Initially starting his music career under a deliberate and international cloak of mystery Kidepo, the Ugandan-born singer/songwriter Jonah Mutono stepped out into the spotlight under his own name with the release of his debut single “Shoulders,” an achingly intimate pop song that was one part diary entry of the painfully lonely and one part yearning daydream about suddenly stumbling upon long-lasting love that reminded me — a little bit– of Jef Barbara‘s “Song for the Loveshy” and Avalon-era Roxy Music.
Mutono begins the new year with the Lil Silva and Al Carlson co-produced “Circulation.” Centered around Mutono’s achingly tender vocals, skittering beats, chopped up vocal samples, layers of shimmering and arpeggiated synths and atmospheric electronics, the song manages to be an anxious confession of love — the sort in which you may not be able to express, discuss or openly admit out of fear of rumor mongering, rejection and of bodily harm by others. And as a result, the song possesses an underlying tension that’s palpably uneasy.
Continuing an ongoing collaboration with director Isaac Eastgate, the recently released video for “Circulation” was filmed in a gorgeous, cinematic black and white in Mutono’s native Uganda. We follow two young men, walking silently through a small village. Interestingly enough, they’re walking completely in tune to the music before suddenly moving like zombies during the song’s hook. But throughout the video, there’s a sense of something deeply unspoken between the two — an intimacy and familiarity that’s expressed through a much more physical dance routine between the two.
“We filmed this video last year in Uganda, near a place that’s very important to me. The piece is about tension – physical and emotional – and in this particular case, political,” Mutono says in press notes. “There is little kindness and space given to queer stories in that corner of the world. It was astounding that we got to be there and capture this. All I can really draw from is my own experience and this is a big part of that story for me.
“Isaac [Eastgate, the director] and I wanted to create a scene that evoked something quite universal – that rudimentary magnetism and connection that we crave. The lyrics I wrote as a physical manifestation of this feeling, but I wanted to contrast the video to where they hardly touch at all.”