Music

Kasiva, the drummer turns rhythms into a new album

kasiva

Percussionist, drummer and composer Kasiva Mutua performing at the Asheville Percussion Festival in the US in 2018. PHOTO | POOL

Summary

  • For percussionist and recording artist Kasiva Mutua it has been a chance to gather all her global influences into producing her debut EP “Ngewa” which officially becomes available across all streaming platforms Friday.
  • In the last decade, Kasiva has spent several months at a time away from home touring and collaborating with musicians from around the world.
  • When the pandemic struck two years ago, she found herself with the time to pause and digest the different cultures that she had experienced in the course of her travels as a session musician.

The last two years have provided the opportunity for many artists to turn the lack of engagement caused by the pandemic into an opportunity to create some of their most inspired works.

For percussionist and recording artist Kasiva Mutua it has been a chance to gather all her global influences into producing her debut EP “Ngewa” which officially becomes available across all streaming platforms Friday.

“I am really, really excited. I started the project during the pandemic, as a need to distress and unload stuff that was on my mind,” she says.

In the last decade, Kasiva has spent several months at a time away from home touring and collaborating with musicians from around the world.

“These cultures start rubbing off on you, you start learning their music, their instruments, liking their food,” she explains.

When the pandemic struck two years ago, she found herself with the time to pause and digest the different cultures that she had experienced in the course of her travels as a session musician.

“I started untangling it slowly to see what I learnt and started applying these influences in my unique way, playing the drums I have collected from different parts of the world during my tours.”

In the process, Giant Steps Music, an organisation based in San Francisco, US invited her to be part of their annual programme by arranging two solo pieces and one collaboration with a musician from Hawaii.

Her first two recordings turned out so good that she decided to keep the songs for herself and made another two songs for the project.

It was then that her producer Herman Ogula brought up the proposal of putting together an EP and she realised she had so much material to work with.

“Ngewa is such a beautiful journey, a reflective journey, I am so proud of it,” says Kasiva.

She explains that the six songs on the EP connect with her passion for the space of women in the music, and encourage them to use their instruments to speak about their stories.

Kasiva who is also a percussion teacher and instructor, and is currently learning guitar explains that “Ngewa” which means “stories” in her native Kamba, is her journey and the influence of the diverse cultures that she has interacted with around the world.

The EP opens with the steady sound of the drums on “Bantu” which presented a challenge because it was recorded without a metronome which limited the possibility of laying additional tracks during production.

The sound of children playing, the wind, the cowbell, sparks of fire, symbolise the typical lifestyle of Bantu communities. Kasiva incorporated the bunde and nyiduonge traditional drums from Luo community in the arrangement to illustrate that music can bridge the cultural gap between cultures.

In fact, throughout the EP, she experimented with different instruments: shakers, some of which she made herself, tabla, congas, tambourines, and using voice as percussive instruments to create ululation.

The second song “Uhuliranga” was originally submitted for the Giant Steps programme and she obtained permission to include it on her EP. The lyrics in Luhya reflect on parenthood and challenges the effectiveness of the means used to impart knowledge and values to the young generation.

“Babu” features guest musician Eric Thoya Baya playing the chivoti, the Mijikenda flute, and is a tribute to a legendary maestro Mzee Mwawira a pioneer who passed on the skills of the instrument to musicians of the current generation like Baya.

The first single from the EP “Hakukole” is based on Hawaiian chants that are used to ridicule bad behavior in society and Kasiva creates a lively interpretation with soaring vocals and thumping drums.

Kasiva composed “Conundrum” to uplift a friend who was going through a phase of self-doubt and lack of motivation.

“It is a song that inspires and encourages you to look inside yourself for belief and the strength to never give up.”

The EP closes with the female empowerment anthem “Bam Chikicha”. “The message is connected to my cause which is encouraging women to use tools available to tell their own stories,” says Kasiva.

“It is about women having a space that provides the freedom to express themselves.”

As her debut EP officially becomes available today, Kasiva expects that people who listen to the music relate her stories with their own experiences. She also plans to take the music on the road, and eventually build on the impact of this set of six songs to produce an entire album.