking forward to releasing more music.

So how did you decide on this approach with Wander in wonder, an all-instrumental release? Why was it the right time to do this one?

After some years of writing, I knew it was the right time to release something new. When you write songs, it’s such a personal process, and eventually, you want to let these songs go – to become part of someone else’s story. I also love the entire process of recording music and something I wish I did all the time. Personally, I feel recording helps me to close a chapter of a season in my life. Once I let those songs go, I feel ready to search my heart to find another story to tell. My journey hasn’t ended yet though I’ve got some more tracks ready to release after this EP. Once these little gems are out, I’ll be ready to start again.

Is there a song or two you’d highlight from Wander in wonder that really captures what you were trying to do here?

The EP is very personal and talk’s a lot about intimacy – whether to do with my own relationships or how I see life. The song ‘You & I’ I feel truly captures the messages. It discusses our innate desire for love, and how despite our differences, we are all the same in that we desire to be loved and noticed. Unintentionally, ‘You & I’ ended up sounding like a romantic song and to my knowledge, has been danced by two couples for their wedding. This was a lovely surprise for me and I think it’s wonderful how songs can be interpreted differently from how you see them.  Through the EP, I hope to share a message of the beauty and purity of love, and how among many things, it is a cure for insecurities and conflict.

I chose to call this EP ‘Wander in Wonder’ because I’ve been through a lot in the last couple of years (like everyone else). Although I was super willing to release music and was writing, I was not ready spiritually. Sometimes, looking at the mundane and your situation can stop you from looking at the wonder of life. It’s hard to do something great when you are in this place. I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, this is the case. Even if I did do something great, I would not live to enjoy the fruits of my labor.  I needed to see the ‘wonder in my wander’ to release these songs.

Was it an enjoyable experience recording the new EP?

I would say recording this EP was one of the happiest times in my life. That may sound strange but, that is how much I love and value recording music. I actually recorded the EP in 5 days, along with some other songs that will be coming out in a couple of months. I enjoyed every second of it and already looking forward to repeating the process again. 

You have a huge body of work now and can cover a number of different styles while sounding like you. I’ve always wondered, is there a misconception about you? Something you wish more folks understood about what you do?

Yes, a lot of people say that I do not look the way that I sound and obviously this is because of my black heritage. Most people expect black singers to have a particular sound e.g more soulful/RnB. However, I am starting to see more contemporary folk artists e.g Michael Kiwanuka, Jake Issac, Aisha badru to name a few. 

I do also think my Rwandan background has a huge role to play in my love for folk music.  Hearing songs from artists like Kamariza influenced me in this genre. Because of these artists, folk didn’t seem so detached from me and felt part of my roots.

Do you still keep an interest in the music scene in Rwanda now?

I stick with the old e.g Kamariza,  Nkurunziza Francois, Cecile kayirebwa, etc – but really like the sound of King James, Teta Diana, and Kitoko.

Do you have a record that you always return to?

Kingdom by Ben Howard. I love this man’s voice and anyone who knows me well knows that I always talk about him. I am unashamed in my obsession with him.

Where can we find “Wander in wonder”?

Everywhere!  wherever you listen to music legally to support artists, it will most likely be there 🙂 

Keep up with her here


Website JenniferKamikazi

Twitter: @Jenkamikazi