Nyokabi Kariũki (b. 1998, she/her) is a Kenyan composer and performer based between New York, Maryland and Nairobi. Her sonic imagination is ever-evolving, with compositions ranging from classical contemporary to choral music, film, experimental pop; and further includes explorations into sound art, electronics, and (East) African musical traditions. As a classically-trained pianist of 16 years, and as a vocalist who has been self-teaching instruments from the African continent (particularly the mbira), she embraces the title of composer-performer often. Her art seeks to bridge her many influences — from her African upbringing to her Western classical training — together into a mélange of accessible, evocative, and meaningful art. She is dedicated to using composition as a tool to not only re-discover the stories of her culture, but also to highlight its significance, and contribute to the preservation of African and Black stories.
During her time at New York University (where she graduated with a BM in Music Composition and a minor in Creative Writing), Nyokabi studied composition with Dr. Jerica Oblak and songwriting with David Wolfert and Dana Calitri. Furthermore, she has studied composition and orchestration at École Normale de Musique de Paris under 1966 Prix de Rome Winner Michel Merlet, and underwent an intensive course on Sound Spatialisation & Computer-Aided Composition at IRCAM in Paris, France. She has also been a part of various workshops and festivals, including the inaugural NEO Voice Festival in Los Angeles, California, and Heartland Marimba’s first Online Composition Festival.
Nyokabi’s works have been performed across the United States and internationally, and she has been commissioned by various performers and ensembles including Tetractys New Music, the Heartland Marimba Quartet, piano duo Chromic, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Men’s Ensemble. Several of her collaborations with filmmakers, choreographers and/or other artists have been seen at notable events, from the Out of Africa Film Festival (Nairobi, Kenya) and Melbourne Fringe Festival (Australia) to Lincoln Center’s Dance on Camera Festival (New York). As winner of SA Recordings’ & Alev Lenz’s ‘Recompose’ Competition, Nyokabi released the music video to her “unforgettable” (Lenz) winning entry in March 2021 and most recently received the 2021 Hearsay ‘Art’ Award, which celebrated her piece (‘A Walk Through My Cũcũ’s Farm’) as “audio that transports, transforms, evokes, immerses, transports”.