Andwele “Dwele” Gardner comes across as a sweet, funny and down-to-earth gentleman. The American-based NeoSoul singer is in town for the 39th edition of Blankets & Wine happening this Sunday at Leisure Gardens, Mamba Village. This is his second trip to the continent having performed in Johannesburg once before. “I’ve been in the industry for 10 years now but its great that I’m still able to experience something new,” he said during a mid-morning press conference at Southern Sun, Mayfair.
Raised in Detroit, Dwele cites Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis and Donny Hathaway, among others, as the artists who influenced him while growing up. He began piano lessons at age six and has since also mastered the trumpet, guitar and bass. In 2000, Dwele released demo tape, “The Rize” that attracted the attention of Slum Village. Three years later, his debut album, “Subject” put him squarely among his NeoSoul contemporaries.
But it wasn’t always easy for the bespectacled kinky-haired artist who started off working at an insurance firm in his early 20s. “I spent my whole life writing that [first] album. And in the beginning, I struggled with being out with my music. I shared it with my family but I wasn’t used to performing in front of crowds,” he explained. Neither was Dwele comfortable with working with other artists in the beginning.
Thankfully, he got over both fears and has since appeared on records alongside Lucy Pearl, Bahamadia and Kanye West. “Working with other artists makes you learn things about yourself. The nugget of advice I got from Kanye is that ‘less is more’,” he says. However for his show this Sunday, expect lots of fireworks, as Dwele will be backed by Kenyan jazz pianist Aaron Rimbui and his band. And if his short soulful rendition of single “I’m Cheatin’” at the press conference is anything to go by, it will be one heck of a show.
Blankets & Wine XXXIX will happen on November 3rd at Leisure Gardens, Mamba Village. Dwele will be joined by Kenyan acts Kidum and Kagwe Mungai, as well as Tanzanian rapper, Mzungu Kichaa. Tickets retail at KES 1300 fro adults and KES 500 for children over five.
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