He's fusing the sounds of his African roots with indie rock to create his own lane. Meet Bobby Kabeya aka Miloe aka the artist you wish you knew three months ago.
Amplify Africa: What was the inspiration behind your stage name Miloe?
Miloe: You know it's really just a play on Mylo Xyloto a Coldplay album that I love.
AA: Who are your biggest musical influences?
Miloe: It ranges from African musicians like Lokua Kanza, Koffi Olomide, and Papa Wemba who have been and still are extremely influential, to acts like Snail Mail, Cold Play and Jay Som who have also shaped my music.
AA: What is the difference between Bobby and Miloe?
Miloe: I would say that Miloe is a louder and bigger version of Bobby. Live shows are really where that side of me comes out.
AA: So how does it feel since you haven't been able to perform live for a year due to quarantine?
Miloe: For a long time I avoided even watching live performances on YouTube because I miss the stage so much. Performing live has always been my favorite aspect of doing this, but I have had a lot of time to be able to just sit and write a lot of new music which is good.
"I'm incredibly fortunate to have such supportive parents, it's how I got to where I am"
AA: You were born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and moved to the U.S. with your family when you were young. How would you describe your childhood growing up there?
Miloe: I spent a LOT of time outside. My parents were extremely hardworking people; my mom was in school and my dad was a journalist. I enjoyed spending so much time in nature and I make a conscious effort to tap into that here, but it's just so easy to spend your entire day inside stuck on your phone and computer. Even more so with the pandemic and quarantine so I make sure I get outside and spend time in the park and just immersed in nature.
AA: Why did your family move to the U.S.?
Miloe: My dad was a journalist and together with some of his colleagues they were starting to uncover evidence of election fraud in the Democratic Republic of Congo local elections in 2006. The government was starting to crack down on journalists so my dad fled to the U.S. in 2006 and after three years he filed for asylum and brought us here through family reunification in 2009 when I was around 8-years-old.
AA: Have you been back since?
Miloe: I haven't! I definitely plan to, and hope to have a chance to play live shows there. That would be amazing!
AA: How old were you when you realized you had this talent and when did you start recording music?
Miloe: My parents were in a church choir so my whole life I grew up around that scene surrounded by talented musicians. When I was 6, a family friend who played piano in the choir started giving me lessons, and then when we moved here I became a band kid. It was my first time seeing children my age playing really expensive instruments! My time in high school band provided me with the opportunity to dabble with different instruments.
AA: Speaking of your parents being musical, they actually directed your music video for your song Winona. How did that come about?
Miloe: My parents are super creative! My dad is a journalist so they've always been into media; he knows his way around a camera, and my mom is a visionary. I am incredibly fortunate to have such supportive parents, it's how I got to where I am. They're just amazing people.
AA: You are still in school, so how is it balancing that with being an artist?
Miloe: It's getting much harder because I just want to devote all my time to my music. At this point it's about finishing school as fast as I can.
AA: Being Congolese, do you think that influences your music and is so, how does that show up?
Miloe: Absolutely! I think it comes out in the guitar parts of my songs. Rumba has a very distinct guitar sound and similarly there is a very specific Congolese guitar sound which I want to bring out even more. I love how Congolese singer Lokua Kanza's folksy sound is rich with all of the various parts working together and intertwining to create magic. I've always been into that sound so my goal is to bring that to Western audiences more.
AA: You're only 20 and have already achieved a lot, what's been your proudest accomplishment to date?
Miloe: Being able to do the Winona music video with my parents has been the biggest accomplishment for me so far. We put in a lot of work and it feels amazing that it's been able to reach so many more people than I ever anticipated.
AA: Did you write Winona about the actress Winona Ryder?
Miloe: (smiling) Kind of ... I had a joke with my girlfriend a few years ago that she looked like Winona Ryder so it's a reference to that joke. Also, in America culture in the '80s she was one of the ideal dream girls, so it touches on that too.
AA: You were clearly born to be a musician, but if you weren't one, what do you think you'd be doing?
Miloe: I would definitely be playin soccer. I have 3 younger brothers and they're going hard for soccer right now which I would have definitely done in high school if I wasn't hanging out with the band kids (laughs). Soccer was my first passion.
AA: You released your EP Greenhouse last year. What's your favorite single and why?
Miloe: I love Marna the most because lyrically I was tapping into some raw emotion there, and instrumentally, though it's simple the influence from rumba is clear.
AA: Do you write all your music?
Miloe: I do. It usually starts out as a demo that I'll flesh out and then bring to a producer or a co-writer that helps me complete the song.
AA: What are some of your goals for 2021?
Miloe: I hope by the end of the year that I'll be able to do a live show! I will keep writing and put out another project too. There's new music coming soon! It's an evolution of me as an artist and a person.
AA: If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be?
Miloe: Black Coffee would be really cool to collaborate with! He just put out a new project Subconsciously that I haven't stopped listening to.
At the close of our interview Miloe shared a message for anyone reading this, "I hope you're taking care of yourself and staying safe." You can stay connected with Miloe's journey by following him on Instagram.