There is a shift in the UK’s sonic offering. The lines between regional and heterogenous sounds are beginning to merge in order to provide euphoric, and wide-ranging pallets. This expansion, however, isn’t because these sounds are new; they have existed for decades through projects released by the Sneakbo’s and Donae’O’s of the market. Despite this, a widespread appreciation has seen the likes of NSG reach the UK Official Charts earlier this year, radio and playlist additions in abundance.
Miles from Kinshasa has been committed to the display of this form of fusion from a musical lense. A longstanding member of the British underground scene, the vocalist has released a plethora of projects and singles to date. A constant marker of the singer’s identity exists in his latent dedication to The Democratic Republic Of Congo — where he was born, through his melding of Congolese rumba with other genre inspirations. Originally from Cuba, this style of sound was birthed in the first half of the 1900s, as Congolese forefathers drew heavy inspiration from the Caribbean country in a vast array of environments. However, Congolese rumba has since grown to incorporate its own unique attributes, such as the snare-drum, which replaced former clave instrumentals. This homage to Miles’ native region can be heard on one of his latest single releases ‘No Fair, No Way’.
As we sit down in a central-London members club, Miles from Kinshasa lights up at Congolese rumba’s mention. “I think naturally it [Congolese rumba] will always be an influence for me. It came on in the household a lot growing up. I can’t help but include such a huge part of my life.” The act goes on to mention that this influence even exists in the melodies he creates for songs while recording. “I was born in Congo, but was only there for nine months, but my parents made an effort to keep Congolese culture rooted in the household.” Miles revealed that it was a convention not to speak English in the house. This he says, was an element of his upbringing that he appreciated. “I spoke French and Langala. This helped greatly when I went to The Democratic Republic Of Congo five years ago and makes me extremely proud of my roots.”
Delving more into his experiences on Congolese soil, Miles highlights the trip and the respect he gained almost instantly. “If you already have the languages and customs locked down, you’re good,” he says. “This put me one-step ahead and made the experience feel more homely.” His favourite aspect from the region is the dancing and communal culture. “We love to spend time together and really have a good time through our hall parties, sharing of food such as fufu and fun nature.” Miles believes that these elements exist in both the Caribbean and other African countries and is an element that brings black people together.
Our mochas finally arrive, the conversation now shifting to ‘No Fair, No Way’. “It’s funny because I’m not great at writing about things that happen to me in the moment because I’m so wrapped up in what’s happened, I tend to write in a retrospective way.” ‘No Fair, No Way’ is actually about a break-up and saw Miles from Kinshasa face into his emotions a year after the event had happened. “I wrote to some guitar riffs and really wanted to convey that none of us did anything wrong. I always like to articulate both sides where possible.” Again touching on the rumba influences, the talent revels in the fact that ‘No Fair, No Way’ is one of his only songs that to him, holistically encapsulates his sound. “I sat back when I was finished recording and said ‘yeah, that’s me, that’s my full direction, no one can copy that.’”
Miles from Kinshasa is not only intriguing on an audio front, but his accompanying visuals pave an equally as compelling package for consumers. His music video for ‘Maybe’ for example, released in June, features rustic ‘Saved By The Bell’ backdrops juxtaposed with durags and vintage windbreakers in constant transition. These elements are all intentional he says and plays into his love of nostalgia. “I’m very drawn to themes of the past. It comes from my fascination with eras such as the 70s and 80s, when synthesisers and other cool products became mainstream.” He speaks of a big-boom during this period, which he admires from the era. Miles manages to merge these elements with both his dreams also. “In my very first video [‘IVRY’] I wear a balaclava and I’m walking in a very weird way, I like all of those forms of dreamy visuals.”
Both of our mocha’s were, in fact, wrong orders and as the waitress delivers the amended hot-drinks, plans for 2020 are shared. “I’m finishing the project which is likely going to be self-titled. I want it to live throughout the next year.” We both reflect on the peak of consumerism that exists in the streaming realm currently. This era has been reported on by several publications and fits heavily into Miles from Kinshasa’s release strategy. “I’m planning to release singles and multiple visuals, but I’m really focused on how things sound, I want it to still feel new in September and October.” The singer is hesitant to call his upcoming release an EP or an album but highlights that it’ll feel different to other formats.
When discussing themes and genre-influences, Miles is very much in the space of worldly sounds. “I’m inspired by so many things right now. My friend played me a Brazillian track from the 70s, and that really stayed with me, I ended up going further into that style of music. I’m also inspired by the 2000s pop right now too.” He insists, however, that he refuses to be boxed into one genre. “I’m not going into this thinking ‘I need to add this amount of rumba, and this amount of melodies.”
Our conversation begins to reach its natural end. Miles from Kinshasa is humble on the mention of his upcoming headline show in Lawlow, London on November 29th. “It’s gonna be so cool, I’m going to have a few friends there too. I feel like as much as I wanted to do this, I also know that a lot of people have been waiting. I’m so excited to reconnect with fans.”
Photo Credit: Elena Cremona