Nyokabi Kariũki

Eclectic African-flecked electronica 

Who They?

Nyokabi Kariũki is a Kenyan composer whose music fuses East African instruments like the mbira and xylophone with sparse electronics, dreamy vocals and field recordings. A classically trained pianist, based between Nairobi, Maryland and New York, her musical taste is technicolour – from Francis Bebey and Pink Floyd to Ravel – and she’s wise to being pigeonholed. “Everything I create,” she says, “is an amalgamation of everything I’ve ever listened to.”

Why Nyokabi Kariũki?

Her debut EP was written while marooned Stateside during the height of the pandemic. Titled ‘Peace Places: Kenyan Memories’, the six tracks incorporate field recordings taken from her homeland and eerie production to form a nice representation of memory as pastiche. ‘Ngurumo, Or Feeding Goats Mangoes’ pits the lullaby metal tines of an mbira against her unsettling soprano, while livestock bleet somewhere in the distance. ‘Galu’, on the other hand, is a cinematic track that gently swells until you find yourself dealing with a Björk-like crash, harmonic singing and mbira carried by free jazz drumming, a whirlwind you’ll want to get caught up in.

Tell Us More…

Inspiration often comes from unexpected places. “At the start of the pandemic,” she recalls, “I had the idea from a creative writing class to start journaling. I decided to create a sound journal. Each day, I’d record whatever sounds were around me and build musical worlds from these recordings. I’ve been finding music everywhere – in nature, in conversations and languages, in noise… in silence. Audio from videos I used to take casually, with my phone, became musical to me. Field recordings are a big part of my artistic language today.”

‘Peace Places: Kenyan Memories’ is released by SA Recordings

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