There are Greek myths that speak of voices that lull and linger. That shimmer with a kind of sonic that can bend the laws of physics, dropping us into underworlds and lifting us back out again. Uwade has a sound that could live in myths like these. And it’s no secret why. A scholar of the highest order, Uwade, 21, has studied Classics at Columbia and Oxford, received fellowships and scholarships at each, and has been deemed a genius in certain circles.
Knowing this, it’s easy to want to plunge into the academic depths of her sound. (Along with Julian Casablancas, Nina Simone and Sir Victor Uwaifo, Uwade cites Lucian, Catullus and Virgil amongst her influences). It’s easy to want to describe her voice as something that lives outside of time, ancient and altogether new, equally at home in the dive bars of folk and rock songs as in the sublime texts of wine-dark seas. To say it’s nothing short of a divine signal.
But all of this feels heavy. And the truth is that Uwade’s voice is an embodiment of light. It’s tender and unwavering but sharp, too, like honey on the edge of a knife, or cool, clear water over stones. Amidst the infinite possibilities we can find within her sound, the thing we’re always left with, the thing that keeps us coming back, again and again, is joy. The joy of following a feeling. Of being lost in the pleasure of the present moment. Of singing together with people in a room. Yes, there is hope and influence and complexity there, but in the end, there’s joy. And thank God for it.
For Uwade, singing is prayer. This stems, in part, to her spiritual upbringing. Born in Nigeria, she was raised as an only child in North Carolina, steeped in the sounds of hymnal choral music and Fela Kuti. Her mother owns a hair salon and she credits her father with teaching her to sing.
Uwade’s father passed away in August 2020 and since then, she’s found herself diving deeper into her Nigerian heritage, basking in the bright sounds of Highlife. Her recent recording of Sir Victor Uwaifo’s “Lodarore”, a favorite song of her dad’s, was met with acclaim by the legendary Edo singer himself.
It’s Uwade’s voice you hear opening Fleet Foxes’ 2020 record Shore, sparking the attention of global critics, and her latest single “The Man Who Sees Tomorrow” could stand as a balm to our present time, a modern-day hymn that sings of hope, even in the midst of unbearable loss: “And even though my memories are fading far too fast / One day I will know it all / And frolic in the grass.”