James Kamotho Kimani

Selected by the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM), Copenhagen, 1996
Released by Unknown Public, London (UP05: Voicebox)

John Wynne


The starting point for this piece is the voice of James Kamotho Kimani from Kiambu, a member of the Kikuyu community living in Nairobi. When I was introduced to him I recorded the brief ‘speech’ he made - half in Kiswahili, half in English - welcoming me to Kenya and enjoining me to “give greetings to people on your side”. This piece is my way of passing on those greetings and of thanking him for his hospitality.

As phatic statements the greetings also interested me because they signify little more than the act of greeting: they symbolise the relationship between visitor and visited and are thus already some half way between language and pure sound. Back in the studio, listening to the recording of James, I was struck by the extraordinary depth of his voice and developed the idea of taking these utterances still further in the direction of abstract sound while at the same time using rhythmic composition as a means of anchoring them to their context.



This piece was selected for the 1996 ISCM Music Festival in Copenhagen and played on the impressive multi-channel sound system in the Tycho Brahe Planetarium. I chose to play the piece without visual accomaniment and in the near-total darkness afforded by the planetarium.

"Concert #16 was an electronic concert and included the best piece of that medium in this festival. It was a piece by John Wynne.... In it sounds of the human voice were pitted against each other in interesting and innovative counterpoint, enlivened by imaginative orchestration of various attacks. None of the other electroacoustic pieces of this festival came close to this one, not even the ones composed by famous composers. Many composers of electroacoustic music were tempted to use the audio-visuals of the planetarium and in all cases it did not help the music. I was very glad to hear Mr. Wynne's piece without that unnecessary crutch."

Menachem Zur