Location: Nairobi, Kenya

Can you tell us about this track?  

This song is called "no way home." It was inspired by my experiences as a "diaspora kid" or third-culture kid. I grew up in Canada into my early teens, but moved to Nairobi with my family in 2012. 

I've found that it's been a strange experience growing up in a culture that should be technically familiar, seeing as it was what I knew to be my reality at home. But there's something to being immersed in a language, a people, a culture that changes everything you thought you had understood. 

I realised quickly that I didn't quite fit in and didn't really know how. It was around the time I realised that I didn't care much to try, that I started making my own music. I began by composing songs on my guitar and nyatiti, an 8-stringed lyre from the Luo community of western Kenya. And it was there that I began feeling any semblance of a connection to the place I now called home. 

This song uses a mixture of English and Kiswahili to tell the story of a woman who is grappling with that feeling of searching for home. She wonders aloud if she'll ever find her way to it. 

What's your process? 

I started by taking a sample of a nyatiti melody I'd created, and decided to build the beat around that point. It came quite naturally and quite quickly, which wasn’t surprising as I'd made it as part of a final project for a production class I'd been taking. I had about 2 days to complete it. So once the nyatiti was added, I just started playing around with the rhythm. 

At the time drums were the hardest thing to implement but I felt like this was the first song where I really got it. I layered, kicks, rim, and tom sounds to get a distinctly African energy and from there I began playing around with some additional melodic elements, a horn here, some strings there, it was all about balancing out the drums. Finally, the lyrics and vocals came in the last few seconds before my deadline, and I just wanted to have fun as I usually do layering and playing with reverb. 

I didn't have any specific intention sonically other than to give a feeling of distance, and of otherness where you hear it and you're either slightly uncomfortable or simply feeling lost. But I still wanted to capture the energy and vibes felt when listening to African music that is so specific to the continent—best expressed in my opinion through the drums and rhythm. 

Who are your biggest influences? 

This question is always a little difficult for me because I feel I inspired so many things, not just other music or musicians. I'm influenced a lot by art, paintings, drawings, books, and pieces of work that are a little weird, and a little off-putting. I use Pinterest a lot to go in search of images that inspire the part of my brain that wants to make weird music. I read novels that give a lot of inspiration to write music.

Musically though I'd say I'm an amalgamation of a lot of the music I listened to growing up. My mom has always put me on to a lot of new stuff from South African choirs like Joyous Celebration to icons like Miriam Makeba—this style of music definitely influenced my musicality when it comes to my singing. I learned harmony and rhythm from choir, learning and performing those styles. Lyrically I find big inspiration from people like SZA, Sabrina Claudio, Lauryn Hill, and fellow Kenyan artists like Xenia Manasseh. I admire each of their abilities to tell a story.

I always say I started writing songs, simply because writing a novel would take too long.

Who's your favorite artist on Nina? 

I'd say my favourite artist is MR. LU*. He's someone whose musical journey I've been following for the last year and a half, and I just love his expression. He's always willing to try new things and never afraid to be different. His production style and work ethic really inspire and push me to be a better artist. 

Any shoutouts? 

I'd like to shout out my fellow Nairobi Artists, Mush, [M], Selo and RVMP, y'all are part of a beginning, a new space and I think it's really cool that we get to define our artistry in this way. 

You can follow MPHILO on Nina, Instagram, and Twitter.