Marching To Her Beat: An Interview with Muthoni the Drummer Queen

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Photo Credit: Emmanuel Jambo

Kenyan native Muthoni, the Drummer Queen of Nairobi’s urban music scene, has released a new single that she collaborated on with the Swiss hip-hop producers GR! and HOOK, as well as an incisive video to go along with the intent of the song. Muthoni, GR!, and HOOK worked together online and in person on “Make It Right”, with Muthoni visiting the producers in Switzerland to record the track. The video was shot on location in Nairobi by director 8278A. In the video, Muthoni takes on the human form of three distinct emotions – shame, guilt, and love – which are locked in a continual battle with each other. The video features beautiful wearable artwork that was designed by Kenyan artist Nur Jeffah.

Stereo Embers Magazine: Good day, Muthoni! It’s wonderful how you gave a unique, modern twist to what could be considered a classic soul sound on “Make it Right”. Was that the intention when creating this song? 

Muthoni: The credit goes to GR! & HOOK for building the track in a way that guided me to that place. GR! is the ultimate Jedi Master.

SEM: Is this type of future-retro soul music style popular in Kenya right now?

M: To be honest, we did not even have a name for this kind of sound. I like this phrase a lot, ‘Future-Retro’; I’m definitely adopting it! I do not think it is specifically popular in Kenya now, but I can imagine it growing.

SEM: What are the current music-related trends in Kenya right now? I’m curious if regional music or international music has more of a presence than the other.

M: There is interest in finding ethnic music from the different communities in Kenya and fusing it with hip-hop and pop music. There is also a sampling of Kenyan urban music from the 60s and 70s.

SEM: Is “Make It Right” part of a bigger project with the producer duo GR! and HOOK. If so, can you spill some details about the project?

M: “Make It Right” is actually a stand-alone project. It’s kind of the bridge between the previous body of work and the current one we are creating – and by bridge I mean it’s been created in the middle of these two things. Right now we are working on a trans-media project, aiming for about 12 tracks of music, presented as a movie-album based on the characters in the songs – a little bit in the vein of “My Dark Twisted Fantasy” by Kanye West, or “Odyssey” by Florence and the Machine.

SEM: How do you write songs? Let’s say we were to drop in on one of the sessions…

M: There is no specific way to make songs. That is the way creativity works. Sometimes we start from scratch and mess around with sounds until we have something we like, and then we carry on from that. Sometimes we have a sample to start from. Sometime we are pursuing one idea and another melody or sound comes along… It is all quite different every time.

SEM: How do you know that the song you are writing is making an impact and is a definite keeper? 

M: You just go with the flow. Usually we don’t know how far a song will get… It kind of takes you there… to its logical conclusion. And if we feel it, we keep it.

SEM: Did you know that “Make It Right” was special when you wrote it?

M: Not at all. But GR! and HOOK really liked it, so we kept it.

SEM: In closing, what is the ultimate goal for your work with GR! and HOOK?

M: “Make It Right” is about repentance, acceptance, and forgiveness. It is the result of evaluating a situation, accepting one’s part in creating a mess, being willing to experience the accompanying shame and guilt, and putting oneself in a place to ask the other for forgiveness and restoration.

Exclusive Premiere of the Behind The Scenes video of “Make It Right”:

 

Find out more about Muthoni: