Q&A: Have You Met.. Maũ


Where were you born, and raised Maũ?

I was born in Nairobi, Kenya and raised in both Nairobi and the UK, specifically Ascot and West London.

What are your earliest memories with music and art, in terms of who encouraged you to express yourself through art and music, or what is just a reactionary process to your environment?

My earliest memories of with music and art were probably school plays as a child and music lessons. My parents always encouraged creative expression but as more of a hobby or extra-curricular thing; I had way too much energy as a child so it made sense they wanted me to get it out aside from school and sport.

I watched you short documentary on vimeo, clean water. What inspired the documentary

Clean Water came about from a lot of racial encounters during my second year of uni in New York that pushed me to question how blackness intersects with my identity and upbringing. At the time things felt super overwhelming so it just became about making sense of this part of myself now being older and experiencing a different kind of racism from people.

Clean Water from Kamau Wainaina on Vimeo.

I really like the recent video you released for your track, Chances, what was your vision for the video. How did you want it to be received?

The Chances video came about through a lot of conversations with the director. Originally it wasn’t a song I had a clear visual for – [which is strange given that from my background is mostly in film]. Coby and I met to brainstorm some ideas after he approached me wanting to do a video as part of his class project. I had an idea about exploring a space where I interact with different objects and Coby took that and adapted it to Chances, where we conceived a dark kind of nether-space that represented the scary uncertainty of being an artist and how that fear is fueled by my personal background and culture.

In spite not living in Kenya, how do you try to maintain a certain closeness and awareness to your Kenyan roots through your art?

I think I just try and be aware of that side of myself and let it come out naturally when it wants to. I’ve realized more and more that if I try and force elements of my “Kenyanness” or culture into my music in ways that I’ve observed I may end up overthinking it and being disingenuous.


Which musicians and lyricist have inspired your music?

Right now I really love Saba, and how he plays with words and cadence. I’ve also always loved Loyle Carner and how honest he is in his music as well as his flow and delivery. Other influences include Little Simz, Murkage Dave, Noname and recently Obonjayar.
From a cultural standpoint, how does living in London compare to living in New York?

I saw a tweet the other day that said New York and London are cousins and I kinda feel that, like there are similarities and differences. I feel like New York is a lot more urgent, people move a lot faster and in general there’s a restlessness which is great for being proactive and productive but can be really overwhelming. It’s been a long time since I lived in London, but I definitely felt like it was more calm – still energetic but you could still find peace when in very built up spaces. I’m likely moving back soon so it’ll be interesting to see what it’s like living there after 5 years of New York.

Check out our soundcloud playlist of Maũ latest tracks:

Author: Kofi Yeboah

I'm a Music & Culture Journalist, and DJ from London. I worked in radio, events promotions, and content production. .

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