kingsley ibeneche updates philly soul for a new age

January 24, 2019
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Kingsley Ibeneche grew up in Camden, NJ, across the river from the city of Brotherly Love, a town whose musical history is almost synonymous with what the world thinks of as “soul music.” That’s also what Kingsley, who grew up singing in Camden’s Nigerian-American religious community, calls his own music too. But click the play button on “To The Citadel,” the first track to drop from Ibeneche’s new EP, and it won’t take long to realize that the “soul” he brings is as grounded in his African heritage and the electronic rhythm-machines he programs, as in TSOP.

Yet even if the deeply processed synths and gurgling beats provided by Kinglsey’s longtime collaborator, producer Lee Clarke, or the outro’s soft touches of highlife, do not scream “Philly,” the sense of drama the singer builds on “To the Citadel” certainly does. It’s not really in his vocal creaminess, as in the set, setting and performance. Who really knows the true story on display, but between the cryptic nature of the lyrics (especially the historical violence that invoking “the Citadel” inspires) and the intimacy in the back-and-forth exchange that Ibeneche’s two voices perform, it is undeniable that whatever is popping off, will end in tragedy.  

The press release for the Realms EP betrays as much. Its songs are set to be produced as a “soul opera…[an] original theatrical experience which will premiere in Philadelphia in April.” This also does not come as a surprise: Ibeneche originally studied not singing but dance, with a BFA in ballet from Philadelphia’s prestigious University of the Arts, and Realms seems to be his striving to bring together all his pasts and pursuits. Based on “To the Citadel,” that pursuit is well worth our time.

Kingsley Ibeneche’s Realms EP is dropping on Astro Nautico on February 15th.