Refuge - Ezra Kwizera
It no coincidence that Ezra Kwizera’s latest album is called Refuge; it’s a state of being he has sought for and in turn has defined him as an artist and a missionary. His formative years were spent in Uganda as a refugee from war and poverty-torn Rwanda. His songs brim with positivity and praise for the gift of life after all he’s been through, and prayers of peace for his people who still suffer violence and indignation. Now a resident of Vancouver, Ezra is also a gifted audio producer, working from his own studio Narrow Road Productions and evangelizing through Narrow Road Ministries, a spiritual journey he has been called to. Narrow Roads is a not-for-profit actively working with Rwanda's at-risk children, youth and families. That said there’s nothing ‘preachy’ about his incredibly diverse body of work. Identifying with hip hop, there is a prevailing urban vibe there but he draws from a much larger wellspring of influences. You would be forgiven for thinking after listening to ‘Search’, one of Ezra’s previous recordings that he is primarily an Afro-reggae artist, but Refuge expresses an altogether different aesthetic, infused with flavors of Reggae, Soca, East African Bongo, and Pop. He is an African performer in the continent-embracing, multi-cultural sense. In performance his flow shifts effortlessly from English to Kinyarwanda, Luganda, Zulu and Swahili. Taking advantage of his experience performing for international audiences, festival programmers in Vancouver particularly are regularly booking his band, to bring the vibrancy of contemporary African music to the public at large. The consummate showman, he easily bridges the distance between stage and crowd. The title and opener of Refuge is an acoustic –flavored ode to ‘Mama Africa’ that showcases Ezra’s vocal gifts for melody, harmony and hooks; the ultimate sing-along chorus. Tamba follows with a propellant Soca bounce. Another standout track is You Cry, an edgy Urban synth-based Afropop gem that accentuates Ezra’s distinctive growl. The production values on Refuge are outstanding.