Global Beat Australia: I Know Leopard, Ngaiire, and Ajak Kwai

KCRW’s Global Beat is a new series highlighting emerging artists from around the world. We’re kicking the series off with our friends in Australia by partnering with The Australian Music Alliance and the Australian Music Radio Airplay Project (Amrap), a uniquely Australian organization designed to support Australian music on public radio.

KCRW DJ Raul Campos hosts along with Amrap Manager Andrew Khedoori for this week’s Aussie artist spotlights on I Know Leopard, Ngaiire, and Ajak Kwai. Catch up on all the artists from the series (plus bonus tracks!) with our Global Beat: Australia playlist

I Know Leopard - “Lover Automatic

Sydney trio I Know Leopard, brings the pop smarts with a Daft Punk-meets-summer road trip vibe. Photo by Ash Lim. 

Andrew Khedoori: “‘Lover Automatic’ is the first new music from Sydney trio I Know Leopard since 2019. And they've gotten more than a little funky on this one. It's definitely more hyper and really colorful on this new single, but it still brings the pop smarts that they have big time to the table. They used to make this kind of slick, wry, and crafty pop with a slightly psychedelic edge, but now it's a lot more technical than trippy. I feel a really groovy summer road trip and vibe on this one, at a time when that's pure fantasy for a lot of us out there. It's a good time to check it out. I can see you in your convertible cruising down the freeway to this one.”

- “Closer

From her homeland of Papua New Guinea to Sydney, Ngaiire describes her new release as songs that are like love letters to people, home, and herself. Photo by Dan Segal. 

“Singer-songwriter Ngaiire (pronounced ‘Nye-ree’) is back with her first album in five years, coming out in August. We heard from nyeri a little while back on Global Beat: Australia with her feature on the Birdz track ‘Fly,’ but here she is in her own right. She totally owns her own space. 

This new album is titled ‘Three,’ and a couple of songs came out on it last year, but this fresh one ‘Closer’ popped out a couple of weeks back. She’s saying that these songs are like love letters to people, home, and herself. And it seems to have taken so long in part because Ngaiire spent a lot of time reevaluating who she is and how she acts in the world after returning to her homeland of Papua New Guinea, where a whole different set of values exists in comparison to typical mainstream Australian culture. So it's great that she's bringing that into song, and she's doing it with a lot of joy and a lot of positivity.”

Ajak Kwai
- “You Don’t Need to Be Cool

From South Sudan to Egypt to Australia, Ajak Kwai’s fascinating life finds its way into songs in three languages and delivers a special energy and chemistry that is warm and homely with a positive streak all the way through. Photo by Will Afonzencko. 

“Ajak Kwai has lived a fascinating life. In all the various places she's lived, she has always partaken in the culture there that surrounds her. And she's made that find a way into her own music, which gives rise to the idea that music is a truly living thing that can continue to change and evolve. 

Ajak had to flee her homeland of Sudan during the Sudanese Civil War to Egypt, where she lived for many years. She joined a gospel choir there and then she formed her own band, and they took on Sudanese and Arabic styles, among many others. Then she eventually came to Australia and she lived in Tasmania for many years, where there's a strong South Sudanese community. She continued making albums there with various musicians, who would always bring something different each time to Ajak’s vision, which covers stories of her homeland, stories of making your way in a new country, finding positivity through struggle, and staying true to yourself, which is such a common but necessary message to keep spreading in 2021. 

Ajak’s new album is number five for her. It's called ‘Let Me Grow My Wings.’ And these songs are just terrifically infectious. They sang in Arabic, English, and her native South Sudanese language of Dinka. There's a special energy and chemistry throughout, and even though it can just burst out at you, it feels very warm and homely, with a very positive streak all the way through. It takes a really special talent to draw on and unite a diversity of musicians and come out with a singular piece of music, and that's what she's done. It’s got a spirit that rubs off on you, and I bet it was a lot of fun to make as well.”





Raul Campos, Adam Burke