Led by frontperson Amai Kuda, the rising Toronto-based collective Amai Kuda Et Les Bois has honed and developed a reputation for crafting genre-defying music about healing — ourselves, our society and Mother Earth — with an interwoven spiritual element throughout: Their live shows and recording sessions always begin with the pouring of libations and the invocation of the ancestors.
The Canadian collective’s full-length debut, Sand from the Sea was released to praise from Nicholas Jennings, Canada’s foremost music journalist, who named the album “one of the year’s most exciting discoveries.” Since then, the members of Amai Kuda et Les Bois have been extremely busy: they’ve collaborated with Dead Prez’s M1 on “We Can Do It,” a conscious, call-to-action song.
Adding to a growing profile in Canada and elsewhere, the genre-defying outfit has opened for Joel Plaskett, Kellylee Evans, and Sarah Slean. They’ve been featured in NOW Magazine and CBC’s Canada Live and Big City Small World. 2019’s “Holding Back” with Version Xcursion premiered on Strombo Show. They’ve also received nominations for Best Song and Best Folk/Roots Awards at the Toronto Independent Music Awards — with a win for Best Folk/Roots.
They’ve played shows at some of the Toronto’s best known venues including the Oakville Centre for Performing Arts, Jane Mallett Theatre, Harbourfront, The Rivoli, as well as festivals like Luminato, Kultrun, and Small World. And lastly, they’ve toured and played shows on four of the world’s seven continents.
The Toronto-based collective’s newest album, the Jimmy Kiddo co-produced EmUrgency is slated for release this fall. Recorded, mixed and mastered at Quantum Vox Music, EmUrgency draws from — and reflects — Kuda’s eclectic and vast influences both musically and personally including Afro-House, Motown, alt-rock, hip-hop and downtempo electronica. as well as her Trinidadian heritage and Toronto upbringing.
Thematically, the album is rooted in and speaks the struggles, joys and hard-fought wisdom of Kuda’s life journey: In particular, being guided by the ancestors and Orishas, and staying true to her calling as a mother, healer, warrior and artist — despite the countless obstacles facing Black, queer women in both the music industry and society. The album’s material also digs deep into African Indigenous spiritual traditions — through connecting with the gods and deities of Yoruba cosmology, as well as the anti-colonial war for survival, unconditional love, honoring the elders, as well as caring for and preserving your inner child in times of struggle. If that doesn’t sound necessary and restorative, nothing is in my book.
EmUrgency‘s latest single “Oshun” derives its title from the Yoruba orisha (deity) of sweet water, which includes all rivers, lakes and streams. Centered around African polyrhythm and what sounds like twinkling vibraphone and Kuda’s unique delivery, which alternates between coquettish, plaintive and righteous within a turn of a phrase, “Oshun” is a club banger that’s indebted to the contempoary sounds of the motherland, in particular Afrobeats, Afro-House and Afro-pop. At its core, the song’s narrator pleads to the deity for the good and sweet things in life that have been denied to her — love, sweetness, beauty, money and so on.
“Joy, love, beauty, magic and riches are all her domain. She is also a fearsome warrior,” Amai Kuda explains. “We give thanks to her for all the sweet things and bounty in life, and also call upon her for help in matters of love or money. This praise song for her was born on the shores of her waters and is a gift both from and for her.“