Surrounded by music from a young age, Kiwat Kennell’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 new track (Disconnected) 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.”
Name: Kiwat Kennell
In less than 50 words describe your music and yourself.
Kiwat Kennell, a proud Easter Torres Strait Islander performer from the islands of Ugar (Stephen) & Erub (Darnely) navigates his life by walking between two worlds. With a passion for First Nations representation in the arts and a strong Mental Health advocate, my music is a reflection of being raised on the road and being exposed to a kaleidoscope of sounds!
What was the first rock/pop concert you attended?
The first concert I can remember seeing was Christine Anu LIVE in Hobart, Tasmania… I can’t remember the venue as I was just a kid, but I remember vibing out to her track My Party! What a banger!
Punk or Goth Music:
Punk Music ALLLLL the way!!
Who are you excited about, music wise, at the moment?
I’ve really been vibing Tilly Tjala Thomas!! Her incorporation of language in her music and talking bout hard hitting issues in a calm, yet fun way is something that I REALLY admire!
The Best live artist/band you’ve seen:
The Pierce Brothers for SUUURE!! Jack and Pat have such HIGH energy when they perform and they really engage the audience! I remember seeing them live a few times and they run out into the audience and play percussion on anything they can find when there in the crowd! Haha It’s such a fun thing to witness and really engages you!
What are you currently reading?
Currently I am reading A Dictionary of Torres Strait Creole by Anna Shnukal (Illustrated by Ron Edwards) … culture is everything to me, but it wasn’t always around growing up, so I’m reconnecting with my language and connecting the gaps in my knowledge and learning more and more each day!
Your favourite Sunday morning chill out record?
Tom Misch – Beat Tape 2… specifically the track In the Midst of It All (feat. Sam Wills)… this track has been at the top of my most played tracks on Spotify for the last five years and gives me so much peace in times of stress!
Which song do you wish you had written?
Moondance by Van Morrison… I absolutely LOVE this song, but every time I play it, I feel like I can play 10 different ways and express it in many different genres. It feels like a song that I have written and being able to play it many different ways, is a feeling as if I created it haha Author Manuel Puig said “I’m not terribly happy about rock and roll.
Rock music is uninspiring, numbing; it makes you feel like an idiot.” Discuss.
Well Rock music, for what it was at the beginning, was upsetting… people didn’t understand the loud noises and the entire craze that came with it. It was new and unfamiliar, but like most things in life, people fear what they don’t understand… if you give it time and TRY to understand it, I think your world could really open up.
Vinyl, Cassette, CD, MP3 or Streaming?
I was always partial to the Cassette Tape! Haha While Vinyl is GREAT, the portable Cassette Player was the O.G. of portable personal music!! Discmans would always skip when walking and MP3s in the early days, would be hard to find a good copy (that’s if you didn’t get a ripped version with someone screaming ‘DJ WORLDWIDE’ or something like that).
So, if we’re going back in time…. gimmie my Sony Walkman and let me drift off into the day as I listen to Waterfalls on repeat and rewind!
If you could hang out with any music artist, in a bar one afternoon, who would it be?
Dave Grohl… hands down! This man has been at some pivotal points in music and has experienced more than most. I think he would have some really cool stories, but some incredible advice as well… plus I think he’d be cool to have a few cold ones with!
What is your worst habit?
Oh, it’s definitely not sticking to a routine… I get bored easily and sticking to a routine really messes with my head! Haha, I like things that are random and spicy!! You wanna go for a random late-night drive? I’m your guy… wanna sit and talk at 3am because somethings bothering you… that’s me!! But don’t expect me to go to the gym three times a week or meal prep things… I don’t work like that!
How often do you look at your mobile phone?
A little too often… but I like to take social media breaks and log out of all my devices. Sometimes I go off on solo camping trips somewhere remote, it helps me stay away from my phone and center myself!
Any good backstage stories?
In the early days of my career, I was in a band and we managed to get on a short set to play Groovin the Moo, it was our first backstage experience. Ended up finding ourselves side of stage watching Hermitude and saying hi, meeting Nicole Miller and Haiku Hands, plus having lunch next to Coolio… it was a good day! Haha An alien lands on Earth and wants to know what Rock and roll sounds like.
What song do you play it?
I’d have to play some classic Hotel California or any Prince… just classic examples of Rock n Roll in my opinion!
Favourite all time TV show:
Ohhhh this is a hard one, I like a lot of different TV shows, but I gotta say I like The Big Bang Theory (don’t judge me) hahaha There’s something about them all struggling to find their place in the world and succeed in their fields that I really connect with… I put it on in the background sometimes for comfort.
What is your specialty in the kitchen?
I make a mean slow cooked lamb on the stove… a mix of garlic clove, fresh rosemary and parsley, slow cooked in beef stock mixture for 4-6 hours, rotating every 40mins, served on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes, right in the middle of winter… YESSS PLEASE! With whom would you like to record a song with?
Meg Mac… she has some dreamy vocals, but her style of music is something that I’m really down with, it’s slow, yet empowering, calming but groovy as well. Her harmonies with her sister Hannah are incredible! I feel I could learn a lot, but also make some incredible music at the same time!
You have tickets to see The Killers and Bruce Springsteen but they are on the same night. Which one do you attend?
The Killers… easy choice! I’m sorry Bruce, but I grew up listening them… So, you bet I’m gonna hurt my neck rockin’ out in the pit to The Killers!!
Where do you hope to be in 12 months?
I hope to be touring my music across the country and playing a few festivals with my band. So far I’ve been performing solo, but my band sound is something I want to share with the world! Get me on that national circuit and let me do my thing!
Kiwat discusses his new single Disconnected, “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!”
Disconnected is out now.
Interview by Geoff Jenke