Video Premiere: (no) i Don’t Want to Leave You Whole / ‘cause that may Leave Me Empty by Nyokabi Kariuki

Today’s video premiere features composer Nyokabi Kariuki performing her own work “(no), i don’t want to Leave You Whole / ‘cause that may Leave Me Empty” in collaboration with violinist Yaz Lancaster and dancer-choreographers Nyasia Fraser and Lay’la K. Rogers.

Exploring the concepts of “wholeness and emptiness felt by Black creators,” this version of “(no), i don’t want to Leave You Whole / ‘cause that may Leave Me Empty” was presented in February 2020 at NYU’s Frederick Loewe Theater. Audio engineer Madeleine Flieger and filmmaker Gianfranco Bello created the resulting video in the midst of pandemic shutdowns.

Here’s what Nyokabi had to say about the piece:

“(no), i don’t want to Leave You Whole / ‘cause that may Leave Me Empty” is an angry piece, although it might not seem angry at first. It describes the frustration of being tethered to a person or a system that you feel abandoned by, and realising that this has left you drained and powerless. It was important to me to deepen the world of the piece by including the talents of Black choreographers and performers around me to collectively paint a multi-dimensional landscape that dissects the core emotion of the work: to be a Black person in the world today is to constantly grapple with anger, exhaustion, and emptiness.

In addition to the video premiere below, you can listen to the studio version of “(no), i don’t want to Leave You Whole / ‘cause that may Leave Me Empty” on Nyokabi’s Soundcloud.

About Nyokabi Kariuki

Nyokabi Kariuki (b. 1998) is a Kenyan composer and performer currently based in the US, who recently graduated with a B.M. in Music Composition and minor in Creative Writing from New York University. Her sonic imagination is ever-evolving, with compositions ranging from classical contemporary to choral music, film, and 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.

Nyokabi’s works have been performed across the United States and internationally, and she has written for various performers and ensembles including the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Men’s Ensemble, piano duo Chromic, and the Heartland Marimba Quartet. Several of her collaborations with filmmakers, choreographers and/or other artists have been seen at events including the Out of Africa Film Festival (Nairobi, Kenya), the Melbourne Fringe Festival (Melbourne, Australia), and Lincoln Center’s Dance on Camera Festival (New York). Most recently, Nyokabi was announced the winner of composer Alev Lenz’s “Recompose” Competition, hosted in collaboration with SA Recordings and Spitfire Audio, and she will be collaborating with British animator PREHUMAN on a music video for her winning entry.

About Nyasia Fraser

Nyasia Fraser is a dancer, educator, and arts advocate. Nyasia has been dancing for 22 years and grew up studying ballet, tap, jazz, modern, contemporary, and lyrical. She obtained her BFA in Dance from Montclair State University in 2018 and continued her education at New York University. In May of 2020, Nyasia graduated with her MA in Dance Education and was given a graduation award that recognized her dedication to the community and high academic achievement. Nyasia Fraser has made it her priority to provide an environment that promotes creativity and individualism that allow dancers to bring out their inner artist.

About Lay’la K. Rogers

Lay’la K. Rogers is a graduate student in the MFA/MA dual degree dance program at NYU Tisch & Steinhardt. Lay’la is a New York City dance educator and has been a Harper Continuum Dance Theatre company for the past three years. Committed to social justice advocacy, Lay’la has created and presented anti-racist dance pedagogy workshops throughout NYC, including Saint Marks Church and NYU Tisch. Graduating in May 2021, Lay’la hopes to continue working and researching on how to build & create inclusive dance spaces and practices for everyone.

About Yaz Lancaster

Yaz Lancaster (they/them/theirs) is an interdisciplinary artist interested in practices aligned with relational aesthetics and the everyday, fragments and collage, and in modes of genuine support for marginalized identities. They perform as a violinist, steel pannist, and vocalist in a wide variety of settings from DIY to orchestras, and they present work in many different mediums and collaborative projects. They’ve had the opportunity to work with friends like Apply Triangle, Hypercube, JACK Quartet, and Skiffle Steel Orchestra. Yaz holds degrees in violin performance and poetry from New York University. They love horror movies, chess, and bubble tea.


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