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Freetime Stage Performance - no ticket required Sunday We Play

SFTOQUAYS: iamkyami

Giving you main character energy, iamkyami is serving glimmer-swirl indie RnB with a side of poly gluttonous punk attitude. Weaponizing positive vibes, theirs is an astute, eloquent head on shoulders that just happen to be enveloped in Hello Kitty dungarees and a streetwear edit overseen by Yvie Oddly. Unpacking and exploding the rich opulence of pop RnB tropes, Ky’s signature sound lies in the stillness of the aftermath. A far-future cartoon landscape dotted with skyscraper-sized themes, where the .zip-file-distortion of pillowy synths wobble in the rising heat of the afternoon and light-headed guitar flurries float by like dust in the sunlight. Raw, honest and with near ninja-like emotional literacy, iamkyami is your slick-talking, perceptive narrator exploring notions of identity, uniqueness and self: “My heritage is one where two worlds collide and that’s something really special. Being half Japanese and half Black American, there are so many influences to pull from and my aesthetic is heavily based on my identity. Not only my ethnic identity but my identity as a Queer person too. My music is simply another way to express myself and the ways in which I view the world.”

Following 2020s debut EP ‘Life of Ky’ and a host of collaborations with the likes of Dr Martens, Blackstar Amps, Pretty Little Thing and Primark, 2021 saw iamkyami sign to Manchester independent Heist or Hit. Embracing a scatter-brained approach to songwriting and production, Ky’s centre is a quartz leaking new and old, weird and wonky, smooth and pretty. “We had dinner at my aunt’s house a lot and whenever she would cook there was always gospel or Mary J Blige or D’Angelo blasting in the kitchen. But I arrived at the likes of Tyler, the Creator, BROCKHAMPTON, SZA, Steve Lacey and Vampire Weekend via Britney Spears and Avril Lavine.”  Blitzed up with lyrical nerve and cottony production, these influences inspired Ky to push authenticity to the centre of the frame. “When I was in school, I didn’t identify with Black kids or Asian kids, I identified as a music and art kid.”  Binary was always a construct and the disassembly has begun. 

iamkyami is performing at We Invented the Weekend as part of Sounds From The Other City’s festival takeover: SFTOQuays.

Location: The Freetime Stage at the Seven Brothers Stretch Tent

Sunday 3:30pm – 4pm

Accessible for: Step-free, all ages

With more than a recreational ability on a crossbow: “I won the archery competition two years in a row at summer camp. None of y’all could compete come the zombie apocalypse.”  and a second-degree belt in Tae Kwon Do “My Master’s daughters were my best friends growing up so I learned a lot about Korean culture” early life in upstate New York was a flood of heritage… and occasional horror-sub-genre-based survival tactics. Yet it was following a move to the UK in 2017 where Ky attended the LIMF Academy that they were able to reflect and manoeuvre a deeply personal lens over primal damage: “I’m incredibly grateful for choosing myself over others. I was such a people pleaser growing up because of the way I was treated as a kid, I had so many things to unpack as an adult.” Ky acknowledges. “Now I understand that those behaviors don’t serve me and I’m grateful I made that realization.” Crossbowing a path through the reanimated remains of doubt with three chords and the truth, Ky’s songs are protective bubbles; frothy safe spaces where pain is converted into power.

Part of the celebration of self manifests in Ky’s streetwear expressionism, where Kawaii and Harajuku fill up some of the space that make up the iamkyami aesthetic. The rest is forged in the fault lines where drag meets PS1 character design. Needless to say, Ky’s social media presence is a cult of craft outfit customisations, each post a joyous subreddit waiting to happen. Unwilling to serve the status quo, they represent that insider that somehow exists perpetually on the outside with looks that continually ask ‘but why you gaggin’ tho?’  This exterior energy has a part-time job as the interior designer of their songs: “I don’t want my art to be serious so that funny, goofy kid inside me pops out when I need her to. I sit down on Ableton and play a few chords, chop up some samples, add a couple melodies, and groove until I’m ready to write.”

That’s not to say the subject matter isn’t inconsequential, lead single ‘Stars’ deals the narrative of how people become victims – and not even necessarily as a result of acted or purposeful evil, but from a total uncaring lack of awareness. Destruction by generalisation: “The song is essentially about society and how we treat others because of exterior variables that effect what boxes other people put us in. Variables such as socioeconomic status, race, and sexuality, when in reality, we’re all just humans that need to be treated with love and respect. This is my lived experience; I’m always ticking the “other” box and it’s exhausting.” However, this is no pity party – more a call to arms to do better. “I just wish people would be nicer, take more time to recognize things they need to change and use that energy to be a positive force. There’s too much negative shit, that’s why I chose to take a more positive approach with my lyrics. Not every artist needs to be a role model but that’s what I want to be for younger people that had/have a similar story to mine.”  

From main stage performances at the Liverpool International Music Festival and interviews with Gal-Dem magazine to support slots for Tank and the Bangas, Yazmin Lacey, Georgia, Pizzagirl and Roy Ayers, iamkyami has earned acclaim across the board. The airwaves are no different, with DJs at Radio 1, BBC 6, 1XTRA, Reprezent Radio and Worldwide FM all lining up to call themselves fans. It’s not hard to see why, Ky has the ability to get to the essence of what many artists spend albums chiselling away at. A Venn diagram where the personal overlaps the universal. 2022 is set to be the year of Kyami.