A celebration of everything it means to be human
Many people who live in Nottingham, myself included, are probably already familiar with the work of British-Ugandan singer, Daudi Matsiko, prior to the release of his new album The King Of Misery.
A staple of Nottingham’s festival circuit, with a handful of Beat the Streets and Hockley Hustle appearances to his name over the years, he’s somewhat of an NG1 legend. But us Notts folk can’t let him stay a secret forever and, with the release of the album, alongside a recent appearance on THE ADAM BUXTON PODCAST and a short tour with GoGo Penguin, it seems that many more people are beginning to rightly recognise his name.
The track that first caught my attention prior to The King Of Misery’s release was the touching and moving ‘I Am Grateful For My Friends’, which was released back in October. Delving into the role that friendship and community can play when you are grappling with mental health struggles, Matsiko candidly discloses his own experiences with depression and bipolar affective disorder over gentle strums of the acoustic guitar, leaving a lingering sense of melancholy even after the song has finished. But this is seamlessly blended with lighter emotions of gratitude and appreciation for those who surround us in our lives, who love us unconditionally and help us through those darker days.
And on listening to the rest of The King Of Misery, it becomes clear just how grateful Matsiko truly is for his friends, when you notice at just how many of his fellow Nottingham comrades are featured throughout on the album, most notably on the track ‘Hymn’, which was released as a single back in December. Matsiko supported Divorce at their sold-out show at Rescue Rooms last month and two of the band’s members¸ Felix Mackenzie-Barrow and Adam Peter Smith, are both present on the track, as well as vocalist Alex Milne of local band, Catmilk. Not only that, but he’s also clearly grateful for his family – the track features guest vocals from his own mother, father, brother and sister, too.
The track itself follows similar themes to ‘I Am Grateful For My Friends’, and these topics continue to rear their heads throughout the rest of The King Of Misery, too: ‘oMo (Man)’ addresses the struggle of self-doubt, while ‘Fool Me As Many Times As You Like’ tackles self-deception and self-suppression.
One of Nottingham's best-kept secrets... until now: Daudi Matsiko (photo: Alice Kanako)
Another harrowing moment on the album is ‘Derby’s Dose’, where Matsiko delves into the darkness that swells deep within Britain’s history, which far too often has been left out of history syllabuses in classrooms, by telling the distressing story of an enslaved man named Derby who was subjected to horrifying torture.
While the emotions that Matsiko is exploring are complex and intricate throughout, the music that surrounds them is raw and stripped-back, allowing the tenderness of Matsiko’s voice to bleed through the breathing spaces which are left in every song. It is a true example of the concept of 'less is more', emphasising the beauty of simplicity. The core instrument that remains constant throughout the album is the acoustic guitar, which is picked gently and softly to serve as a subtle backdrop for the vocals, but saxophone, harmonium, cello, pocket pianos, and bass synthesisers also appear.
With the threat of AI taking over the music industry seeming more real as time goes on, The King Of Misery is as human as music gets. When listening to the album, you can imagine Matsiko recording each of these instruments and layering them with one another in a way that only a human being could achieve, and the emotion within his lyrics and delivery is something that no machine or robot could ever mimic or impersonate effectively.
The sadness, the despair, the hopelessness, the guilt; but also, the joy, the beauty, the gratitude and the hope, as it gradually begins to outweigh the darkness: The King Of Misery is a celebration of everything that it means to be human.
The King of Misery is out on Friday (19 January) via Really Good