Try to label the music of Ghanian-Canadian singer-songwriter Kae Sun with a genre, and you’ll likely miss the eloquent subtleties in his songwriting. Touching on the basic elements of soul, reggae, folk, hip hop, and even pop music, his sophomore record Afriyie is a true manifestation of the man as an artist.
Growing up in Ghana has provided much of the context in Kae Sun’s writing. Music was a prominent and prevalent staple in his tight knit community in Accra. “I grew up in a church community, and there was a lot of music. Like every Sunday was an event—it was almost a festival, and it was just traditional church music with instruments,” details Kae Sun. “I was exposed to that style of music and I was exposed to people playing it. It’s hard to escape music in Ghana.” From being exposed to music at a young age, it was only natural for the singer-songwriter to be drawn to a career in music. After immigrating to Canada, Kae Sun studied at Columbia International College and later, McMaster University in Hamilton, ON. Now living in Toronto, he admits to not being able to focus on anything other than music.
“I’d find myself always making music. It just brought me a kind of peace and some sense of purpose that I really liked. I was going to school and the things I was studying didn’t fit with the way I saw the world. Music always made more sense to me than anything else.”
Kae Sun also found a sense of fellowship he was lacking after immigrating to Canada, and the camaraderie he found in music only fuelled his desire to pursue music further. “It was a community of people that would encourage it so that made me feel like going on,” he mentions. “Whenever you get positive feedback you just get encouraged and you keep going.”
Since the release of Afriyie, Kae Sun has been in promotion mode. Having played a recent show with Canadian artist—Sam Roberts— as well as lining up several dates in the upcoming months with several other Canadian artists.
Each song on the album holds true to the genre ambiguity that Kae Sun is known for. From the haunting undertones of the first track —Blackstar Rising— to the pulse pounding infectious rhythms that encompass Weh-Weh, Kae Sun draws your attention and directs it to a variety of musical landscapes. There’s also something to be said for the ability to keep everything cohesive while adhering to a diverse style. Working with the production duo, Science, Kae Sun was able to sit down and find the appropriate methods in dealing with a cohesive sound. “I tried to reach for that on my first record. I was working mostly by myself as producer going into different studios with different engineers. It wasn’t a unified thing. Where as with this one, I met a couple of guys who really knew their way around a studio. We worked on it all together so we had a lot of time to sort of discuss the sound and how to achieve that,” reveals the intuitive artist.
The album has also taken songs from his 2011 EP—Outside The Barcode. More specifically: Burden Of Love, When The Pot, and Weh-Weh. “It’s more of an evolution, because all the songs were written on guitar, but I also came from a sort of hip hop sensibility. I used to make beats earlier on and I used to perform with DJs and that sort of thing. So I always liked the way drums sound on hip hop tracks,” details Kae Sun when referring to why he chose to adapt his acoustic songs to a full production. “When I write songs I write them in all those different styles. Sometimes I have people send me beats and I write stuff to it. Sometimes I try stuff on a keyboard or synth and then sometimes I write on guitar.”
After receiving a strong online response to Afriyie, When The Pot has been released as a single in Europe and there is talk of an overseas tour in Portugal. But Kae Sun wants to stay focused on the task at hand. For now, his goals rest on, “continuing to build a following wherever. To me, performing is key, and I enjoy [it] a lot so [I’m] trying to hone the bands sound a bit more, and stay on the road.”