You learn something new every day. Today, I learnt a bunch of new things. First, that Kidepo is the name of a national park in Uganda. Second, that it’s possible to include the words “Savoir Faire” in a chorus hook and not sound pretentious. Third, that Beth Ditto (of Standing In The Way of Control / Gossip fame) had an entire song called Savoir Faire. And finally, savoir faire means expertise in French. Don’t come at me for my lack of French savoir faire, I studied Spanish at school. But also, don’t ask me what expertise is in Spanish either, I’ll just say no lo sé.
So, what do Uganda and Beth Ditto have in common? Well, not much probably. But Jonah Mutono, otherwise known as Kidepo sent me down this rabbit hole. So far he has an EP and a couple of singles floating about, but I’m keen to hear more.
The first track I heard from Kidepo was ‘Ramada’, and it firmly lodged itself inside my brain. There’s all kinds of woozy atmospherics gushing out from it, coupled with this sense of off-kilterness. The intro starts with a drum beat that teeters away from staying in a logical step with the reverby keys at first, before nestling into a sneaky groove. It’s the kind of groove where you start nodding your head without even being conscious that you’re doing so. The lyrics are intriguingly abstract and surreal too, as he describes being trapped inside a hotel without just resorting to complaining about the price of the mini bar. When I stumbled across the fact Kidepo is signed to Good Years (home to the likes of Banks and Lil Silva), it made complete sense, as those two artists create something similarly atmospheric, surreal and brooding in their music.
Recent single ‘August In New York’ follows in a similar vein, although it shows Kidepo showing off his vocal range a little more. Ramada is sung entirely in a falsetto, but on ‘August In New York’ he shows off a soulful voice at a lower register. And here’s where I got my French / Beth Ditto lesson from today, as he sings “I don’t care ’bout your savoir faire.” Perhaps he just really hates Beth Ditto’s ‘Savoir Faire’. This video of a woman dancing to Beth Ditto’s version on an office chair while wearing the severed head of a polar bear might help to change his mind.
Fingers crossed we get more from Kidepo in 2018, but in the meantime, have a watch of the excellent (and very off-kilter) video for Ramada below.