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WPGM Commentary: Karun On The Making Of Her New EP ‘Catch A Vibe’

My name is Karun, Iʼm from Nairobi, Kenya. I usually say that Iʼm an alternative R&B singer, but lately, Iʼve been leaning more towards pop and it’s pretty fun over here! I just released the Catch A Vibe EP and I play around with afrobeats, R&B, drill and indie. Even as I work more on pop music, I naturally drift a little left of centre.

Iʼve been in the Kenyan music industry for over 10 years now, having started when I was around 14 years old, so naturally, Iʼve gone through many different phases, a journey that has led me to be a lot more confident in my sound than I was before.

While making this EP, I felt like I had finally found a flow that felt very authentic to me, something that I struggled with before. Each song in this EP is tied to a distinct lesson that I learned during the time of creating this music.

Let Me Know (Intro)” starts the EP off with eerie layered vocals, sort of like a chant, and sort of like a lullaby. Iʼm always layering vocals like this. It’s the easiest thing for me to do. Iʼve been doing this for years, even in my debut Sun & Moon album (2013), I had 2 interludes with layered vocals, both self-produced like with the intro to this EP.

This particular intro was inspired by Le Mavʼs production on “I Know”. When I was writing to it, I was endlessly inspired and so I extended the song with these vocals thinking that we could keep the song going, but eventually we decided to make it an intro, and let it stand out on its own. And now I love how the EP flows, Faiza, the A&R on my team did a great job of curating the flow of it!

It starts off with this theme in the intro, with cleansing energy to make way for whatʼs about to unfold, then we go on a journey through “Paths” while Mpho Sebina walks along with us like a Shaman. “Paths” is a song about being in a new chapter of your life, looking around for a blueprint and finding that no one you know has walked that same path before.

I love what Mpho Sebina adds to this song. Her warm vocals are like a hug, sheʼs giving me wise ancestral energy in her verse, and it really ties it all together. Mpho is from Botswana, we met in South Africa when I had gone to play a show there. It means a lot to me to be able to collaborate with African women from different spaces and share similar values.

Then we get a bit more upbeat and playful with “Here With Me”. “Here With Me” was initially a light-hearted love song that had no real deeper meaning, but through the process of making the EP I went through a deep heartbreak, something that I never felt before.

It was a unique situation because the heartbreak wasnʼt due to the end of a relationship, but more because we both realized that although we loved each other, we had outgrown the relationship and so had to end it.

When I heard this song again after the heartbreak, I felt compelled to change 2 or 3 words in the song, and all of a sudden the meaning changed completely! I re-recorded the entire song with that new energy, tears streaming down my face, and the song went from being meaningless to one of my favourite songs on the EP.

Now we flow into “Just Friends” and “Catch A Vibe” where the party really starts. Both Produced by MOMBRU, the homie whoʼs now based out of ATL. “Catch A Vibe”, the title track was the first song I finished, and so led the way for how the rest of the EP would sound.

“Catch A Vibe” was inspired by how great it feels to raise your vibration and explores themes of gratitude and love as I speak about my mum and spending time with a lover.

Then it gets personal, and the energy shifts and starts to go a bit harder on “I Know”. “I Know” was produced by Le Mav who is based in Nigeria. I loved every single beat he sent me, but this one slapped differently. Iʼve never heard a beat like this before. It’s bouncy, like a lot of alté music, is, but then Mav throws in these drill hi-hats and kick pattern that just makes the entire song a bop.

This drill/afrobeats influence brings a harder flow to the project which was light and airy before, this then flows nicely into “Grind”, a song featuring two badass R&B artists that I really admire, Chase Aaron (LA) & Xenia Manasseh (KE), the latter of which was my roommate back in Berklee College of Music (Boston).

I feel that “Grind” has a great balance of male and female energy, both through the instrumentation being more on the hip-hop side, and the vocals floating on the R&B side.

“Grind” holds the themes and lessons that I learned over the course of like four years. I gave birth in 2017 to a beautiful baby boy, my best buddy now, and shortly after, I dove straight into the studio. I was hungry to make something of myself and to make this music career make sense, and so I proceeded to make pretty serious music.

I look back, and I still think this music was good, but the energy around it all was very heavy, so I eventually decided to shelve it and start again. Looking back on this now, I can see how necessary this was because I needed to shed some weight, I lighted my load enough to really step into my highest self and so making music became enjoyable again.

“I Know” is my favourite song on the EP. This is a letter to my fans, thanking them for sticking around. I came very close to quitting the music industry before making this project, but something told me that I still had a lot more to express through music, and having such an inviting and intimate fanbase really motivated me to push past the self-doubt and make it happen.

This EP started out with the intention to show people that “Iʼm here” and “Iʼm not going anywhere” and somewhere along the way, I fell in love with the process and dropped the need to prove myself to anyone. The final product is an honest snapshot of where I am now, and I hope that it sets the mood right for anyone listening.

Listen to my Catch A Vibe EP below!

Words by Karun // Follow her on Twitter + Instagram

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