Abraham Mwinda’s “Same Shoes” is about a woman who lost her family to war and had to leave her country to save her life.
“So she went looking for freedom in foreign countries, but they made her feel like she don’t belong, made her feel like its her fault that she’s a refugee,” he sings in the song from his debut album, “Dreamer.” He continues, “It could have been you. It could have been me walking in the same shoes.”
Actually, Mwinda has worn the shoes of a refugee.
Congolese-born and Kenyan-raised, Mwinda and his family resettled in Kentucky through a program for refugees through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, which strives to protect and assist people who were forced to flee their homes.
Mwinda, 25, has always been interested in music, but he did not know that he was going to pursue it until 2013. He began writing songs when he was 7, and at 15, he began to perform.
Arriving in Lexington in 2013 pushed his music further along. In 2014, he picked up the guitar and began to expand his audience. But it was watching various documentaries about the war in the Congo that moved him to pursue music.
“It just made me want to use music as a way to create awareness on what’s happening in places like Congo,” Mwinda says. “My music is mostly message based, I try to focus on topics that are valuable according to the times.”
“Dreamer” is essentially a “compilation of dreams” he says, that he has for himself and for the world. His dreams for the world consist of “peace, togetherness, and harmony.” For himself, he dreams of making his parents and family proud. His messages of hope and love come from his strong faith in God, and his desire to make a difference and give a voice to those who don’t have one.
He moved to Kenya with his family because of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and those experiences, along with hearing stories of refugees encouraged him to include those events in his music. But he doesn’t want to simply entertain people.
“Same Shoes” began the “Same Shoes Initiative” to encourage people from different backgrounds to share a 7- to 10-minute video of a personal story or experience.
When Mwinda arrived in Lexington, he participated in many open mics at Common Grounds Coffee House.
He recorded “Dreamer” in his home studio with basic equipment to record his vocals. Then he sent those recordings to more experienced producers for beats, instrumentals, mixing and mastering. He wanted to have an Afro-pop sound, so he worked with producers in Lexington and Kenya.
“Music is a voice” he says in his “Introducing Abraham Mwinda: ‘Dreamer’” YouTube video. He wants to use music to “cut across borders, cultures, backgrounds, and race.”
His album features 21 songs featuring various artists such as Jessica McKenney, Ryan Montgomery, Hekima, Kayla Bland, and John Clemente. He wanted to work with different artists in different genres to bring people with different backgrounds together. “Dreamer” is mostly pop, but has gospel, hip-hop and folk influences.
Mwinda is introducing the album in a Saturday night concert at the Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center that will feature artists DeMarko Murphy, Tina Fondren, Ohzee, Mirage, and Meghan Johnson, with special guests Hekima Ndeemya and Poet La Rose.
“It is artists coming together to show talent and support the community,” Mwinda says. The benefit concert is for Hope for DRC Ministries (HCM), Light House Ministries, Kentucky Refugee Ministries, and Lexington Community Radio.
“Music has always been a part of me,” he says, “It is a powerful tool.”
Maya Brown: @mayabrownlex
If you go
‘Dreamer’ Album Release and Benefit Concert
When: 7 p.m. July 29
Where: Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center, 141 E. Main St
Ticktes: $10; tickets available at the door