Karun Mungai is an alternative RnB musician from Nairobi, Kenya, who has successfully captivated audiences since she was a teenager. Her current sound is an amalgamation of neo-soul, contemporary and alternative RnB. Her career started with the BET nominated hip hop group Camp Mulla who were critically – lauded for their flair and creativity. Since the group disbanded, Karun has been on a journey of self-discovery and reivented her personal style into what it is today.
Karun is a tour de force, she in an alumni of Mr Eazi’s Empawa Africa program, and was named one of Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 in 2019. She won a Cafe Ngoma Award as Best R&B Artist.
K: Tell us about the beginning, how you grew up?
KM: I grew up in a green, quiet neighbourhood near the edge of Nairobi. I had a pretty chilled upbringing, singing in school concerts in prep school until high school.
K: When did you start taking the idea of being an artist more serious?
KM: I always knew I wanted to be a professional artist. I had made up my mind about that from as young as 6 years old. I went into the studio for the first time when I was 8. My dad took me into one, I think he wanted me to see what it would be like first hand. The first chance I really got to do music was at 13 when Mathew (Taio of Camp Mulla) asked me to sing a verse on one of the songs him and the boys were making. They weren’t called Camp Mulla at the time though, that came later anyway one of those songs eventually got played on the radio and the rest is history! A band that was making music primarily for their high school friends ended up being nominated for a BET award 2 years later.
K: What’s your earliest memory of writing a song?
KM: I wrote a song for Christmas when I was around 8 years old! Lol It was a song about being excited to buy presents for my family and friends. Kind of embarrassing now, but it was cute then! I remember it having a very bluesy melody.
K: Did you know how you wanted your music to sound like early on?
KM: I don’t remember ever thinking about genres when I made music. I used to feel pretty uncomfortable when people would ask me what genre the music we were making was. I would hop on Hip-Hop songs, R&B, Jazz, House/Electronic and the compositions I was making in school were influenced by Classical Music fused with Kikuyu samples and poly rhythms…. So no, I really didn’t know what I wanted it to sound like. I wanted to experiment with everything, because I was inspired by most types of music.
K: What influenced you to create a project so beautiful such as “Catch A Vibe”?
KM: Aw, thank you! Life took me on a hell of a ride in 2019, I had to learn a lot of really hard lessons, mostly about how to protect my energy, and stay true. So by the time I was making this music I knew that I wanted to enjoy myself and the process. I didn’t want it to be too serious, I wanted to incorporate everything I had learned, but also make it a vibe. So that influenced the beats that I gravitated towards and the artists that we chose to feature on the project.
K: You were chosen as one of Mr Eazi’s EmPawa 100 artists, what was that experience like for you?
KM: It was a really dope opportunity. It allowed me to shoot my first proper music video since being a solo artist. It gave me a platform to show my fans who I was aside from Camp Mulla, an association that was a bit suffocating before that opportunity. The Empawa initiative also introduced me to a range of other wavy African artists too.
K: How does it feel being part of the new generation of music artists coming out currently, being part of the select few of women right now?
KM: It feels amazing, it’s about time for these voices to be heard and for these doors to be opened. It’s an honour to be part of this wave, especially because I have been part of the industry for 10 years prior. This is a beautiful moment for African music.
K: What’s a piece of advice that changed your life?
KM: That “Other people’s opinions are none of your business” – it helps to keep you focussed on what’s important.
K: How did you celebrate your last birthday?
KM: At a 7 bedroom Airbnb out of town with my son, a few friends and family!
K: What’s next for Karun?
KM: Honestly, I’m just trying to enjoy the ride, and be present, so I don’t know, and i’m cool with that!
You can listen to Karun newest EP “Catch A Vibe” here: