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A Podcast series

Episode 3 - Delhi

Pallavi Paul 
Gagan Singh 
Suhail Yusuf Khan 
Audio wird geladen

A podcast by Suvani Suri and Abhishek Mathur

Episode 3 – DelhiIllustration: © Šejma Fere

Imagining Worlds and Making Meaning with four Artists from Delhi

In the third episode of Timezones four contemporary artists with a connection to the city of Delhi reflect upon their diverse and evolving practices. Heeding into the COVID pandemic, they share observations and open spaces of thought where new meanings and speculative realities are constantly being formed, un-formed and re-formed. The composition interweaves these conversations into fragments of found sound, musical renditions and sonic textures, contemplating the ever-shifting edges of truth, experience, the real and the fictional.

Announcer: Imagining worlds and making meaning with four artists from Delhi.

Gagan Singh: Voice note 1, if we take this as a voice note.

Mochu: I prefer a deregulated market of pirated ideas than something authenticated.

Gagan Singh: Often I work with a state of mind...

Pallavi Paul: So I am actually very interested in the way the story of the truth is enacted.

Suhail Yusuf Khan: Those shapes they formed this amazing melodic bank in my head.

Mochu: And so you’re part of what you’re reading, like an ongoing double print, over the page. Like in the case of Alice, after her fall through the rabbit hole…

Pallavi Paul: How do we read this large moment...

Gagan Singh: Think through drawing, think drawing…

Suhail Yusuf Khan: Whenever there was a chord or a drone being played, I could react to it. That was my idea of expression, that was my way of communicating while being in a conversation with musicians around me.

Gagan Singh: What is a conversation…

Mochu: Hello this is Mochu. I’m right now speaking from Istanbul. I’m usually based here and in Delhi, and I work out of both the cities. I work with video and text arranged in the form of installations, lectures or sometimes publications.

Gagan Singh: I’m Gagan Singh and I’m a Delhi based artist. I enjoy exploring the site of the sketchbook. I find pain and pleasure in sketchbooks, in sketching…drawing...life around me…quite interesting…I find that...I sometimes see things the way that they are not, sometimes the way that they could not be, sometimes the way that they can be imagined into…

Pallavi Paul: …and I am a video artist, a multimedia practitioner. I am also just in the process of submitting my PhD in Cinema Studies. So in a way, I have various kinds of practices I would say. I have a writing practice, I have an academic practice and of course I have a visual practice. And I move quite restlessly but also excitedly amongst all of these different kinds of practices.

Suhail Yusuf Khan: I am a Hindustani musician and I belong to a family of hereditary musicians who, in Hindustani terminology, are called Khandani musicians. I practice an instrument called the Sarangi – a North Indian bowed instrument. I am the eighth generation of my matrilineal lineage of carrying the tradition forward.

Mochu: So I usually look at ancient history, geology, vegetation…by the time I get to some current event, it’s already in the museum. I don’t usually arrive at my own time...there are a lot of niche spaces happening in my work. It’s possibly the result of a fatigue with categories, with identities. So it’s also a way to problematize the common-sense of the world, a way to say that the world is not a given, it is the result of active ongoing construction. Therefore alternative histories, improbable niche spaces with differing physical laws and causal connections allows for testing the limits of sense, both common and uncommon sense. That’s how I started thinking of the portable hole in cartoons, and that of cartoon physics in general. For example, in children’s cartoons – the bodies, the speeds, it’s as if it is all made in some otherworldly manufacturing unit.

Gagan Singh: My works are about eroticism, humor, fictional with a background of being autobiographical. They reflect my day to day life. I enjoy the sense of humor, I don’t know where it’s coming from but it just carries in when I draw. Sometimes I find that I need to do something else apart from sketching.

So I am trying that but I find my catharsis or this habit of sketching every day. So I often begin with scribbling on a piece of paper. Drawing, and the line which comes out, I feel it’s more about the state of mind. The dictionary meaning you know to draw out, to pull out, to draw something out…from within, I suppose...

Pallavi Paul: I was born in Delhi and I have been living here. It’s a challenging city right. It’s a city of ideas, people convene around ideas, people convene around and in intellectual contexts. Very interesting people pass through the city, practitioners of culture, practitioners of ideas. And it is also a city which is almost vulgar in its tendencies of violence, of aggression. In a way the city is a space of various different kinds of jostling currents and ideas, and it’s always a challenge to navigate them.

So I am actually very interested in the way the story of the truth is enacted, rather than the essential merit or demerits of the idea of truth. So for me, the idea of truth-making is like a material. And I don’t mean truth as an absolute idea or even a persuasive mechanism. I actually mean it almost as a placeholder for various kinds of strategies, performances, sensations that we encounter on an everyday level. So I am looking at it almost as a provocation, as a philosophical provocation. It keeps me always implicated in an adventure of ideas.                

Suhail Yusuf Khan: It is quite a common phenomenon, among especially hereditary musician families where children start learning music like an oral language. You know how you pick up phrases when you’re a kid around your parents. You’ll see musicians practice around you, singing compositions…you’ll start imitating them. My grandfather was Ustad Sabri Khan Saab. He discouraged me, he kept saying that it is quite time demanding, it is not the right time to be a Sarangi player. After a few years he saw the interest in me and he said – no, I think you can be a sarangi player.

Sarangi is regarded as the most closest to the human voice in Hindustani music. It’s etymology [is] ‘Saurangi’ – meaning an instrument with hundred colours. Most of Indian classical instruments or Hindustani instruments per se have a sound box. They have, if not more, minimum seven to eight sympathetic strings. My instrument has about 14 of them. Some of them are also skin-covered and their sound box is covered with leather parchment. That resonates the string at a much louder level.

Gagan Singh: What drawing conversation does, or what drawing does, is it allows you to explore things which are not part of your vocabulary, which has been formed. But what drawing does is it allows you to not formulate this. It is always correcting what you could impose on it.

To hear oneself is the most settling act there is. To not talk, to let that talk transcribe itself on paper, lets you move away from that talking in the head....especially when I start with the hat and the semi-circular lines and the hat, when I am making that, I can feel that it is of a certain textural quality…I am weaving a hat, which is made of light bamboo or wood, you know...then I bring in hair, in front of the ear and behind...It gives me a feeling…this thing that, ok, now a face is being moulded…and then I move to the rest of the body. Making the torso, the arms. And for that moment, that presence happens. Then you are attentive to what the Madam is about to say…now I am in dialogue, listening to what is being drawn…

Mochu: In a similar way, in my video also, as I see it, the magical, haunted experiences are actually only a subset…it is a subset of aesthetic inhabitations of this kind. Like you have frame narratives where somebody asks a question and then the question is answered through another story…and this produces a phantasmagorical projective space in between, where the rules are new, and new rules always appear magical or mysterious…

Suhail Yusuf Khan: My grandfather in particular was highly inspired by the mystical practices and mystical life...

All Hindustani musicians look at musical notes as supernatural figures. They have personalities, they have movements…in Mughal courts, you know, the ‘ragas’ used to come out alive in their life forms. So Todi would come out and start dancing in the court. Bhageshwari would suddenly take this beautiful figure of a woman.

Once he was talking about this table player from Banaras – Pandit Anokhe Lal, who apparently had the most amazing ‘Na dhin dhin na’, just plain ‘Na dhin dhin na’ as a Thekha. When he used to play ‘Na dhin dhin na’, it used to feel like as if sunrise has gotten still.

Pallavi Paul: Memorializing and speculating. When I saw those two words placed together, it became kind of clear to me that one cannot be done without the other, right? In a way, you cannot speculate without memory and memory is no good if it doesn’t allow you the adventure of speculation.

SYK: I think the whole expression of words – I am learning it now. My own research in ethnomusicology, is kind of pushing me to express myself in words as much as possible. I discovered a scholarship which was talking in my own language. Really sophisticated Hindustani musical terminologies which I learnt as a household language, the formal meaning behind them started disclosing. And that’s when I was like...uhhh I think I can really write a paper on that. How my grandfather learnt music was not like how I am learning music right now, through academia. He learnt it as an experience because it was passed on to him and he saw it happening around him. I am only getting to think about it and having the discourse now.

I am more interested in phenomenology, and how that kind of aligns with the study of mysticism and the supernatural effect in Hindustani music. Colonialism, affect theory, again very philosophical…multiculturalism, hybridity, globalization…this is kind of the most theoretical part I am addressing...ya I mean the more I am spending time with it, I think it is not only changing me as a musician but as a human being.

Mochu: Philosophy begins with the feeling of astonishment.

Fantastic imagery and fantastic worlds are philosophical tools as well. This also feeds into my approach of making fan-fictions for philosophy and even maybe fan-philosophies itself.

In Japanese ‘Otaku’ culture, there is a term called ‘Doujinshi,’ a specific culture of producing fan-fictions based on manga worlds and manga characters. There are entire Doujinshi festivals where these so-called low grade works are traded, exchanged and enter competitions. I usually think of my works as part of this kind of a bootleg market of ideas and forms. I make a reference to this in Toy Volcano where a group specializes in a science itself that’s bootlegged…so bootleg physics.

It is necessary to restore magma
the boiling matter
the luxury of lava
to place a piece of fabric at the foot of a volcano to restore the world
the luxury of lava

[News bytes]

Gagan Singh: The composition of a virus…how a certain group ends up creating the original illustration which is being used all across the world, as the most authentic representation of what is the composition of a virus and what it looks like. If we don’t have this image, what image would we have? If we didn’t know what a bacteria or a fungus or a molecule or a virus looked like, it would be mysterious and it would...the only thing we would see is people dying, people falling sick – but we would have absolutely no image...all we would see is symptoms...

Mochu: So in the absence of symptoms, it’s as if there isn’t any virus, it has no manifest existence because that’s the point at which it correlates with our immediate senses.

Toy Volcano is centered around these negative entities, these void-objects scattered around a mountain…and throughout the narrative of the video-lecture, there is a confusion whether the void is in the imagination, a gap in knowledge or whether the entity is a physical, geological fact.

The pandemic has retroactively become a context for the work. In its weirdness, the irrationality, at the level of blatant disbelief it’s paradoxically at home.

His worries were mostly about contamination. He knew that holes are parasitic, always in need of a host. They do not exist alone.

Pallavi Paul: So, Share Your Quiet actually came about as a response to the kind of noise that was almost made this index of public spirit after the Janta curfew was announced…the day long Janta curfew. As you know I heard people coming out clanging and banging pots and pans and various other kinds of things…

[Noise of pots and pans being banged against each other]

This entire sort of manufacturing of a noisy consensus, around a certain kind of national identity...it occurred to me that there would be people who want to think of quiet as a withdrawal from this moment, as an active political withdrawal, and a sensory withdrawal.

So, Share Your Quiet was essentially a very simple open call. It asked people to record what they perceived as quiet and send it to us. And then these recordings would be published every week and that way there could have been a symphonic dialogue. So people all across the world were actively interpreting their quiet and sharing it with one another and also listening in to the quiets of others. Because the project was announced during a time when most countries were in lockdown, it also in a way became a very particular archive of this global event. It was a synchronous experience of fear, of withdrawal, of isolation, but also of curiosity, and also of anticipation.

Gagan Singh: I am walking most of the time in the city and that really works. The pandemic has come but with the mask I keep walking. I see less people but I keep walking. I keep crossing colonies, traffic lights, societies, markets, shops. I am hopping here and there and it really works for me.

Suhail Yusuf Khan: I was asked to do, very recently this radio interview and they asked me to play something which would resonate with the times and I found this rendition of a ‘ghazal’ which Bahadur Shah Zafar wrote when he was exiled after the 1857 revolt.

Baat karni mujhe mushkil kabhi aisi toh na thi, jaisi ab
hai teri mehfil kabhi aisi toh na thi”

(‘It was never as difficult to converse as it is now,
this gathering was never as it is now’)

He wrote this ghazal while being confined in a room and looking at Delhi from a window and in spite of being the king of the Delhi Sultanate he couldn’t go out. You know when this lockdown started I felt like this old retreated lost king who is sitting behind the window and just looking at the world go by and not being able to have any conversation without any social awkwardness.

Mochu: This reminds me of a very interesting text I read about the pandemic by Michael Taussig called “Would a Shaman help?”: “With global meltdown we now live in a reenchanted universe for which the aesthetic of a dark surrealism is relevant.” He equates shamanism with Giorgio Chirico’s paintings where “being alone in cities with empty streets and piazzas is more shamanic than the real thing.”

Pallavi Paul: Even though we are being told that everything is closed, that all kinds of productive labor is at a standstill…well yes, productive labor that feeds the logic of capital, businesses is maybe at a standstill – but there is a production relentlessly ongoing. People are cleaning their houses, feeding their children, waking up in the morning, doing reading, doing listening, you know and that is also work!

Suhail Yusuf Khan: It’s really interesting – for me this entire lockdown has pushed me to come out of my own addictions, my own habits, my own naïve needs of being somewhere, of doing something, or getting out of the house…

Gagan Singh: Just because of sitting in the balcony I was able to do works with charcoal and watercolor, and with ink, and with oil paints, acrylics, with brushes that I had not used in 20 years…

The space got energized, it got a different energy for me...it became a different understanding of being at home...

Suhail Yusuf Khan: In Hindustani music and also in mysticism there is this concept of ‘Chilla,’ which is nothing but solitary confinement. Centuries old tales – they say that saints have been practicing it to attain higher levels…so for me I take it from that angle…I think that this is a blessing in disguise for me. All I need to do is just sit at one place, gather my thoughts and only work towards my research, towards my music, towards my own understanding of life…and that’s the only way to do it, you know.

Gagan Singh: I suppose, I think the moment we have a change of routine, we become alert of the new surroundings. Or I suppose the existing ones which have always been there for us.

Mochu: I mean you’re actually training your mind to change…that’s something I enjoy a lot…because you are changing your own mind that is most interesting…like what else is better.

Pallavi Paul: Yes of course, you know we are surrounded by an anxiety about the future, about our present…and that anxiety is not only an individual anxiety but also a collective anxiety – and I think that even though we may not be able to physically congregate or move perhaps, it is important to retain these spaces which actually intend to pushback whether it is through what we choose to say but also equally from the spaces we choose to withdraw from and refuse to participate in.

Gagan Singh: …listening to conversations...so listening has been healing and so has been expressing…

Pallavi Paul: And it is this kind of an archive through the space of healing, through the space of listening together which can produce a healing…maybe a collective healing produced through a collective listening...

Mochu: So it’s like okay should we make this complete film entirely at home…just make small papier maché models and do stuff…so that’s what I was saying…should we find some 3D experts and then learn a lot of After Effects, create new actors, new places, new landscapes, new country and then shoot the film in that country?

Announcer: Timezones. Imagining worlds and making meaning with four artists from Delhi. Featuring: Mochu, Pallavi Paul, Gagan Singh, Suhail Yusuf Khan. Directed by Suvani Suri and Abhishek Mathur. Co-produced by Norient and Goethe-Institut.


Mochu works with video and text arranged as installations, lectures and publications. Techno-scientific fictions feature prominently in his practice, often overlapping with instances or figures drawn from art history and philosophy. Recent projects have explored mad geologies, psychedelic subcultures and Indian Modernist painting. Exhibitions include 9th Asia-Pacific Triennial, Sharjah Biennial 13, 4th Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and Transmediale BWPWAP.
Website Mochu
Mochu – Instagram
Mochu – Facebook

Suhail Yusuf Khan

Suhail Yusuf Khan is a Sarangi player, vocalist, composer, and a PhD candidate in the department of music at Wesleyan University. He brings together expertise from a performance career that has already extended over twenty-years, creative ability, and academic research to find new modes of expression in Hindustani music, contemporary rock fusion, pop, folk, jazz, and experimental music. His ethnographic scholarship draws on personal experience as an eighth-generation musician belonging to a lineage of Hindustani musicians. He has been featured on more than fifteen albums and is currently signed to Domino records, U.K.

Website Suhail Yusuf Khan
Suhail Yusuf Khan – Instagram
Suhail Yusuf Khan – Facebook

Pallavi Paul

Pallavi Paul works with video, performance, and installation. Her practice speaks to poetic exploration of cultural histories, questioning the limits of speculation and facticity and evidence. Paul is also engaged in thinking about ideas of the archive, tensions between document and documentary and the implication of trace within these openings. She has received her PhD in Film Studies from the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Paul’s work has been exhibited in venues including Tate Modern, London (2013); AV Festival, New Castle (2018, 2016), Beirut Art Centre, Lebanon (2018), Savvy Contemporary (2019), Contour Biennale, Mechelen (2017), New Alphabet School, HKW (2020). She currently lives and works in New Delhi.

Profilseite Pallavi Paul
Pallavi Paul – Instagram 

Gagan Singh

Gagan Singh is a Delhi-based visual artist, whose experiments with drawing have involved engaging with illustration, cartoons, storytelling, memory mapping, site specific installations, wall art and artist books. Gagan brings an element of flaneury to his work, both in the literal sense of walking through the city, but also via the mental act of constructing visual narratives in landscapes drawn from memory and observation.

Künstlerprofil Gagan Singh
Gagan Singh – Instagram
Gagan Singh – Facebook 


Conceptualisation, Interviews: Abhishek Mathur, Suvani Suri
Arrangement, Editing, Sound Design: Abhishek Mathur, Suvani Suri
Additional Mixing: Gaurav Chintamani, Quarter Note Studios
Additional Samples, Recordings: Suhail, Mochu, Pallavi
Trailer Voiceover: Nana Akosua Hanson
Mastering: Adi Flück, Centraldubs
Graphics Cover: Šejma Fere

Playlists Delhi

Abhishek Mathur is a music composer and producer based out of Delhi, India. He has provided music for Documentaries, Films, TV Shows, Art Installations, Theatre and Ad Films for clients such as National Geographic, NDTV, WWF, ITC, and Deepa Mehta Productions amongst others. He has been a part of many successful bands on the Delhi music scene, most prominently as the guitar player and founding member of the contemporary fusion band Advaita. More recently he has launched his solo synth pop project titled Plan 17 where he dabbles with analog synthesisers, drum machines and samplers. Abhishek is also an educator and is the facilitator and course designer of a short term program in music production at the Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communications, New Delhi.

Suvani Suri is an artist and researcher based in New Delhi, India. Her interests and inter-media experiments have been tethered to the field of sound and listening, encountering and speculating its multi-fold possibilities. She has been a component of several trans-disciplinary practices, alternating between the roles of an artist, assembler, designer, researcher and educator. In recent years, her work has been exhibited at KHOJ Studios, Mumbai Art Room, Soundreasons Festival and the Kochi Muziris Biennale 2018. She currently teaches at the Master’s programme in New Media Design at National Institute of Design, India and has been conducting courses in digital sensoriums and interdisciplinary creative practices in several other universities and educational spaces.

TIMEZONES – A podcast series

The TIMEZONES podcast series plunges into the world of artists and their practices, asking: What does living and working in culture and the arts involve in different countries, cities and contexts today? The artists’ thoughts on their moods, their social, political and intellectual realities and their philosophies (of life) have been worked up into experimental audio collages.
The podcasts run the gamut of formats and content, from straight journalism to experimental and documentary approaches, ethnography and fiction, sound art and improvisation. The TIMEZONES series endeavours to create new artistic forms of storytelling, listening and exchange across the boundaries of geography, time zones, genres and practices.
The TIMEZONES Podcast Series is co-initiated and co-produced by Norient and the Goethe Institut.

Previous issues

Timezones - Cover Episode 2: Šabac, Belgrade and Zurich Illustration: Timezones - Cover Episode 2: Šabac, Belgrade and Zurich © Šejma Fere

Episode 2 - Šabac, Belgrade and Zurich

Mara Micciche
Branko Džinović
Vukašin Đelić Woo 
Audio wird geladen

A podcast by Belgrade based composer and sound artist Svetlana Maraš

The Life in Music of Three Experimental Musicians (in Serbia and Switzerland)

An electro-acoustic composition based on the interviews with the three artists Mara Micciche, Branko Džinović and Vukašin Đelić, who have never met each other. They live in three different cities - Šabac, Belgrade, Zurich. Their stories as well as their sounds, intertwine throughout the piece modified and accompanied by the sounds of the artist Svetlana Maraš, all of them creating an ensemble of voices, sounds and musical fragments deriving from diverse set of musical practices.


Composition, montage: Svetlana Maraš
Sounds and words by: Mara Micciche, Branko Džinović und Vukašin Đelić. 
Featuring: Mara Micciche, Branko Džinović und Vukašin Đelić.

Playlists Šabac, Belgrade and Zurich

Svetlana Maraš (1985) is composer and sound artist from Serbia. She works at the intersection of experimental music, sound art and new media. Maraš has presented her work internationally, at venues, festivals and events such as CTM (Berlin), Ars Electronica (Linz), House of Electronic Arts (Basel), Espace Multimedia Gantner (Bourogne), Onassis Cultural Centre (Athens), Museum of Contemporary Art (Belgrade), Ausland (Berlin), Izlog Suvremenog Zvuka (Zagreb), ICMC (New York), International Rostrum of Composers (Wroclaw), ISEA (Dubai) and many other places. She is the head of Radio Belgrade’s Electronic Studio.

More info at www.svetlanamaras.com.

Episode 1 – Nairobi Illustration: © Šejma Fere

Episode 1 - Nairobi

Debe / Manch!ld | Boutross | Hitman Kaht | Janice Iche | Kamwangi Njue | Baby Elephante | MUNYASYA | Coco.em | Moroko Kalahari | Blinky Bill | DJ Raph | Wambui Kamiru | Joseph Kamaru (KMRU) | Karun | Jinku | MR. LU 
Audio wird geladen

A podcast by Thomas Burkhalter

Nairobi's next generation music Producers and performing artists speak out

In recent years, small-scale studios in Nairobi have begun producing music locally, and some of their output reaches millions of listeners in Kenya, or create buzz and noise in international niche music scenes. Their producers and musicians are turning old hierarchies upside down, often calling for social and political reforms. But they’re also facing a lot of resistance.

Nana Akosua Hanson: Nairobi’s next generation music producers and artists speak out.

Manch!ld (debe): It’s a tough place. We’re still a developing country. We have a lot of stuff to deal with. But for producers and artists, we work in isolation. Having to work in isolation has its own problems. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of secrecy. To take your own path, you have to be really silent with what you’re doing because there’re a lot of naysayers. First of all, they’d ask you why? What’s over there? What are you going to find over there? And that would make you question your own journey. It takes a lot of courage ‘cause you don’t know what you will find. Personally, as an artist, we usually take the roles people don’t want to take. Especially the psychological roles. So if you’ve embraced that role, then it’s good to just go on, there’s no barrier.

Boutross: So these are the 10 answers why I love music. One, as a kid I used to love the attention. I still do. Yeah. Two, I’ve always been good with words, since I was young I used to do like public speaking in school my mom used to be so proud of that. And entertainment. I love entertainment. That’s number three, I love entertainment, like entertaining people. The other one is just, I want to get by. There not many opportunities in Kenya that we are provided with. So if you can find something that you’re good at, and you can find a way to capitalize on it. That’s what I did.

Hitman Kaht: In Kenya, there’s a lot of pressure from generally all sides. Because culture here, parents are so against music, or people following their passion. Going to school and getting a regular job, that’s basically the routine which every parent strives for their children to achieve.

Janice Iche: Yeah, I’m going to go straight in and say this is about being a woman. Several times in my life, I have been told that I can’t do things, certain things, or should do certain things because I’m a girl. It has been told to me in those words, because you’re a girl. Thinking with your own mind, going after your own life. A lot of men in this society want to keep them to themselves or doing what they want women to do, but not what women want to do. Even growing up, you’re not even given the chance to explore your choice, you are just told this is what you do. It’s just controlling. Men have the privilege of exploring and exercising that choice. So, you also grow up internalizing all these things. It takes a lot to gain these skills that men are taught from such a young age. It’s a lot of training yourself now who you want to be. Did I answer your question? I feel like I keep going.

Selasia A. Djameh: Can’t face the world right now. Can’t face the world right.

Kamwangi Njue: This is Kenya we are living in. Kenya is a no joke country, corrupt country, bad leadership. It’s just messed up. Nairobi has messed me up. Nairobi is a hard place to live in. I don’t think we are Christian nation. Kenya is a prostitution nation. The first people who owned houses in Nairobi they were sex workers. Nairobi was built through prostitution. Yeah. What maybe happens at night in Nairobi you see cops, you see prostitutes, or sex workers, you see, I don’t know people like drunkards.

Kacey Moore: I’m angry. Oh yes I’m angry. I’m angry. You still asking if I’m angry? Oh yes, I’m angry.

Boutross: 4:00am, 4:30, that’s when I’m usually up. Take my coffee ‘cause that’s always very important. And then after that, open up my laptop, my headphones, and I’ll sit there for three hours to four hours. Sometimes, you just wake up in and it’s like you would dreaming these, these melodies in your head.

Baby Elephante: Coming from a poor background, maybe coming from the slums, thing is, first of all, if you’re the smartest kid in the family, everyone puts their hope on you. So you’re not really working only for yourself. You’re working for your mom, you’re working for your brothers, you’re working for your sisters. It’s not an easy thing. And especially if you’re talented; there is more that is put on you. You can’t say no to it. And you also can’t say yes to it. Always walking on a tight rope.

MUNYASYA: The thing with the world right now, there’s a lot of pressure when it comes to the male side. The male gender, really, really a lot of pressure that is seldom being spoken about. People expect you to be this person, and they give you qualities they expect you to have. But it’s difficult to live in a place where people expect 100% from you and you’re just human. There’s one that I really get a lot: You don’t have to show emotion. You have to be tough. You have to be the rock even when you really aren’t able to be the rock. You have to be the person to make the decisions. Basically everything in life relies on you. And you’re just one human being. You can only take so much.

Boutross: I think the best word you can use is frustrating. You can be book smart. You can be street smart. Most kids are book smart; then you find a kid cannot even afford an exercise book. I’ve grown up with like a couple of them. I’ve seen where they’ve ended up. Even from my childhood, we have I think three friends who just remained. Most of them were super smart but, after you finish high school, that’s it. Most of them died because of violence. Some of them are still in prison. Opportunity is not for everyone. People decide to do other things because of pressure, maybe there in a vulnerable position. Because if your mom can’t afford to or your dad can’t afford to pay for you university or get you an apartment or even food...I’m pretty sure even in your right mind...most of the guys they sort for violence which is stealing or anything so it’s always just frustrating. It’s really frustrating and inequality in Kenya is just super absurd.

Coco.em: An artist is a very sensitive type of human being. You can mess with a person like this and have them completely depressed, suicidal, wanting to end everything in their lives. It’s all about dominance, control, power. This industry has potential to make money. So a lot of people don’t really care about the women that they’re working with. That’s why they feel like they can take advantage of them like this.

Moroko Kalahari: Other artists I know they died from depression from drinking. Everybody’s depressed even me I’m depressed right now. Everybody’s depressed.

Janice Iche: Not in your way. Not in your way. From the beginning of trying to make a career for myself in Nairobi. There have been people, men specifically, holding me back. They were not releasing my music, saying it wasn’t good enough. Not in your way. Not in your way. Not in your way. As a producer you own a studio, and you are a man already. It’s people coming to you. And they [the producers] mostly feel like they can control what comes out of that studio after people have come in. But it’s not about that. It’s not about controlling what comes out of your studio. It’s about making sure that each individual artist who comes into the studio leaves doing great things, and in their own ways, not in your way. Not in your way. Not in your way.

MUNYASYA: A normal day for me is waking up at 4:00am to come to school, because I have to be at the bus stop at 5:30. And take a two-hour bus trip from Thika, a town away from where I study, at University of Nairobi. Get to school I have an hour and a half before class. Where I’m online searching anything really of interest, or listening to music. Sound is more than a canvas. Sound for me is like how energy is. Sound is one of the elements that make us exist. Because sound is made of vibrations. And everything on this universe has vibration, whether it’s dead or alive it still has vibration. So I feel like sound is part of our existence Then get to class maybe one class or two classes. Then in the evening, if there is a free event in town, an artistic free event, I’ll pop in for some time. Then head back home, and the day goes the same way again, again and again.

MUNYASYA: The whole point of life is experiencing life. Just going through whatever comes your way. If you are going through something dark, go through it, it’s part of life. If you’re going through a happy phase in life, go through it, it’s part of life. If you’re going through a very slow phase in life, nothing has happening. Nothing is coming through. Nothing is going bad or good. Just go through it, that’s life. I feel like that’s the reason why we are on earth, it’s to go through life and experience it. There is a reason why we’ll spend 70 years on earth and not two years on earth. Because those extra 68 years were meant to be experienced. Otherwise you just die when you are born, immediately your body just died. As long as I experience life, I’m okay. I have no problem with where I am right now.

Blinky Bill: Hey, hey Blinky Bill, you’ll never find him standing still. Life is pretty boring till you’ve met Blinky Bill. This is a fucked up society. But there’s examples of artists who are doing well. And when I see Kenyans who are exceptional, they’re really exceptional by any standard. That keeps me motivated that there’s people who’ve not lost complete faith.

DJ Raph: I think I always liked the sound of music more than the music of music. I think about things maybe too much. My productions may work and even what I see in the future, all of it, I think I would call it serious. I think I’m a fun person but my work I don’t approach it from a fun point of view. We launched this in November last year. It’s an audio archive of the soundscapes of Nairobi. You can access it at soundofnairobi.net. You can listen to recordings we’ve been taking of the sounds of different parts of Nairobi at different times. Hopefully, 20 years down the road, you can trace Nairobi’s history and changes and so on just by listening to an audio archive, but part of the work is to provide sounds for people to use in their own productions. We want to represent the experience of being a Nairobian now, and maybe in the future.

Wambui Kamiru: Sound is important. Sound is important for me as an artist because I actually use quite a bit of sound to tell me where I am in the day, markers of sound. So we have the roosters that crow in the morning. We have particular birds that chirp at particular times of the day, there’s a bird at 6:00 am, which you hear between 5:45 and 6:00am you know, if you hear those birds it’s time to wake up. There’s also a night bird that chirps at 6:00pm as well, that tells you that the day has ended. I think sound in the past, at least here in Kenya, has been used as a way of transmitting history, learning, culture, because we tended to be a very oral-based culture when it came to the transmission of knowledge. Very little was actually written down.

Blinky Bill: I want to make something different. By just being myself, I’ve been able to tour the world, I’ve been able to take care of my family, I’ve been able to be in rooms where great conversation and great music is being made. If I was a chef, if this is a meal I’ve made today, you guys will eat it. If you don’t like it, there’s other chefs you could go to – but if you’re tuning into my wavelength, this is what I have for today.

Joseph Kamaru: It’s Kamaru, Joseph Kamaru, KMRU, in my workspace, my studio. My safe space in Rongai, 2:36pm on the 24th of February, in Nairobi. This is my space, I’m usually just here. I wake up and come to my desk. Yeah. A typical day, maybe on a Tuesday, first thing, I usually check my mails. I’m a very maily person and I clear all the mails I have to finish by morning when I wake up. And from there, I just like get to the order of the day, if I’m working on projects or if I’m out in the field recording something. Yeah. This is my space. I’m usually just here, I wake up and come to my desk. I don’t sort of picture it as a job where I perform, I get money. It’s more of expressing what I’m feeling and being authentic and being honest with myself. And I feel that it’s one of the really important factors that people, musicians or all creatives just to be honest, as they express themselves. It’s a struggle to try and be authentic. This is me and this is what I’m going to showcase to you. Live a life of the music. Living in this bedroom and traveling and a festival books me just by writing them an e-mail and showcasing my work is really motivating to people that, yeah, you can push and do your stuff and get bookings and get paid. Yeah, live a life of the music.

Boutross: Book smart. Street smart. Book smart. You can be street smart, you can be book smart.

Munyasya: When you are going through something dark. Just go through it. It’s part of life. If you’re going through a happy phase in life, go through it. It’s part of life.

Boutross: Book smart. Street smart. Book smart. You can be street smart. You can be book smart. You can be street smart.

Coco.em: There was a group that we had formed two years ago called FEMME ELECTRONIC. I was inducted into FEMME ELECTRONIC through DJ Rachael from Uganda. And we decided to do a production workshop in Nairobi. Berklee College, they have a free Ableton producing workshop online. And you can do a couple of classes, make some music with the available software, the free one, the one you use for the trial run. And then through this other artist Kamaru, I’m sure you’ve met Kamaru. They put together the proposal, sent it to Ableton and sent them the work we did. And they were so impressed, they gave us free software.

LU (XPRSO): ‘Cause you can’t change the scene on your own. It has to come from a community. And that’s also what you’re trying to push it the Ableton workshops. There’s only three African countries that have these workshops going on officially. Nairobi is part of the list now. There is South Africa and Nigeria. So even in terms of music, when people look at Africa, that’s kind of how they rank. So I mean, we just pretty much decided to come to this thing, because we felt there’s people who wanted to get their way around like Ableton. And it was mainly just a platform for networking and sharing knowledge. We thought it would suit the people here.

Joseph Kamaru: We just had a house and a living room, and two pairs of speakers and a screen where we invite people and just talk and share ideas, which we have, to write compositions which can speak louder.

Karun: We have to work with what we have. Knowing that the world is your oyster. Knowing that there’s huge budgets on the other side of the ocean, right. So that’s the biggest challenge being in Kenya. Staying inspired and not feeling jaded. And then not feeling like oh poor me, I don’t have the budget. I don’t have the record labels or whatever. Whatever. Oh poor me I don’t the budget. I don’t have the record labels. Whatever. I’m trying to put that away, I’m trying to make art, that’s the aim. It’s not easy, but yeah.

Jinku: Yeah, this is new Nairobi. And it’s a new age we’re taking back the shackles from the gatekeepers, and we now care about community and the culture and progression. We are the new generation, we care about the country, we care about the scene and we are going to help each other grow. And you know how people say ‘New Africa’ and all those things.

MR. LU (XPRSO): I feel like artists can bring change to a society. Someone said artists are like God’s messengers. So there’s this thing inside you as an artist, sometimes it’s like a sixth sense. It’s connected to your greater goal. So I feel like every artist should listen to that little voice inside them as well that tells them, okay, do that. So be cautious of this, or just whatever the voice tells you. Sometimes it’s good to listen, because that voice is the voice of change.

Nana Akosua Hanson: Nairobi’s next generation music producers and artists speak out. Directed by Thomas Burkhalter. Co-produced by Norient and Goethe-Institute. Featuring…

MR. LU (XPRSO): Hi, my name is Mr. Lu. And I’ve been spending most of the time in pandemic creating and learning new things. If not hanging with my cat.

Jinku: Hey, this is Jinku from Nairobi, Kenya, and I have been spending my time in this pandemic, creating music. I think it’s also given me a lot of time to perfect my craft and that’s what I have been doing.

Baby Elephante: Hey, I’m Baby Elephante. The pandemic is boring for me. And for Kenya.

Janice Iche: My name is Janice Iche and this lockdown period for me has been about patience, and imagining and strategizing new ways of being in this world.

Boutross: Hi, I’m Boutross and I spend my time with my brothers in my studio.

Wambui Kamiru: Hi, my name is Wambui Kamiru Collymore. I’m an artist from Kenya and I’m spending my lockdown writing a book about Mau Mau and Kenyan history.

Manch!ld (debe): I am Manch!ld. I spend my time during lockdown waiting.

MUNYASYA: My name is MUNYASYA. I spend my day during this Corona period making music.

Kamwangi Njue: I am Kamwangi Njue. I spend my time during lockdown with music, poetry, my wife and kid.

Hitman Kaht: I’m Hitman Kaht. And I’m dealing with the pandemic by social distancing and wearing protective masks.

Karun: Hi, I’m Karun and I spend my time during lockdown with good music and good people. Love from Kenya.

DJ Raph: This is DJ Raph from Nairobi, Kenya. And the pandemic for me has been a time to reflect; think about the future of humanity, our place in the history of the earth.

Coco.em: Hi, I’m Coco.em from Nairobi, Kenya. During this pandemic, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on myself and to shift focus from the work that pushes me to the people who are closest and dearest to me, as well as to my immediate community. It has been a financially tough time, but a necessary break from the non-stop hectic work lifestyle.

Joseph Kamaru: I don’t know how many weeks have been in isolation. I stopped counting but it’s from March 16th since I came back from Montréal.

Director, idea, interviews: Thomas Burkhalter
Music: Thomas Burkhalter, Daniel Jakob
Additional Samples: Joseph Kamaru, Boutross + soundofnairobi.net
Additional Voiceovers: Kacey Moore, Selasia A. Djameh
Trailer Voiceover: Nana Akosua Hanson
Editing: Thomas Burkhalter, Daniel Jakob
Mastering: Adi Flück, Centraldubs
Graphics Cover: Šejma Fere


Playlists Nairobi

Thomas Burkhalter is an ethnomusicologist, interdisciplinary artist and music journalist from Bern (Switzerland). He is the founder and director of Norient – Performing Music Research (norient.com), the Norient Film Festival (NFF) and the Norient Space «The Now In Sound» (2020). He co-directed the documentary films «Contradict» (2020 - winner Berner Musikpreis) and «Ghana Controversial» (Al-Jazeera Witness, 2019), the AV/theatre/dance performance «Clash of Gods» (2018) and is the author of various musicological publications.

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