The gods were on my side when I met Amanda (I call her Nechesa). That Saturday in September, she showed up slightly late to Nairobi National Museum where I was hosting my monthly Nairobi event Book Swap in The Park. Since it was partly my fault, I waited for her near the giant mother-and-child stone sculpture before we joined the rest.
She looked bubbly and oddly familiar.
Turns out, we had met about a week ago at another event in Nairobi – Art, Plants and Yoga. And afterwards while having dinner at a Westy kibandaski, she shared that she loves Kenyan music. And she writes too.
A woman after my own heart.
With the way she expresses herself, she might just be a regular on this blog. What do you say?
Music junkies, welcome Nechesa…
Sometimes you listen to a Kenyan song, album, or EP, and you wonder: ai, kwani is this artist stalking me? Because the way the message relates to the exact experience you are going through or have gone through in the past, it’s almost unnerving.
That’s how I felt after putting on Kamore’s EP: Vital Flaws. I would love to say that I found the EP, but I am starting to think that the EP found me. This is how I came to know about it: through Furaha’s aka LaMusicJunkie’s Instagram stories.
Furaha was singing its praises, and we all know that if there is someone who knows Kenyan music, it’s Furaha. So, of course, I suddenly exited my Instagram and ran to Spotify to find out just who this Kenyan female musician is, and what her 2022 EP was all about.
I put on the first song; Boseman and my interest piqued. I did not know what I was expecting, but it was definitely not a haunting voice with deep undertones singing such emotionally evoking words amidst a beautiful arrangement of instruments.
Lonely, the walls are falling, slowly.
The song starts, and you immediately know what’s about to follow is a piece of magic. You sit back, stop whatever you are doing, and allow yourself to be taken on a ride. Boseman lasts for only a minute and eight seconds, short but very very sweet.
Then the next song, Blindsided, comes on and Kamore’s soulful voice sings:
You broke my heart, you left me torn
I was blindsided by your charm
I was a fool for you
She sings the words in such a profoundly emotional tone that if your heart has been broken recently, you will either want to put the song on repeat and cry to it, or throw your phone against the wall in a fit of rage – because why should she remind you of your pain like that?
Kamore tells the whole story in such a haunting way that by the time I finished listening to it for the tenth time (yes I did put it on repeat), I was intrigued to find out what the rest of the Kenyan EP had in store for me.
I will be honest – at this point, I was starting to think this would be a heartbreak EP, but then, the next song In Between came on, and Kamore surprised me yet again.
Unlike its predecessor which sings of the pain of your heart breaking, In Between focuses on the inner struggle of a woman trying to find her way into the world.
Kamore’s moving voice, amidst the tunes of a slow guitar, sings:
She just wants to be heard
Wants to be seen
For who she really is
and not inventions of her
I was taken aback the first moment I heard In Between. And even now, as I am listening to the song while I type this review, I am still blown away by Kamore’s genius songwriting.
And the next song, Stained, just goes further to prove my point. In Stained, the Kenyan musician writes and sings of a woman who was abused and is now forever haunted and “stained” by the incident.
The song starts with the sound of a woman taking three deep breaths, an inclusion that moves you to do the same, because, weeh, things are getting heated.
Then Kamore sings:
All she wanted was a song, a beautiful melody
What she got was broken records, haunted memories
And all I wanted to do at that moment was cry (I actually did).
As the song goes on, she wonders if only her dress was a little bit longer, or her skirt was a little bit loose, would she still have been “stained”?
Kamore’s message runs deep, and it leaves you mad at the way society has conditioned us to the point of thinking we deserve the abuse inflicted upon us.
When the song ends, you are left with nothing but tears, and it feels hard to move on to the next song. But you do. And then You, the final song of the EP, comes on.
With You, Kamore reminds us that she knows we expected this to be a heartbreak EP, and she delivers yet another sad song.
You, you, you left without a goodbye
You, you, my heart beats for you
Uliondeka mapema, bila kwaheri
Natumai ulipo, u buheri
The song starts, and you immediately feel like putting it on pause and taking deep breaths before continuing to listen to it because this is getting disrespectfully personal now.
Like why is she making you think of calling your ex and begging for them back?
I loved and hated listening to You (with an equal measure of passion). The way Kamore sings it holds too much power. I felt like the song took total control of me and then left me with the sole responsibility of dealing with the aftermath of the emotions it had just taken me through.
Without a question, You became (and still is) my favourite song on the 2022 Kenyan EP. What surprised me the most is that more than half of the lyrics are in Kiswahili, but Kamore still manages to hold on to the poetic lyrical tune present in the other songs.
By the time I finished listening to it (it might have taken more than a few days), I was convinced of only one thing: Vital Flaws is an EP everyone should listen to.
As its own work of art, it is masterfully written and produced. And I can assure you that when you are done listening to it, you will be left with no option but to listen to it again and again and again.
Listen to Vital Flaws EP by Kamore on your favourite streaming platform
Catch Kamore performing her EP live at Cheche Sessions on Sunday 9th October 2022