Reflecting on his own contribution to this excellent compilation of experimental sound from Nairobi, Joseph Kamaru (aka KMRU, whose 2021 album Logue is one of the most distinctive ambient records of recent years) comments on “what African music is imposed to sound like… a preconceived idea, discussed by the West.” His track on INSHA, ‘I Had The Impression’, explicitly seeks to push back against those preconceptions, its whirring, shivering textures both earthily specific to Nairobi and strikingly abrasive, resistant to easy categorisation; yet it often feels like the record as a whole is propelled by similar motivations.
From the plaintive expanse of Barno’s ‘Calm, Chaos’ to Nyokabi Kariũki’s gorgeous, spiralling ‘Anjiru’, the sheer breadth of timbre and style on this compilation is bracing, but it never feels disjointed or patchy. Perhaps that’s due to Kamaru’s careful curation of the tracks here, perhaps traceable to the compilation’s clearly-defined compositional process, which draws upon widely-used Kenyan methods of collaboration to bring together a wide range of artists in pursuit of something varied but cohesive. Whatever it is, INSHA flows beautifully, never predictable, but never jarring; a project which doesn’t so much defy expectations as ignore them entirely.
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