Joseph Kamaru, 35 years of music to be reissuedReading Time: 3 minutes
Joseph Kamaru will be reissuing music by Joseph Kamaru dating as far as the 1960s. KMRU revealed that he would be releasing back catalogue of his late grandfathers’ music collection each and every Friday. Sound Safari spoke to KMRU regarding this project.
To many enthusiasts, the death of Kamaru meant the passing of a cultural icon. The late Benga musician and political activist passed on 3, October 2018 aged 79. Cultural analyst Joyce Nyairo eulogized him on The Daily nation that “Kamaru spoke for a community but transcended a generation. What a poet! I want to call him “Owner of Words”. Cautionary words, guiding ones, words to build, words to tear down, words to soothe, words to amuse, words that heal, words that demand justice.”
Let’s get in the studio
“Kamaru tai utakarikia cukuru?”. KMRU recalls how his grandfather would ask him every time they met. The more experienced musician saw much potential in his grandson and the younger, highly motivated one was always consulting, learning from the maestro.
They had been planning to work together on some music projects but they kept putting it off. The older Kamaru was from a generation that made music with real instruments so he was adamant in venturing into electronic music at first. After all, the man could play the drums and guitars as all rockstars should. Nonetheless, they came to an understanding that they would get in the studio together with members from Kamaru’s old band and experiment.
What a poet! I want to call him “Owner of Words”. – Joyce Nyairo
During this time KMRU started working on his own reworks; deconstructing the old tracks; rewriting as well as rearranging. Going back and forth to his grandfather for consultations, he made sure he got edits right; flipping the tracks to the ambient signature sounds of KMRU. He performed the tracks with his classmates as part of his exams at Kenyatta University. He also got in touch with a guitarist who used to play with his grandfather and started getting lessons on how to rock like they used to. The project never became as Joseph Kamaru was taken ill at the MP Shah Hospital on 1st October and passed two days later on.
While Kamaru has over 2,000 recorded songs, some are very rare to come across. This is mainly because back in the 60’s they used to send the recordings to the USA for pressing on vinyl for distribution, a process that could take up to three months. Reworking the tracks stopped after his grandfather died. Since then he has been planning what to do to keep his grandfather’s legacy going. KMRU shared his ideas with his family members about reissuing the music and it seemed to make sense.
Recorded more than 35 years ago, it means that the music will need a little remastering and engineering. KMRU is careful not to over do it as this might take away from the original texture of the music. Thus he has set aside each day from Wednesday for working on the tracks.
Piracy and Free Music culture
There was a spike of illegal uploads of Joseph Kamaru’s music once news of his death was announced. Opportunists jumped on this, getting thousands of plays in a short time. It seems this is a generational challenge as KMRU tries to take down all the illegal uploads thanks to the poor anti-piracy laws, lack of enforcement and the free music culture that is rampant in Kenya. “I just want to start on a clean slate especially on Youtube,” KMRU says.
It’s a problem that Joseph Kamaru himself faced. One of his uncles shared with KMRU that the problem had become too much and a shady lady had tried to con his grandfather, lying that she would get the Youtube channels that shared his music struck out.
Legacy goes on
“This is just for my guka. It is not even about the money. It is for the music, his music. I will live more a little knowing that I’ve done something for him.” KAMARU HITS of 1960’s VOL.2 KCS/130 [Reissue] was uploaded on 14 June 2019 on Bandcamp. The plan is to use all proceeds for this project to repress the records on vinyl and setting a base to archive his music.