July 29, 2020
Joseph Kamaru is a sound artist from Nairobi, Kenya who has been building up an intriguing library of tracks on his Bandcamp Page over the last three years. With an approach that combines field recordings and in-studio improvisation his tracks vary between minimalist beat driven electronics to richly detailed and layered ambient soundscapes in the vein of William Basinski or Chris Watson.
His grandfather, also Joseph Kamaru, is one of his early sources of musical interest. The elder Kamaru was a Benga and gospel musician in Kenya starting in the late 1960s and his body of work is the subject of a reissue series on Bandcamp as well.
This year KMRU has (so far) three full lengths being released, including his debut for the prestigious Editions Mego label.
Peel was released on July 23th and is available on a 2LP set shipping at the end of August.
I was doing a bit of reading about electronic music from East Africa and it seems like dance, hip hop, and other beat-oriented forms dominate... what got you interested in exploring ambient music?
Yes, there’s a lot of Afro house, HipHop, Gengetone, Singeli, techno, debe and all the other styles of music within East Africa. I’m happy that there’s so much happening and always exciting to discover new sounds here.
My experimental / ambient works developed more from my love for natural sounds and being in the field. I have been collecting a lot of field recordings from my phone and handy recorder and this developed more into an artistic practice and using this sounds as compositional tools. This has been a learning process for the past 3 years and still learning more about it.
Listening to your earliest recordings on Bandcamp, the field recordings and structures are much more on the surface of the sound... how has this changed over time?
I get inspired in the field. Other times its different as id find myself improvising/ jamming in my space and recording different sound palettes which I then use for compositions. It’s always spontaneous and free. I love improvisation, both in the field and in the box.
From an outside perspective, and especially from North America, casual listeners sometimes expect to hear direct representation of cultural identity from artists in other parts of the world. Do you feel any pressure, either positive or negative, to include cultural markers in your art?
Artists should be free to express themselves however they want and feel, stay honest with their art, and stay authentic, which is so hard and always a learning process. [As for markers] not at first, but this has really evolved and changed a lot in the past few years. Also, the fact that my grandfather did a totally different kind of music from what I’m doing, he taught me a lot and grateful for that!
How does listening... both environmental and to other similar artists... play into your creation of music? Are there any artists that have been especially influential?
My grandfather, we and my other cousins used to go to walks and hikes down the hills and waterfalls for conversations and talks with him, He had a strong connection with the nature, and later came to realize this also in his music.
Other artists who have been an inspiration and influential are Slikback, Nicolas Jaar Katie Gately , Chris Watson & Budhaditya Chattopadhyay, and currently listening a lot to Aho Ssan and Sarah Badr.
How did the deal with Editions Mego come about?
Peel was the perfect project to send to Editions Mego, and glad the project found such a beautiful home.
Have the limitations due to Covid-19 affected any of your work or plans?
Yes, my 2020 was looking very promising, had a couple of shows lined up in Europe from April-June. Most of the shows were affected but whilst I’m not performing, I’m always busy writing and this pandemic has led to lots of new project developments.
With two full lengths already coming out in 2020 what are your goals moving forward?
There’ll be another one coming up later in the year. Well, I’m planning to do my Masters later this year. I'll still be releasing more works, but also finish my installation projects, and if we can play live again, I'll be happy to share my music live!