Singer-songwriter Kwesi Kankam, aka “Kwesi K,” is poised to make an impression on Philadelphia’s music scene with his upcoming E.P., which is scheduled to drop Nov. 5. “Pronouns” will be his second release since he came to Philadelphia to pursue music in 2012.
As an architecture student with a football scholarship to Lehigh University, Kwesi Kankam says he never expected to fall in love with songwriting. His plans changed while he was studying abroad in Barcelona and found himself scraping together funds to survive on by busking.
“I started out just making up songs off the top of my head” Kankam said. “Then I thought, shoot, I should write these down.”
By the time he returned to the U.S., he had decided to make music his career.
“One day [in Spain] I was at this dope cliff writing songs all day and just thought, I’m gonna do this for real,” he said.
Less than a year after graduating, he moved to Philly in search of “a bigger scene.”
Kankam arrived in Philadelphia in March 2012 and by the end of his first month he had released his debut E.P. “Ran Away From Home” to a positive public response. That June, he earned a spot on the Philadelphia Songwriter’s Project’s annual songwriting competition winners’ tour, which included prestigious venues including The Kimmel Center, The Bethlehem Musik Festival and Sellersville Theater.
By Oct. 2012, he had exceeded his Kickstarter fundraising goal of $5,600 and began work on his second E.P. While his first record was comprised of four relatively homogenous, low-budget acoustic tracks, “Pronouns” was recorded at Turtle Studios in South Philadelphia.
Kankam was surprised at how difficult it was to surrender creative control, even to professionals he had hired.
“It was probably good but it was a learning experience for sure,” he said. “Letting people do their own thing and seeing it turn into my thing was really different.”
The result is a significantly more diverse record.
“Everything’s still acoustic-based, but we have a track that flirts with R&B, one that’s more stripped down, “ Kankam said. “it’s a nice mix.”
Despite a more varied record, Kankam says he stays true to his self-described genre, “African-Americana” – a unique and intentionally vague amalgamation of soul, alternative country, jazz, pop and folk.
In preparation for the release of “Pronouns,” Kankam has been touring and performing consistently to pump up his fan base. He’ll return from his Southern tour next week and then remain in the mid-Atlantic region until November. His three album release parties will take him North from Philadelphia to New York and finally to Boston, where he will kick off his end-of-the-year New England mini-tour.
Though he admits the hectic schedule can be challenging, his passion keeps him motivated.
“I’m tired, but it’s what I really want to be doing so I’m going for it full force,” Kankam said.
Victoria Marchiony can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.