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January 17, 2019

Martin Murimi ‘Papillon’ and his Anywal-Abel

Papillon (left)
on his Anywal-
Abel with tabla
Prasad on
January 10 2016.
Papillon (left) on his Anywal- Abel with tabla drummer, Prasad on January 10 2016.

Martin Murimi, known by his stage name Papillon, is a sensational new musician who designs and creates his own instruments. He is a protégé of Ayub Ogada, the co-founder of the African Heritage band.

Papillon is French for butterfly. There is, of course, a story behind that stage name. Papillon’s story started out when he moved from the countryside to the city, where he ended up being a street boy.

“At that moment I was a caterpillar, seems funny, but it was true. I never allowed myself to be a chokora (street child), and I knew one day I would make it in life and I would become someone great”.

Along the long treacherous journey, he discovered the magic that turned him into the butterfly he is today. 

Papillon is an upcoming artist who is usually accompanied by four other like-minded and talented musicians.

The five, however, are not a band. Papillon describes the group as more of a family that is connected by their love for music. The percussionist, Prasad Velankaar, plays the tablas. Paul Shiundu is a guitarist and a very good pianist. Kirit is an Indian bamboo flute player and George Mulindwa from Uganda plays the adungu and other Ugandan strings.

Papillon’s work is in the genres of Afro Blues and World Music, which he says is an amazing fusion of instruments and cultures. “I sing in bantu, however, I don't limit myself to that. I'm looking forward to doing projects with contemporary artists like Eric Wainaina and R-Kay. For now, our music is more of sit down and listen rather than a get up and dance.”

He also composes most of his music, based on personal life experiences. That is why his songs tend to be emotional. They are also narrations of people close to him, like family and friends.

His self-crafted instrument is called Anywal-Abel, which is Acholi for caring parents. The “three in one” instrument as he describes it is a harp, percussion and thumb piano. The artist says that the Anywal-Abel feeds and enlightens him, in terms of music composition, as a caring parent would. It is perhaps the only instrument of its kind in the world.

One of Papillon’s favourite compositions is Ayubu, a song showing appreciation for a teacher he had, Ayub Ogada, who was a great mentor to the artist. It is also a biblical story. Another favourite of his is Na-ncho. It’s a story about his cousin who was sent to the market by his grandmother. On her way back, she found that the bridge she needed to take back home had been swept away by the river beneath it. She then decided to sing for help from some fishermen.

Papillion’s African style of dressing is inspired by tree texture, particularly the uniqueness of African trees. It is also a blend of the Kuba cloth from Congo, which is achieved through the batik art technique.

 He loves the work that most musicians are doing in the country, and especially that of his teacher Ayub Ogada. He finds him exceptional. There isn’t a specific artist who inspires him because he finds that every artists has their own niche. He appreciates and envies every artist in the world.  

When asked how his music appeals to the larger audience, here’s what he had to say: “Yes, I know I'm yet to be known, and the idea is I do what I love and if I'm satisfied that makes me happy. I mostly perform in private shows and I'm currently working on performing on known platforms. Music has no limitation and, as a musician, you will always get to know what is missing in the industry. Soon I will be seen”.

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