1. Life and career

    Kurt Ernst is a clockmaker and musician, who, although widely respected in the music scene, never gained popularity among the general public.

    Kurt has no formal training as a musician, music instead came to him. Born and raised in Göttingen during the Second World War, he learned the clockmaker’s trade from his maternal grandfather and spent the duration of the war obsessively maintaining all the clocks of his hometown, much to the bewilderment of his fellow citizens. This turned out to be a blessing, since – as opposed to many other German cities – the abundance of meticulously kept timepieces allowed Göttingen to be rebuilt entirely on time after the war.

    In 1964, en route to the annual convention of the African Clockmaker’s Institute in Kenya, his aeroplane crashed in the Nyiri Desert. Ernst was the sole survivor of the catastrophe and he almost froze to death in the extreme temperatures of the desert nights. He was rescued by nomadic tribesmen who wrapped his shivering body in a snowsuit that he has not taken off since. Life among the tribe was a revelation to him – he spent 3 years learning the Maa language, exploring ancient and profound forms of spirituality and discovering his love for tribal music.

    When Ernst finally returned to Germany he was torn between the free-flowing African rhythms of the tribe and his roots in punctual precision. In an attempt to reconcile this dichotomy he invented several musical instruments and began working on a series of percussion recordings. In the 1970s, the chronically hypodermic Ernst released 10 albums which showcased his inventiveness, an astute ear for novel sounds and obsessively precise timing.

    In 1988 Ernst released IDEN, which David Byrne cited as the main inspiration for his solo album Rybendav, released just months later to great critical acclaim.

    Kurt Ernst, now retired, still lives in his family house near Göttingen where he maintains a collection of spears, masks and shields from the Rendille tribe and occasionally repairs clocks for friends of the family.


    Over the years Kurt Ernst has invented a multitude of instruments.
    The Uhrimba was used on several recordings between 1972 and 1988.

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