KMRU: Building a legacy with an ambient tracksoundReading Time: 4 minutes
Better known under the stage name KMRU, Joseph Kamaru is notable for making intelligent atmospheric and emotionally evocative electronic music. His sonic identity has evolved alongside his journey – from playing classical guitar to manipulating synthesizers on computers.
KMRU anchors his music in the space where electronic music, nature, and life intersect. Using everything from gritty, indigenous sound, recorded ‘atmospheric noise’ or intricate sonic landscapes.
Strong and independent, KMRU’s sensitive and abstract musical flow delivers diverse sounds with soul, warmth, ambience and a touch of nostalgia. He has worked hard over the past 3 years to make his mark on the Nairobi underground music scene and his deft arrangements and productions landed him a spot at CTM Festival, Germany, where he showcased this past February.
He immediately jetted back in the country to host the first Nairobi Ableton User Group, a community and space for creating, collaborating and performing using Ableton Live.
Legacy starts here
Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Joseph Kamaru is a grandson to the late legendary Kenyan musician and political activist Joseph Kamaru. Influenced by his environment, KMRU decided to pursue music and at the age of 16, he started training on various instruments. He ended up liking the classical guitar most.
Majoring in Music Technology at Kenyatta University, he met Hendrick and Amenya. The two introduced him to music production on a DAW as they had been producing for slightly over a year. As a result of this friendship, Hendrick and KMRU released “Feeling“ their only collaboration to date.
Listen to our TOP 10 picks from KMRU here
“I would record class lectures and students laughing in class and mess around with them on Ableton.”
East African Soul Train
In 2017, KMRU was chosen to participate at the East African Soul Train. An artist residency project directed by Ghanaian artist Jojo Abot that brings East African creatives together with passengers on a journey of self-discovery while travelling on the historic Kenya-Uganda railway tracks. This led to his first collaborative EP with multi-talented Manchild (stylized as Manch!ld). ‘EAST’ was built around the residency and uses different sounds and conversations recorded during the entire residency.
2017 was also the year he released Euphoria, his debut album which unveiled a more experimental side of KMRU – he programmed everything on a computer using a mouse, testing his skills as a producer as well as pushing his talents as a sound designer. Euphoria received good support and several singles charted on the Beatport top 100 charts.
In 2018, the plan was to start playing live sets but that changed when he linked up with Fluid, who would later become his mentor, at a two-week workshop by MIDI Minds.
“I would call her for all my practice sessions and we would this fun back to back sets. This helped build my courage as a DJ. In addition, I became exposed to more electronic music from different parts of the world.”
Together, KMRU and Fluid landed their first gig at Igiza lounge. Soon after, KMRU was performing in bigger spaces like The Alchemist Bar. This disciplined work ethic subsequently got KMRU on world-class electronic music festivals like Nyege Nyege Festival and Bayimba Festival. His music had started crossing borders.
Releasing a track with Mau5trap
I made a leap of faith into choosing this as a career. Every achievement is a result of giving 110% to what I do and this involves sacrificing things in my life.
After months of trying to figure out how to create a classic song, KMRU and US-based producer, Chris Waldt, finally got it. Both artists were not signed to a label at this point and their idea was to send the track to either Anjunabeats, Suara or any other major label that would pick it. On a partly hot evening in May 2017, Waldt attached the stems and sent them to KMRU. The project would lie dead in KMRU’s computer for the next seven months.
Like many artists, KMRU just couldn’t seem to find the right snare for a track he had just started working on. He decided to let some steam off by logging to Twitter where he came across a call for demo submission by former Mau5trap A&R Chis Robyn. Immediately, he asked Waldt to send the demo and got down working on the track for four straight hours.
I’m in a demo listening feedback kinda mood. send me demo’s.
— Chris Johnson (@ChrisRobyn) January 25, 2018
On January 4th 2019, KMRU became the first Kenyan artist to release on Deadmau5‘s imprint label, Mau5trap.
2019 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/iVEhUJXLUc
— KMRU (Kamaru) (@joseph_kamaru) January 4, 2019
Field recordings, synths, and intent. These are the ingredients that developed into “Erased EP”. Written at a challenging point in his life, KMRU didn’t know that it was about to get harder. After finishing the EP, his hard drive crashed and he lost some files. It was a period where he seemed to be losing (erasing) a lot of things and people in his life (he had already named the EP “Erased” before these series of misfortunes).
Each track on the EP evolves at a deliberate pace. Starting off, Erased builds upon overlapping tones as the rhythms build, leading to the second track.
The main sounds for Solus, the second track, were recorded in a maize field. Solus is the sound of morphed leaves with house recorded tapes, layered programmed drums, and piano.
His personal favourite, Unkind also uses field recordings and foley sounds to evoke deep emotions.
Erased EP was released on 15-03-2019 on London-based Byrd Out Records. You can purchase it on Bandcamp.