Death stalks Kenya’s music industry

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Death stalks Kenya’s music industry

By David Odongo

We look at musicians who have passed on recently and left a mark:

David Nthiwa

Many fondly remember David Mutua Nthiwa, who used to host Christian family programmes, Joy Bringers and Sing and Shine.

Mutua, who died two weeks ago at 67,  was a pioneer Christian broadcaster and musician as well as a chaplain of  Sacho High School, Kabarnet, from 1988 to 1995.

Before his death, he was working as a pastor for children. He will be laid to rest this Saturday at his Kikambuani village home in Kangundo, Machakos County.

Jacob William Maunda

Jacob William ‘Jawima’  Maunda, who died of a heart attack last month, was a well-known journalist and musician. Maunda wore the two professional hats with ease.

Until his death, he was still staging live performances at Makuti Vibrations in Machakos.

In 1972, the then 22-year-old Maunda delved into music when he formed East Africa Community Boys Band.

A bass guitar player, Maunda then joined Tengevu Lutheran Church Choir in Tanzania. He returned to Kenya in 1976 and formed Mukasu International Band before finally settling with Orchestra Mukaa Super International band.

Maunda’s song Baba Yenu Mlevi is a superb piece, peerless in spirit, easy to listen to and has a clear and nuanced production that is not intrusive.

Maunda’s other hit, Nahangaika Mombasa, is a guitar-driven piece, low on the drums, until the chorus where the bass kicks in, as Maunda names all the coastal towns he has been through while searching for the love of his life. His other songs, Dada Rehema, Mkimbizi wa Mapenzi and Dada Sofia are masterpieces.

Musa Juma

Musa Juma, the prince of Luo love ballads,  died at 44. Juma, who formed Limpopo International with his brother Omondi Tony, was a respected musician whose performances attracted legions of fans every weekend.

Juma’s love songs are soothing and the political messages  shimmering.

In Bibuta, his voice is serenading while Hera Mudho passionately disparages love that is attached to material wealth.

His other hits, Saida, Oyoo Daktari, Lake Victoria, Christina, Freddy and Marcelina have messages that even future generations will find useful.


Habel Kifoto

An all-round musician, Senior Sergeant Habel Kifoto played lead and solo guitars, keyboards, sax and composed most of the Maroon Commandos’ hits. Kifoto’s first composition Sighenyi Sheshe  was recorded in 1969. But Charonyi ni Wasi, remains his greatest single, which sold 30,000 copies within three months.

His most memorable song, Uvivu Mbaya, was usually played in the morning to push people to start the day’s activities.

Christina was rendered beautifully with the bass guitar towards the end, before the sax, brassy and powerful drums ride the classic song to the end.

Based at Gilgil Barracks, Kifoto founded Maroon Commandos in 1970. He retired in 2002.

Dr Arthur Kemoli

Dr Arthur Mudogo Kemoli was one of Kenya’s most celebrated music composers. Kemoli who passed on recently, was famous for what was called the Moi anthem, Fimbo ya Nyayo.

A music teacher and university oral literature lecturer, Kemoli was an accomplished pianist and vocalist. He was part of choirs all through his life, from Durham University to King’s College in Cambridge to Sussex where he did his doctorate studies.

Kemoli lost his sight to diabetes five years ago due to renal failure.

Boniface Mganga

On September 31, 1978, the Muungano National Choir performed 21-year-old Boniface Mganga’s composition, Mungu Bariki Kenya, at State House, Nairobi.

President Moi was so impressed that Mganga soon got a job as an under secretary in the Office of the President.

The Muungano choir quickly became a leading cultural ambassador for Kenya, touring  many countries such as Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Spain, Finland, Italy, Germany, Canada, the United States and Israel.

The choir’s 1988 recording, Missa Luba and Ten Kenyan Folk Melodies became bestsellers, and can be found in most public libraries across the United States.

The choir’s songs are among the most popular repertoires of African choral music.

In 2002, Mganga was elected Member of Parliament, where he served as assistant minister of Culture and later Education.

At the time of his death, he was Chairman of the Board of Kenya Utalii College in Mombasa.

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