Every Sunday afternoon, Nairobi, Kenya-based artist KMRU sits at his brother’s piano and plays classical pieces and scales, recording ideas that come to him into Ableton Live. One Sunday, KMRU — aka Joseph Kamaru — was playing seemingly random notes on the piano: D#, E, F#, G, Ab, Bb, B, C#, Eb. After playing this sequence of notes, KMRU recorded them into Ableton, starting his track “Byculla.” KMRU is still trying to figure out the music theory behind this sequence of notes, but the listener will find the sequence pleasing, even if we don’t understand why it works.
Among the various elements in the track, KMRU has a droning sound that evolves over the course of the track while still grounding the listener. The sample KMRU uses at 2:19 is from Earth Movements’ Laya project. KMRU also uses a sample from Sandunes, a Mumbai-based producer. Besides the samples and the evolving drone sound in “Byculla,” other highlights for me include compelling rhythmic and melodic gestures over the course of the track.
People often ask KMRU who Byculla is. Byculla is not a person; rather, it is a location in India. Although KMRU is based in Kenya, not India, he believes that geographical and cultural locality be represented in music. Listen to “Byculla:”