Kiwat Kennell Disconnected

Kiwat Kennell Disconnected

Another stunning single released in conjunction with the Singing Our Futures program, aka The Archie Roach Foundation's mentoring experience helping emerging First Nations artists on their songwriting and recording journeys, the powerful new track Disconnected (and accompanying live music video) from Torres Strait Islander artist Kiwat Kennell is a warm and wondrous ode to yearning for deep connection.


With Kiwat mentored by the one and only Dan Sultan to bring Disconnected to life, the lush track draws creative inspiration from Sultan himself, his proud Torres Strait Islander heritage, plus a range of artists from Matt Corby, to Budjerah, Bumpy and Kee'ahn and the storytelling prowess of figures from Kiwat's own past, including Uncle Kutcha Edwards, the late Uncle Archie Roach and Jack Charles. Centred around a significantly personal narrative for Kiwat, Disconnected touches on the aftermath when connections are suddenly lost, alongside hope that often lingers on the horizon for those who have strength to reach beyond the darkness, as Kiwat elaborates, "Disconnected tells the story of how my father saved my life, from my own actions, in one of the darkest periods of my life. The yearning for a connection of any kind in a post-lockdown life is one that too many of us have all experienced. Through an unhealthy relationship with my mental health, I lost many personal relationships, resulting in a downward spiral, solo journey, that would eventually have me reconnect with my father, after many years of being apart. What began as a deeply negative and traumatic experience, has me now connecting to family, culture and life!"


Produced by Candy Suite alongside Kiwat, with mixing by Simon Moro and mastering courtesy of Paul Blakey, Disconnected may vividly and lyrically stem from physical and emotional disconnections, but it also ultimately fostered an extremely special and fruitful connection between Kiwat and his mentor Dan Sultan via Singing Our Futures. "My mentor in the program was Dan Sultan, someone who I'd always looked up to," Kiwat shares. "We had known each other socially for a few years, but when I found out that Dan would be my mentor, and I would have the chance to work with him in a professional capacity, I couldn't believe it. Dan Sultan has always been a huge influence on my career, his ability to captivate a whole audience with just his voice and a guitar, will always astound me! Being able to collaborate with Dan on this track has really changed how I approach songwriting. He taught me that the story, or song, that you start writing at one point in time, doesn't have to be finished at that moment. Because like in life, you evolve… and your story isn't finished yet. Sometimes you have to walk the path, to see where it leads."

Surrounded by music from a young age, Kiwat's earliest musical memories revolved around his experiences having his father as his first teacher, and sitting around the table with his family and singing together, Kiwat says "This track has strong Torres Strait Islander foundations, reminiscent of my childhood being surrounded by culture." Growing up on the road and moving towns frequently, Kiwat's musical identity would be shaped by some of his dad's favourite artists, featuring Archie Roach, Gavin Somers, Charlie Pride and Randy Travis; but it wasn't until Kiwat realised the extent and connection that this very music offered at a young age, that his musical journey truly ignited, before fittingly leading him to become part of Archie Roach's legacy as a key part of the Singing Our Futures program, as Kiwat shares, "Here we are singing along to Uncle Archie Roach as kids, thinking that these were our special little family songs, but once we connected with mob across the country, I started to find others singing these songs. It was here that I discovered the power of storytelling and the ability to connect with people through music… the rest is history."


A meaningful and culturally safe songwriting program that supports young First Nations artists to tell their story through songwriting, Singing Our Futures was devised pre-COVID and is one of the leading programs of the Archie Roach Foundation. Led by Candice Lorrae (The Merindas), an established singer-songwriter and music producer with Jawoyn and Torres Strait Islander roots, Singing Our Futures has evolved into an impactful and ever-growing initiative for emerging artists and storytelling that spans genres and generations.


A live celebration of the next Singing Our Futures program participants will take place on Sunday July 30 at the Brunswick Ballroom, with Kiwat set to perform Disconnected - and some special surprises in store for the night as well as for the rest of 2023, as he concludes, "I'll be set to perform the new single Disconnected at the Brunswick Ballroom show, possibly with my band (and a few of the old Singing Our Futures crew) there's a section that has a choir, so you might recognise a few voices. I also have a few more releases planned for the rest of the year, plus a few firsts, including a music video that will be coming out with the release of Disconnected and my first batch of merch will be available via my website…. but the big news for 2023, is that I will be planning to embark north along the east coast and begin a deep dive study into my Torres Strait Islander heritage, culture and songs. This will be the basis for my first solo album."

Disconnected is out now.

The Singing Our Futures EP will be released later this year.



Interview with Kiwat Kennell

First up, can you please give us a quick intro?

Kiwat Kennell: Hi! My name is Kiwat Kennell, a very proud Torres Strait Islander from the islands of Ugar (Stephens) and Erub (Darnley) in the eastern Torres Strait. I'm a First Nations artist, mental health advocate and songwriter. 

How would you describe your music?

Kiwat Kennell: Well I navigate my space by walking in two worlds. I was raised on the road and always changed scenes, I was exposed to a kaleidoscope of sounds, yet I always struggled with my identity. My music would be described as a genre-blending style with focuses on evoking a connection-to-self to break down cultural barriers within people and connect listeners to their inner voice, finding strength in the underlying issues that connect us all.

Can you tell us about your new single 'Disconnected'?

Kiwat Kennell: 'Disconnected' is a song that speaks to the deep hearted yearnings for connections during emotional loss. Co-written with Dan Sultan via the Archie Roach Foundations 'Singing Our Futures' mentoring program, I was very fortunate to have someone like Dan guide me through the creative  process.

What inspired 'Disconnected'?

Kiwat Kennell: This song was heavily inspired from both my struggles with depression and my connection to family, specifically my father. 'Disconnected' depicts the story of how my father saved my life, from my own dark actions during a very difficult time where I had lost many personal connections from a mistake that I had made. My father was there for me in a time where he hadn't been there before. What started off as a deeply traumatic experience for me, resulted in me reconnecting with my father after many years apart and finding a new lease on life and culture!

Is there a particular message you hope listeners take from your music?

Kiwat Kennell: I hope people find strength in knowing that even in the DARKEST of times, there is always light if you find the strength to reach for it! A few years ago, I didn't think I'd be here… now I am solo recording artist, working with some of the best talent in the country! All because I chose to reach for help.

Do you prefer performing live or recording?

Kiwat Kennell: I definitely LOVE performing live! I'm also a producer and whilst I love studio sessions to perfect your sound, there is nothing quite like the vibe you get when the band is connecting together and the audience is connecting with you! LIVE alllll the way!!

Which is your favourite song to perform live and why?

Kiwat Kennell: 'Disconnected' is my favourite song to date that I like to perform. There is a rich story that is associated with this song, and I don't get a chance to share that with the recording, so getting the opportunity to tell the importance of this song is really beautiful. There is something about a lost connection that we all seem to resonate with and the fact I get to share that on stage with so many people, is something I will never take for granted!

What motivates you most when writing music?

Kiwat Kennell: Connection to PEOPLE! I write music to help process my emotions, but how people interpret those words and find their own pathways to connect to a song, will always astound me. How an artist writes a song is one thing, but how a person CONNECTS to a song, is something completely different. That ability to connect to multiple people and they all find meaning in those melodies and words, is why I write music!

Which music/artists are you currently listening to?

Kiwat Kennell: At the moment I'm really vibing Busby Marou's new album 'Blood Red'! Their songs 'Crying' and 'Where I Wanna Be' are the country vibes that I grew up on… oh and the fact that they are north QLD boys always helps haha But I also love CANISHA and Jem Cassar-Daley, they both have smooth soulful vocals just make me melt!

What or who was your inspiration to go into the music industry?

Kiwat Kennell: Oh this ones easy… Pete Murray! I grew up in the Northern Rivers and Pete was one of the first artists that I resonated with when discovering my own musical tastes, outside of my parents, whilst growing up. When I found out he lived in the region, my love for his music grew and I knew that I could grow up to do the same!

If you could collaborate with another artist, who would it be?

Kiwat Kennell: I would love to collaborate with Jem Cassar-Daley, her beautifully crafted lyrics and melodies really conveys the story she expresses in her music. She not only knows how to write a good series of songs, but she pushes the boundaries of genres and that's something I really admire in an artist!

What is the biggest challenge you have faced along the way to your musical success?

Kiwat Kennell: One of the biggest challenges I have faced in my career is 'Imposter Syndrome', often doubting myself if I belong in certain spaces, especially as a First Nations artist. More often than not I find myself questioning if I have received certain opportunities based on my identity or because of my talent? This is something I constantly struggle with, but manage with a strong support crew around me.

What's a typical day like?

Kiwat Kennell: Well a typical day for me is waking up and having a small breakfast routine (i'm not usually one for routine, but this is one I like to keep), a coffee, jam sandwich and at least 30mins to watchTV with my cat!

Then I sit at my desk and respond to emails and inquiries that come through, always ensuring that when planning my schedule I have work booked a month in advance. I'll then rehearse for any upcoming events, either with my band or on my own, always making space for creative hours and writing!

I like to treat my music career as if it were any other job, I schedule meetings with my team, fill my calendar with grant writing/research and create new projects that keep me motivated and inspired.


What advice do you have for aspiring songwriters or artists?

Kiwat Kennell: Have a plan and/or goals that you wish to achieve! They can be small or they can be HUGE, but have something that you can use as a metric for success. Too often people say they want to 'make it in the industry', but what does that look like for you? Having some form of direction or things that you can achieve on this pathway, will help you feel like you're achieving something!

Lastly, always make space for your art! If you need to disappear for a few months, travel the world, get inspired… then do that! Whatever you do, always make space for your art!

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