From the man who witnessed jams with Niall Rodgers in ‘Heaven,’ and got pointers from Prince: Salute Curator, Kwame Kwaten.  

Kwame Kwaten top five:

Navina – ‘Time’ – This has actually become my new fave – simple pure effortless beautiful songwriting that sounds easy to do – but in actual fact one has to be pretty gifted in order to do
Native Sun – ‘Light’  – Native Sun come across like a modern day Arrested Development. The band music shines and uplifts – the video matches the kaleidoscopic sound with beats and lyrics that soulfully penetrate on the darkest day.
Annie Afrilu – ‘Fade to Blue’ – What a song! Reminiscent of past Queen songwriter Brenda Russell – Confident assured and actually commercial without trying to be – just beautiful honest songwriting.
Temi – ‘Sullen’ – Somewhere between early nineties’ A Guy Called Gerald and Benga – this track is a creeper in that it starts simply arpeggio fooling you that that’s all it has to offer – it then bruises you onto the 2017 dance floor. But also time travels you back to 1992.
… in a field with Oakenfold on one deck and Huw Stephens on the other in 2017 – its modern and then at the same time – gorgeous.
Tilly Bushay – ‘Baby Bomb’ – R&B sometimes can tell a story in a sentence – “My baby’s got a baby – but it ain’t with me.” Simple – gutsy – heartfelt pure R-and Beeeeee . Forces you to listen to the story – Good Songwriting – YES!
Illamadi – ‘Trap and Calypso’ – The song effortlessly fuses genres – but also by doing so forms its own lane. The video also needs praise because on a small budget this comes across – Hard! Congrats!

We kicked off by asking about the primary barriers to entry for newcomer music makers, to a long and lustrous songwriting career in this time…

“Problem A?” says Kwaten: “Getting past the digital noise.”

When considering the modern musical landscape, Kwaten says, the battle becomes: “How am I going to get people to look at or hear any of my music, when Spotify may have 18,000 releases in a week!?”

He goes on to say he reckons BBC Introducing receive about three to four thousand entries per week. So we can all be sure of one thing; there are lots of Music Makers out there!

We asked Kwaten what he thought about Salute:

“Anything that has Curation and Distilling is really useful; for both the public, and for professionals.”

Kwaten explains further, saying that any formula that has those C&D elements is really really useful, because it starts to help solve a part of problem A.

More and more now, as a successful manager who has helped his charges (Laura Mvula, Rumer anyone?) sell millions of records, Kwaten tells us that he’s looking towards an amazing set of people that can distil the best of new music. That is super helpful when he’s looking for people to work with.

Great management is about great artist development, and everybody in the musical pyramid is looking for a head start before they commit:

“You go to Link Up TV because you want information on the Black Music landscape, or you go to GRM Daily for the same. And that’s why we needed SBTV back in the day…”

Kwaten likens a curation and distillation process to reading the Blog of a coffee taster. Choose this bean, not these ones, you might really dig it. He takes great pleasure in flying flags for the artists he’s working with, and is keen to advise those interested on where his artists’ strengths lie.

If you get niche right, Kwaten explains, ultimately that is what a lot of brands will get behind.

And brands can be an important part of artists’ early careers in this time, and beyond. Kwaten drops more knowledge, saying that brands want access to concentrated pockets of energy and creativity. And the corollary to that is that Music Lovers enjoy nothing more than discovering the greatest, latest thing.

Kwaten asserts that those pockets of energy and creativity don’t come from simply putting your music on a massive, globally available distribution platform: It’s all about homing in on targets, and working your routes relentlessly, often under cover, or at least in a way that doesn’t mean the rights in your work are tied up in complexity, with a label or publisher.

Kwame has positioned Ferocious as a music development and rights management agency. He’s super canny.

Check out the current roster at his firm, Ferocious Talent. Moving from the soothing, soaring brilliance of Paradisia, over to Blue Lab Beats, who claim Emelie Sandé and Rag n Bone Man remixes to their credit, and on to Jodie Abacus whose soulful vocals feature on dope funk-flecked tracks on his Vevo channel (that be rights management, baby).

New talent and global stages are something he’s incredibly au fait with. Having been compere at the ‘Back Stage’ event at London’s Borderline club, where he saw eight new bands, every weekend, for two years, he then went on to form D’Influence in 1989. In turn, D’Influence caught a break that saw them support Michael Jackson, on his ‘Dangerous’ tour. Then Prince. And James Brown. En Vouge and Naughty By Nature.

So what’s ‘Ferocious’ about now? How does he go about elevating new artists? Independence is key. Ferocious specialise in taking a New Brand artist, and making them Brand New artists, ready for the global stage, ready to have money injected into their promotion from elsewhere.

And that’s not to speak of the lack portent for any of these artists. He recognises that you’ve got to get to the Little Sims level, before other forces take notice; and then options start appearing.

“If you look at a major label as a being a T-Rex, I mean, in analogy; they move, actually, in the beginning, quite slow; but, once they start running… they are unstoppable. And that’s the purpose of a Major Label.”

Kwaten further illustrated the scene. “Our job is to get the movement happening: To create enough heat, for a Tyrannosaurus to perceive the heat… and start running towards that!”

Naturally, he goes on to explain that you guard against being chewed up. “You jump on its back, and it runs with you, drives you through a whole series of rooms, walls and doors.”

There’s an acknowledged disaffinity between the power a major label’s approach to promotion, and what normally precedes it: Fucking hard work. His immediate advice to undiscovered Music Makers?

“Take 4 days part time work, leave 3 days to write music.
Or reverse that.
Really go for it. Collaborate, network, research.
Go go Go GO GO!
Go Again.”

Kwaten has reviewed c600 tracks as part of the Salute curation process. His endeavour has led us to uncover some absolute gems, all available now, in the Salute Top 100.

Further, Ferocious Management will offer two 90 minutes career guidance sessions to the winner of Salute. These can be arranged at the ultimate winner’s convenience, with no obligation. He’s nice like that; his approach involves the love and encouragement that Salute champions.

At Salute, we feel Music Makers need a better service, a better platform to elevate from!

We’ve long felt that Soundcloud and Spotify, Youtube and more are now huge receptacles for music that may never be heard. That’s thousands of Music Makers failing to make their voice heard, ultimately because their chosen platform simply swallows them up, like pearls before swine.

As we gear up for our first season finals, it feels good to know that Music Lovers will only ever find new music on Salute, and that old material will be archived, from season to season. Check out this season’s clutch, including Kwaten’s top selections, in our Top 100 on Facebook Messenger.