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Joseph Kamaru, who produces and performs as KMRU, is the Nairobi born artist who now lives and works in Berlin. Able to collect and puzzle piece together fragments of sound, which he gathers first as field recordings, KMRU’s music is a practice in meditation. And soon you’ll be able to catch KMRU’s wave at Madrid’s vanguardist Soundset on 17th March playing his project Limen alongside Aho Ssan at Conde Duque Contemporary Culture Centre.

His latest release, epoch, which arrived in November of last year, is gorgeous. Electronic composition gives way to quiet noises; bird calls, a sigh, the shuffling of feet, the faint buzz of an alarm. It is as ethereal as it is earth driven, grounded in this everyday sonic umami of human behaviours.

KMRU, has been producing and practicing his art since the early 2010s, his earlier productions more in the vein of afrobeat and progressive house. With his album Peel, which came out in 2020, KMRU leveraged the pandemic to fully embrace his interest in environmental sound. The comparably quiet music mirrored the stillness of the world at the time, honing in on the absences and the traces of life through ambient music. Listening to KMRU is a bit like reading, as each song unfolds it turns a page, a continuous narrative that is both futuristic and timeless.

Hi KMRU, thanks for taking the time to chat. What are you up to? Are you in Berlin currently? What initially drew you to the city, and how does it influence your production?
Hey ! I'm doing well. I’m on my trip back to Berlin from Basel. Just had a beautiful show this past weekend curated by Somatic Collective.
As for Berlin, I moved there for my Masters although I had visited before and was drawn to what’s possible artistically in Berlin.
You began your production journey gathering field recordings in Nairobi (Kenya). What is the value in incorporating organic noise in your work? Can you pinpoint a few specific recordings you rely on regularly?
My practice in sound stems from field recording and I found my self using these sounds from the environment into my music. It was more of an invitation to listen to our immediate surroundings and be attuned to what's around us. I don't think I have a specific recording that I rely on but I sometimes reuse recordings in different contexts.
Your music is highly emotive and peaceful. What do you do to relax and unwind yourself? Any artists you listen to for relaxation?
I'm always taking walks or just sitting in silence for some time. Ana Roxanne's music probably and Nala Sinephro’s Space 1.8 album.
Are there certain stories you aim to tell through sound? How do you approach translating your recordings into live sets?
There's always a narrative behind the music, sometimes it's not easy to verbalise this but I always hope that the sounds give impetus to narratives, stories and imaginations to the listeners. Other projects do have concrete ideas that I'm exploring through sounds. For live sets, the recordings are usually freeform and can be embedded onto different points of the performance.
You have spoken about the life and living energies of objects. Do you live in a quiet and ascetic environment or do you enjoy having a varying array of items around you?
Yes I do live in a quiet place in Berlin, it helps to recenter thoughts and unwind when im on the move. Although I love chaos too. I do have varying objects and collectibles in the house.
How do you decide what sounds best to complement each other? Is there a lot of splicing at play or do you tend to build around more lengthy recordings?
This is quite intuitive! I think it’s just a feeling when you make music and decide what sounds work together. Some are edited to fit the pieces but the best are sounds which just fit seamlessly.
Having toured quite extensively with Big Thief last year, what is your relationship like with that band and do you have any plans for future collaboration with them?
I love the band so much and truly am grateful to have toured with them last year. I feel we bonded a lot being on the road together. Hopefully in the possible future I will get to work with them.
Are you quite influenced by classical artists? And what music have you been listening to of late?
I’m not directly [influenced by classical artists] but I played lots of Francisco Tárrega’s guitar music year back. I’ve been listening to Nyokabi Kariuki’s new album, INSHA Compilation from Nairobi, and Kelela’s new album!
What are some natural spots around the world that you return to for quiet and potentially for sound gathering?
My parents home in Nairobi.
What do you hope people take away from your practice?
Some degree of slowness and attunement.
Looking ahead, what are you excited about in the year to come?
Finishing my Masters, more new music plus collaborations and sharing music live!

Ava Ahmann
Marco Krueger

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