Photo by Neil Mota
Kae Sun is the musical moniker of Kwaku Darko-Mensah Jr. A Ghanaian-born, Montreal-based artist Kae Sun is the next artist to watch in the Canadian R&B + hip-hop landscape. Kae Sun is set to release his 3rd EP entitled Whoever Comes Knocking via Moonshine. With 2 EPs under his belt and a couple of smaller ones as well, Kae Sun has a well-rounded eclectic sound. His songs and lyrics are well-defined in musicality and lyricism channeling a fresh perspective to indie R&B soul funk with a blend of little folk and hip hop. We spoke to Kae Sun about his musical influences and transition from Ghana to Canada as he gears up for his upcoming tour and album release.
What is your earliest memory of what sparked your love for music?
My first instrument was a talking drum. That’s my earliest memory of being really excited about music. I guess. I must’ve been 6 years old.
Being born in Ghana, Africa in what way has African-style music affected the way you write songs and produce?
I don’t think about it that way. I don’t analyze what influences my music in that way. I just approach making music the way that feels most natural. A lot of trial and error. I suppose I can’t really escape the influence of the environment I spent my formative years in. It’s in there – it’s in the moods, the textures, the writing.
Is there a particular song of yours you have that is more deeply rooted in African music traditions?
I’m actually gonna claim that all of modern pop music is in an African mode or tradition, it’s just what it is. I think you mean traditional in terms of techniques. Instrumentation and language or something of that sort. I have a song or two in Pidgin but they have heavy samples and MPC drums so does that make it African? I don’t know. It’s all African really at the root of it.
What drove you to come to North America to settle down and build your career in Canada?
I came to Canada as a student. I didn’t think I’d end up pursuing music as a career. It didn’t seem like a possibility at the time.
What would you say is the biggest challenge you had to overcome as an aspiring artist in a new environment?
I don’t know if there were any challenges specific to becoming an artist. To state the obvious, as a black individual it wasn’t really just a matter of having talent or having certain ideas, there is also the whole draining thing of having to constantly guard the validity of those ideas and why you choose to express yourself in certain ways and not others. It’s like me having to fight off easy genre categories and actually saying that what I’m doing is more expansive than the way it’s being relayed to the public, stuff like that.
You just released your new single “Treehouse” that has very introspecticve-driven lyrics, are you able to give us the inspiration behind this track and what was going through your mind when writing it?
Sure. To be honest a lot of what I write does not really come from an intellectual headspace, it’s just a lot of instinct and mood and repetition. If anything, this song is really inspired by dawn which is my favorite time of day. I mean dawn also in both the literal and figurative sense. It’s a sort of feeling of doing over, justifying the past, trying to reconcile the ways in which we fail ourselves and other people.
How was the writing and recording process different from your past EPs?
This record was made in span of 2 years or something so it just took longer to finish and I was working on other things in between.
With the release of your new album Whoever Comes Knocking, what do you hope listeners take away from the album?
Not sure. I don’t think it’s for me to say. I don’t even know if they should be taking anything away. I hope they just live with it, let it unfold. I think that’s what it’s about. I don’t make the kind of music that’s like a lifestyle accessory or something. If you approach it with the mentality of burning through it and moving on then perhaps it’s not for you.
This is the second time you’ve worked with director Epher Heilland, first time was for your single “Stalk”, and now for your recent track “Treehouse”. How is it working with him and how did the working relationship come about?
I saw some videos he’d directed and I thought he’d be perfect for what I had in mind. It worked out twice. The whole process was really open and easy.
Who are you listening to right now?
Let’s see… Brenda Fassie, Tay Iwar, Petite Noir, Pierre Kwenders.
For those seeing you live for the first time, what can they expect from your live show?
It’ll be a great night, even magical if we’re lucky and the Spirit walks through. We’ll see. As far as line up: got some amazing musicians with me.
What’s up next for you?
I got a few more shows lined up. Another video, then I’m headed home to Accra for a bit then back for some more shows.