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One of Music's Best Kept Secrets.

Prepare to be let in on one of music's best kept secrets in 2015 with Eska's self-titled debut album. 

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Once upon a time, there was a first-generation British girl from Zimbabwe. Her family had moved over to an ordinary ​part of South London when she was a toddler.​ She went through life feeling different, out-of-place, someone other. When she grew up, she thought she couldn't have kids; last year, she became mother to a daughter that arrived three months early, and was small enough to fit into the palm of her hand. Baby Wonder is six months old now, and her mother, Eska, is back at work. With Mercury Prize  'Albums of the Year' 2015 under her belt it's going to be a big year for both of them.

But Eska's story is much bigger than that. Once upon a time, she was also a girl whose parents became a primary school teacher and a midwife. She took violin lessons in school, and was so good she got a scholarship to a local conservatoire. Her talents for singing, arranging and writing got well-known in the industry; she left it to work on her own rich, warm, ambitious, genre-hopping music. Close your eyes and it sounds like it was beamed down from the more lavish days of the '70s; it's not retro, but adventurous, experimenting with structures and lyrics, big ideas and sounds, like many popular female musicians did then, like her heroes Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell. And then comes a voice to stop time...characterful, keening, intimate, extraordinary. This is all Eska too.

There are debut albums that shudder, jump, crackle, and flame from the speakers, that are the products of a mind, heart, and talent that has something – that has everything – to say. Eska's ESKA, her first shot into the world, is one of them.

 

ESKA - Credit Jaroslav Moravec

"I can’t remember when I last heard anything this enchanting or inventive. Her array of reggae, jazz, soul, choral, electronica, folk and classical influences collide to create a sound that is hers alone." 
The Guardian

Eska Mtungwazi grew up in Lewisham, her tiny ears opening to music very early. Music was at home in the songs her parents would sing, and on Sunday afternoons, when Eska's father brought out his vinyl. Bob James, The Crusaders, Madonna, Ahmal Jamad, Wet Wet Wet...his tastes were eclectic, but not precious, an approach that rubbed off onto his daughter; her early loves were the soundtracks from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Star Wars, Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, and a cassette recording of Duke Ellington's memorial service off the TV. 

As she got older, Eska threw herself into music. There was the madrigal group in school, the choir she started running at her church, and that school violin...although she knows she was an oddity up the road in fancy Blackheath. That scholarship allowed her to be different though, she knows now, allowed her to be something other than everyone else.

After a sensible maths degree, music became Eska's life. She never had to look for a gig; people always heard about her, and came to her. She sang with Grace Jones, The Cinematic Orchestra, Ty, Tony Allen, people who knew she could turn her hand to jazz, folk, soul, world music, to anything. Eska was proud to be diverse, but she always did what she was asked; as a consequence, she never knew truly what she wanted to do.

When someone called her the Queen Of Soul in print – a name didn't mean anything to her – a touchpaper was lit. She stepped back, asked herself what she sounded like, and she couldn't hear a note. She went back to her roots, started studying the records she loved...and slowly, Eska started to emerge.
 

ESKA - Credit Jaroslav Moravec

After she crafted her mesmerising musical landscape – the kind of place where complicated time signatures couch radio-friendly songs, like the stunning Shades Of Blue – Eska then added her bold, dauntless lyrics. Ideas from nature and mythology surge through them: from Joseph Campbell's bible about narratives in literature, The Hero With A Thousand Faces (Gatekeeper); the queen of the underworld Persephone (She's In The Flowers); a heroine on a crusade to tear down walls around her heart like Joshua in the Battle of Jericho​ (Boundaries). Personal stories simmer too: a farewell from a friend to his ex-girlfriend​ (So Long, Eddy), a thank you to Eska's sister (Dear Evelyn), the death of another friend's mother​. Here were individual worlds within bigger worlds, small moments made universal, and a record reminding you of the connections, the miracles, of if all.

Last summer, as the album was getting ready to be born, someone else came along, too. Wonder's arrival last July was after her mother's very short, very difficult pregnancy; Eska had to make decisions in Wonder's care that could have ended her life. She then spent months looking after her baby in hospital, at which point something clicked. This mother now knew how precious life really was – Wonder made her see that with clarity. That meant her record, her life-force, had to breathe by itself too. Wonder is now six months and well, and going on tour with her mother this summer, Eska's sister by their side. It's going to be a big year for all of them.

ESKA is a record full of wonder in itself. It is a record to pore over for hours, days, weeks, a lifetime. It is a place where you can lose yourself in the details, and Eska's rich, warm ambition. It is a record made by an ordinary woman with an extraordinary talent, spreading her wings at last, letting go, taking flight.

 

Buy 'Eska' on CD, 180gm LP (+HD Download Code) or Hi Def WAV, ALAC or FLAC now HERE

 

To celebrate the release of her debut album Eska will also be performing a short run of shows in the UK this autumn.

24/10
October Liverpool Soul Fest, Liverpool, UK

25/10
October Jazz & The City, Salzburg, Austria

30/10
October Periferias 2015, Huesca, Spain

14/11

November Crossing Border Festival, The Hague, Holland

18/11
November Midlands Art Centre, Birmingham, UK 

26/11
November The Stables, Milton Keynes, UK

27/11
November Islington Assembly Hall, London, UK

28/11
November Norwich Arts Centre, Norwich, UK

23/01
Turner Sims Concert Hall, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

 

More information and tickets available at www.eskaonline.com

 

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