Nyokabi Kariũki 🔊 (she/her) is a Kenyan composer, sound artist and artistic researcher. Her sonic imagination is ever-evolving, spanning from classical contemporary to experimental electronic music, explorations in sound art, pop, film, (East) African musical traditions and more. She performs with the piano, voice, electronics, and on several instruments from the African continent — particularly on kalimbas and the mbira. Nyokabi’s work has been described as “deft” (The Quietus) and “transcendent” (The Guardian), with Bandcamp highlighting seeing her as “becoming a crucial voice in contemporary composition and experimental music.” She seeks to create meaningful and challenging art, illuminated by a commitment to the preservation of African thought, language and stories.

Nyokabi’s debut EP, ‘peace places: kenyan memories’ (SA Recordings, February 2022), was marked as The Guardian’s 10 Best Contemporary Albums of 2022 and Bandcamp’s Best Albums of Winter 2022, with additional praise from Pitchfork, Resident Advisor, The New York Times, and more. Her debut album, ‘FEELING BODY’ (cmntx records, March 2023), which detailed her experience with long COVID, was met with similar acclaim: “a gripping meditation on illness and healing” (Pitchfork), “both challenging and groundbreaking…it will utterly enchant you” (Louder Than War).

As a performer, Nyokabi offers immense dynamism in performing both solo and alongside contemporary ensembles. Some of her solo shows have included performances at the Portland Institute of Contemporary Arts (Portland, OR) and Basilica di San Pancrazio (Rome, IT), and at festivals including Le Guess Who? Festival (Utrecht, NL). Furthermore, she has collaborated and performed with ensembles including Cello Octet Amsterdam (NL), the String Orchestra of Brooklyn (Brooklyn, NY), and Defunensemble (FI), the latter of whom she is recording her next record with.

Nyokabi’s other concert works also continue to be performed by award-winning ensembles, including Third Coast Percussion, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and Chromic, and she has received commissions from BBC Radio 3, Heartland Marimba, Arcis Saxophon Quartett, and more. Her sound art pieces have also been heard audio festivals and other similar installation spaces, including at The VoiceLine by sound designer Nick Ryan (at The Strand, London); the Hearsay International Audio Festival (Ireland), where she received the 2021 Hearsay ‘Art’ Award); and the LUCIA Festival (Italy). She has scored several short films and audio projects that have premiered at festivals such as the Tribeca Film Festival (New York) to the Out of Africa Festival (Nairobi, KE). Nyokabi has enjoyed and continues to embrace vibrant collaborations with performers, choreographers, filmmakers, visual artists, as well as other experiential producers.

Nyokabi holds a BM in Music Composition and a minor in Creative Writing from New York University (2020), where she studied composition with Dr. Jerica Oblak, songwriting with David Wolfert, among others. She also studied composition and orchestration at École Normale de Musique de Paris under Prix de Rome Winner Michel Merlet, and completed a course at IRCAM in Paris, France. In addition to freelance composition, Nyokabi previously worked for Bang on a Can’s Found Sound Nation (New York), a creative agency that inquires how creative collaboration in music can address local and collective social issues. She has lent a hand in producing The OneBeat Podcast, as well as in many of their other initiatives. She is also an alumni of the Helsinki International Artists Program, and recipient of grants from New Music USA and the Foundation of Contemporary Arts.

Guided by a love for experimentation, improvisation, collaboration and inquiry, Nyokabi continues to shape-shift and explore sound and its impact in different ways. However, what remains constant is a yearning to explore sound as a tool to not only re-discover her culture, but to contribute to the highlighting of its significance.

Nyokabi is currently operating from Nairobi as a base in Spring 2024.