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Introducing iamkyami, the US musician manifesting a UK destiny

25 May 2019

Photography via iamkyami

As a kid, Kyami would put on an English accent a lot. A curious trait for a young American, it ended up being a form of manifestation for some kind of British artistic identity: she thought about England a lot, and ended up heading to Liverpool for music college.

Kyami – who now goes by artist name iamkyami – recently paid our radio team a visit, chatting and performing a couple songs on the Reprezent show. Before you sink into that, here’s a little more about iamkyami.

gal-dem: Can you tell us a bit about your childhood?

Kyami: I didn’t have the best childhood ever – but I didn’t have the worst childhood either. My mom’s from Japan, my dad is Black American so growing up in that environment was strange. My dad was around and not around, while my mom still doesn’t really understand me as a person, because she grew up in such a different culture. So that creates a gap. But I spent a lot of time with the women in my dad’s family.

What were the specific things that led to you making the kind of music you do?

A lot of it had to do with the way that I grew up. I always wanted to make blues-y music, but that was coming from a place using music as a place to express and come to terms with my emotions. As I got older and really started thinking about what I wanted to do, I really wanted to have other people relate to my life experiences. I was listening to a lot of Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, India Arie. But then when I got older I started really liking pop, indie – and I went through a very brief emo / screamo phase.

I think everyone did, unfortunately.

Exactly, no one wants to admit that’s what happened! I had the bangs swept across my forehead. So that was me. But anyway, I have eclectic taste in music, and that combined with wanting to speak my truth. Right now, I’m really influenced by the UK R&B scene – Tom Misch, Mahalia.

Listen to iamkyami’s interview on gal-dem’s radio show, on Reprezent.

Before you came here would you have been aware of the UK scene in that way?

You know, it’s funny, because it’s actually mad – before I came here, I was listening to so much UK music but I didn’t even know that it was from the UK. I’ve been a heavy advocate for Spotify since it came out, I’ve found all this mad good music just because Spotify has a fly algorithm. I was listening to Jordan Rakei and Etta Bond when I was in high school – that’s like 10 years ago! I feel like it was all meant to be. I feel really grateful for everybody here’s support.

iamkyami has new music coming out over the year, and plays Jigsaw Fest this August in Camden Assembly. gal-dem’s next radio show will be Sunday 26 May, 16:00 – 18:00, on Reprezent. This week’s guest is R&B artist Rasharn Powell.