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'Kariobangi' hit maker dies coinless aged 102

By George Orido
Updated Tue, February 9th 2016 at 00:00 GMT +3
Mzee Mbwaya Abene Atieli at a past performance in Bunyore. The Kariobangi Chonjo Chonjo singer died in Emuhaya last Saturday at the age of 102.

'Kariobangi' hit maker dies coinless aged 102

Kila siku Kariobangi

Mwenye pombe anakuuzia

Lakiani anakuonya

Na wewe umelipia

Na polisi akitokea

Unamwaga pompe

Unatoroka ukitoa jasho

Kila mtu chonjo chonjo, Kariobangi’

You mostly likely have heard this once popular song being played on one of our many radio stations.

The song, ‘Kariobangi’, became an instant hit when it was released in the 1970s, hurling Mbwaya Abene Atieli, its singer, to instant celebrity status. The song went on to top the charts for a decade.

As a result, Mr Mbwaya became a common feature in social places where with his musical instrument, the Litungu, he belted out the song, narrating the tribulations that men in the sprawling slum of Kariobangi went through after imbibing chang’aa.

In the song, Mbwaya warns men against going to Karibangi to drink the killer brew.

In a powerful voice, backed by the shrill Litungu, the musician warns: “Beware of the chang’aa peddler who sells the drink to you, but warns you warns you (to drink it quickly) and yet you have paid for the drink with your hard-earned money.”

Powerful Voice

Sadly, the man who sang this popular song that caught the imagination of Kenyans in the 1970s and that still has relevance to date given the havoc that chang’aa and other such brews continues to wreak in our midst, is no more.

The cruel hand of death silenced his powerful voice on Saturday evening.

But the man who mentored the famed Jabali Afrika music group, which is currently based in the US, will remain in the hearts and minds of many a Kenyan, immortalised by his timeless music.

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