Current release: Kimina is one of the artists included on the thrilling compilation release Place: Nairobi curated by KMRU, released September 24th via Music and Activism / Air Texture.
Recommendations: The Reality Dysfunction by Peter F. Hamilton // It is a hefty book and series but it is worth the read in my opinion. The weight of the topics discussed is beyond anything I have seen yet. From the human experience, non-human experience, society, love, and life after death. It has a special part in my heart because of the large array of cultures on display (as well as mine) but depicted far into the future but with still the same motivations.
Above & Beyond – "A.I" // Above & Beyond are trio from Britain that produce and in the early 2000’s pioneered the Trance genre. They went on to establish themselves as industry giants and laid the foundation for other artists in the region to be successful through their two labels Anjunabeats & Anjunadeep. In 2016 they released a track called A.I. Despite their awesome success this track went under the radar entirely and some fans can still be found downright hating the track. I personally love it and it represents something that was way ahead of its time. I always find myself revisiting the track and finding something new every single time. It is a behemoth of music production prowess and skill paired with such an expansive feeling of awe.
If you enjoyed this interview with Kimina and would like to find out more, head over to Instagram, Facebook, twitter, or bandcamp for more information, recent updates and music.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started producing music about five to six years ago right after I finished high school. I was listening to a lot of music from different genres but mostly what was popular at the time. As time went on however some of the music just stuck with me. That was music from the trance scene as well as stuff from labels such as Anjunadeep. Afro-House and the music from the local electronic scene would follow closely as well.
The melodic complexity, emotions and house roots is the sound that really drew me in.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
The learning phase was steep as I don’t have a musical background. But time and a bit of perseverance paid off.
Emulating others was only natural but it only goes so far especially as an African one has to draw a line in the sand and say this isn’t who I am or this isn’t what the sound of the region is.
This meant finding a balance between my influences and the sound that I was looking for. No one wants a cheap copy of a Western sound in a space that is already pushing really hard for a unique voice.
Ultimately there’s only one of me in the world and I have to find my sound. I can sometimes tell I’ve made a lot of progress but there’s still a long way to go.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
My sense of identity definitely influences my creativity from the start. I think it boils down to the decisions made during the creative process and its one’s identity that makes those decisions.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
The challenges one experiences at the beginning tend to lean towards the technical side of things. This is means it’s a problem of materializing what’s in your mind and bringing it to life. Over time this has transitioned, at least for me, towards the creative challenges. I have the tools (not all of them yet) and the technical know how to make what I need to make. Meaning the challenges are more of consolidating ideas and turning them into viable products for the market while keeping them authentic.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
For me personally music hasn’t turned in any monetary value yet so I have yet to get any personal tools outside of my DAW. I have had the chance to work with some tools such as MIDI Keyboards, Ableton Push and DJ Controllers. All of these tools are amazing and it is the most amazing feeling in the world to make figure out an instrument or piece of technology and incorporate it into the creative process.
I can comfortably say that the creative flexibility of the tools would be a high priority.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
For anyone unfamiliar Ableton has two general modes of working. The session view and the arrangement view. The session view is often used for live performance and I have been diving into this part that I have barely used and I have started to consider the idea of live performance and not just live performance but live creation of music.
This approach is very unique even strange to some degree. For example it encourages leaving errors in instead of fixing them as well as one-taking or doing things once and only polishing them afterwards.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Collaborations for the first time have been a big part of my creative process this year. They have taken many forms, from sharing audio files to collaborating over the internet in real time as well as making things from scratch together in the same space.
All these processes have one thing in common though, and that is: Something always comes out of it and I think that’s awesome. I honestly prefer working in person. It brings out the best in people and I tend to get more done.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I tend to wake up as early as 8 a.m. I prepare some breakfast, eat and then shower. Normally during breakfast is when I review any music I am working on or made the previous day and by the time I am finished other things will have taken priority. This means the review time is often very short and the decisions I make are very snappy. I think that helps me not to overthink things a lot and keep things simple.
Obviously this isn’t set in stone. For example, Sundays start the same but often lead into a whole day of mixing or just organizing projects.
Making things work as seamlessly as possible is top priority. I am a full time student and there’s barely any time in the day for other things once all the other little things add up. This means I don’t have a fixed schedule but I can comfortably say that weekends are when I work the most. From late afternoon into the night is when I prefer to work.
Separating music and my day to day is a priority as for now but as things start to pan out I hope I can find ways to seamlessly merge them both and take this to the next level.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
I have a release out with a local label called Ewaso Records. The label came onto the scene with some huge releases with huge names behind them and I found myself wishing I could get a release with them.
Fast forward almost a year and an overconfident email and I have a release with them. It stands out for me a lot because it was huge confidence boost and its creating a lot of opportunities for me. The original track was a random one-minute track posted into a producers WhatsApp group that I just felt was awesome. So I reached out to the producer whose name is DJ Fita. We worked on the track for a few months and when it was done we spent some time discussing what to do with it.
He had said he wanted an independent release on platforms but I knew the track had some potential so I sent it out. One of the places I sent to the track to, this unattainable label, actually reached out and said they liked the track and wanted to release it as part of a compilation of rising artists. Which was a welcome surprise.
It is also special because it was one of my first release collaborations as well as the first time that I really felt confident with my production, my music and my identity.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I really don’t know what the ideal state is for me. A lot of people describe it as some sort of flow state where they do a lot. I don’t have anything similar. Instead I heavily rely on revisiting ideas even when I am not in the mood.
Even on days when I can say I'm very energetic and willing to work I can find myself only working one or two tracks hence the uncertainty with the idea of flow.
Distractions are anything that stop me from working but I find the only way to deal with them is to accept them for what they are. Especially if those distractions are unavoidable to the point of stopping even the most important of projects.
The only mentality I have going into a session is to make something, anything.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
In terms of healing I have experienced healing through music especially in a therapeutic capacity. The right type of music can offer the foundations for a mental release and openness session. It’s also not just the big emotional release but the little things work as well as. For example, listening to something calming before a big event or occasion.
In terms of hurting I have poured my heart into some music and collaborated with people only for certain allegations to surface about the individual which meant the track will be in limbo indefinitely. I never expected my own music to hurt me or be associated with the hurt of others but somehow it has.
The biggest potential for music as a tool for healing is definitely in social spaces. We already do it so why not take it to the next level where a community gathers and plays their music for their sake.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
This is something that has been a major topic for conversation whenever I meet other creatives, artists and producers. I personally like to think no one is deliberately appropriating what we do and achieve because it’s all very unique to own experiences. There should be limits but then those limits can only be defined in context. I don’t think there should be an uproar when a German artist makes or samples an African song. We cannot impose restrictions on drum samples the same way they can’t impose restrictions on technology they develop for the space, we freely share.
Most people cannot spot the origin of these lines and they fall apart in the face of human interaction and spaces. This isn’t to say they don’t serve a purpose but often the lines we draw benefit no one but a select few.
As I mentioned before, I personally am struggling with drawing the line but it's only because of an effort to solidify my authenticity and roots. We are all willing to include anyone and everyone in our spaces no matter where they are from but some cultures, especially Western ones, have a strong culture of appropriation and rebranding items, IPs and cultures. We would like to realise success in these markets but it seems to come at the expense of creativity and authenticity.
I am also not saying that some of these limits such as copyright should be abolished but they need to re-examined in context even from a legal perspective.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
Since I am mostly self-taught I found myself being heavily reliant on visual information. Which I came to realise is sort of taboo in some circles (the true musician only uses their ears). This did not deter me and in time I realised that I can more or less visualize what I hear very accurately and both those senses have started to feed off the other. For example, I can determine certain characteristics of sound visually and work alongside my ears to change them while reaffirming my changes directly though the visual medium again.
I think this tells us that there are layers to the human mind we have yet to uncover and the breakthroughs it presents in the technological frontier could change humanity, hopefully for the better.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
My approach to art may sound a bit cliché but I am looking for something. Sometimes I hear it in other tracks sometimes I hear it in my own tracks. I can barely describe it all I can do it point to examples and hope I don’t sound crazy. I have no doubt that once it materializes it will can and will shape reality but that’s thinking too much its best to let it flow.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
There is something about the cycle of life that words cannot describe and yet every culture on the planet strives to define it. In stories, in painting, in dance and basically in art. Even the most primitive of animals seem to have a built in understanding of the cycle of life but it is only humans who strive to communicate it and in all its complexity.
There is often a lot of information we try to communicate but we cannot. In a time and place in the future it may be possible but of now we have to rely on what we have and one of the things we have is music.