A deeply soothing, hypnotic soundscape inspired by a recovery from long-term illness, Kenyan-born, USA-based composer and sound artist Nyokabi Kariũki has shared her latest single ‘Nazama’. Taken from her upcoming debut full length album, FEELING BODY, which is set for release on 3rd March via cmntx Records, the track is a considered, experimental blend of soft vocals and instrumentation that tentatively celebrates the regaining of physical and emotional strength.
“There’s a trauma of illness that remains within you, both in the physical places that it existed; and in the mind,” Kariũki explains about the context behind ‘Nazama’, a Swahili term which translates as “to sink”. On this single, and throughout her new album, the musician explores the marks left by her experience of living with long-COVID for a large part of 2021. She was also inspired by the fluid and healing capacity of water, which is a recurring motif throughout the record.
Following on from her acclaimed debut EP, peace places: kenyan memories, released in (2022), FEELING BODY provided a new space for Kariũki to dismantle and make sense of the impact that chronic illness has had on her well being. Using field recordings, flexing her impressive vocal range, and accompanied by violinist Yaz Lancaster and trumpet player Michael Denis Ó Callaghan, Kariũki created a safe space to examine this difficult process.
“To share a painful story is to also to discover ways to protect yourself as you do so,” comments the musician. “Asking text-to-speech to say phrases you struggle to repeat; recording stream-of-consciousness voice notes so that you don’t have to sit long in thoughts; and to find, in sound — from field recordings, to dreamy improvisations by musical friends — a way to express visceral feelings and noisy thoughts.”
These “noisy thoughts” have translated into dreamy, ethereal soundscapes like ‘Nazama’, which is the concluding track on FEELING BODY. “There is a lot to say about being sick, about being sick during a pandemic; about how the world treats you if you are sick for longer than “just a cold”,” Kariũki continues. “I am ever in awe of our bodies, and how they keep going, despite and in spite of all the pain we go through in life. In a way, this album is an expression of love, and gratitude, to my own.”
Listen to ‘Nazama’ below.
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Photo Credit: Gianfranco Bello