Live Review Kawala – 'Better With You' Live In-Store Album Launch, HMV Manchester UK. 4th March 2022.





‘I’m Left Wondering When, Not if, Kawala Are Going To Be Massive’


North London’s Kawala are at the HMV store in Manchester today to play a short, acoustic set of their unique afro folk/indie-pop to launch their debut album ‘Better With You’.  The five-piece first found success in pre-Covid 2018 when their single “Do It Like You Do” became a monster streaming hit. Today, streams of the track, stand at just over 16 million and further releases have amassed the band a very extraordinary total of over 80 million streams. Impressive considering they are only releasing their first album today.

Initially formed as an acoustic duo by singer Jim Higson and guitarist/singer Dan McCarthy, Kawala now comprise lead guitarist Dan Lee, bassist Reeve Coulson and drummer Ben Batten. Jim begins the set joking with the crowd they’re going to play their new album in order, but have to start on track two as it’s not fair to ask Ben to play the introduction to the album opener acoustically.  Track two, ‘Searching’ is a buoyant, danceable, golden melody driven track. The vocal harmonies of Jim and Dan beautifully melting with the spine-tingling loose rhythmic textures of the acoustic bass and Ben’s Cajon Peruvian drum.



The band obviously don’t take themselves too seriously. Singer Dan introducing recent single “Marathon”, to much laughter, as “This is a song called Marathon, which despite the name is only I think 2 minutes 45”. Even a failed guitar tuner battery couldn’t dampen his fun mood. The playing on “Marathon’s” sunny, afrobeat-inspired rhythms is flawless. Again, Jim and Dan’s harmonies beautifully evocative and not for the first time this evening, reminiscent of Messrs Simon and Garfunkel and Fleet Foxes.

Next track “Ticket to Ride” was on the soundtrack of FIFA 21, its infectious melody and chorus transferring remarkably well to an acoustic format. Even before the bright, hypnotic pop of latest single ‘Hypnotized’ begins, the amazing quality of the songs and harmonies are blowing my initial reservations out of the water.

“Echoes”, “Jesse C’mon” and Never Really Here For Love” continues the short, bright and melodic set before Dan asks the audience “Do you want one more?” The response from the crowd a decisive “Moonlight.” Dan jokingly replying we’ll try to remember how to play it.  

“Moonlight”, from 2019s Counting the miles EP, is the best song of the evening for me. A young couple in front of me hug and the hairs on the back of my neck rise with Jim and Dan’s perfect vocal harmonies. As the band leave the stage to rapturous applause, I again think of the quality of Messrs Simon and Garfunkel in their performance and I’m left wondering when, not if, Kawala are going to be massive.




1/ Searching

2/ Marathon

3/ Ticket to Ride

4/ Sailor

5/ Hypnotized

6/ Echoes

7/ Jesse C’mon

8/ Never Really Here For Love


9/ Moonlight