The name Subukia, a town at the base of the Rift Valley escarpments, always gets mentioned when one talks about Kikuyu music. The town rivals Murang’a in producing Kikuyu musicians who compose both gospel and contemporary music.
In Subukia, the most popular is the Salim family, which has produced the highest number of musicians who tapped their talents from Joseph Salim, their father, who started his music career in the early 1970s.
The 71-year-old gospel artiste, who composed Ngukinyukia O Kahora (I will steadily walk) in 1976, takes pride in his five children who are household names, with remarkable achievements in the music industry.
“I was a music teacher before I started producing my own music. I also participated in the development of the first examinable music curriculum at national level,” said Salim.
The patriarch, who goes by the stage name Salim Senior, passed the baton to his son Paul Mwangi, popularly known as Salim Junior, who got his first guitar while in Standard Five. Salim Junior then trained and mentored his siblings Timothy Njuguna alias Mighty Salim, Sarafina Salim, Naomi Salim, and Kinuthia Salim alias Young, as well as nephew Joe Salim alias Kajei Salim.
“Three of my sister’s children have started composing their music. My younger sister’s son plays the drums for Sarafina and Young. The Salim name has grown big in the industry,” says Salim.
His two sons are, however, deceased. Mighty Salim died on Sunday while Salim Junior died on January 23, 2016.
“My son Mighty Salim is no more, but I can assure his fans that there are more Salims coming up. We are nurturing them to be as good,” said Salim Senior.
He attributed the high number of musicians from the area to their supportive nature once they succeed.
“Most of these musicians start as backup artistes or instrumentalists for their siblings or friends' bands before they find a bearing of their own. Some are born talented and others trained by their peers. Subukia will continue to shine,” says Salim.
Like many artistes, Salim Junior started as a member of popular musician Queen Jane’s band before he set off on an independent career path.
Subukia has produced several other popular musicians, among them Samuel Muchoki aka Samidoh, who trains his fingers on his guitar and the trigger of his gun.
Samidoh, the Ndiri Mutwe (I'm not in my right senses) and Riari Itheru Ciru (It was just a joke Wanjiru) hits maker was born and bred in Subukia, schooled at Jomo Kenyatta High School before his family relocated to Ol Jororok in Nyandarua County.
Francis Mwangi, alias Franco Wasubu, is also another star who takes pride in being associated with Subukia, so much so that he included the name of the place on his stage name, Wa-Subu.
“I was born in Wanyororo B area and started singing in 2010 when it was part of Subukia Constituency. The village is now in Bahati after the constituency was split into two,” says Wasubu.
Wasubu is popular for his hit songs Wendo Wa OCS (In love with OCS) and Isabella. He recently released a new album named Ndia ngurie (Hurt me I hurt you).
Phyllis Mbuthia, a gospel musician and actress, also hails from the larger Karunga village in Bahati, which was hived off the larger Subukia Sub-county. Mbuthia shot to fame three years ago with her hit song Mithabibu (Grapes) with her subsequent releases attracting millions of views on YouTube.
Another notable artiste from Subukia is Simon Kinyua alias Syck Junior, who produced Kuhuruka (Resting), which is about the Solai dam tragedy, Muiru (Co-wife) and Hutia (Touch me), and many others.
Waithaka wa Muchembe also hails from the area and has tens of tracks under his name, among them Rwimbo nguri (A hot song), Umagara ndigakuringe (Get out of the way) and Ndauga unginyukie (Quit stepping on me).
Veteran Benga musician Sammy Muraya, who is now deceased, also placed Subukia on the map with his numerous hits, among them Gwitu Ndunduri (Ndunduri, our home), Kanyoni Kanja (A free bird), Muhiki muthaka (A beautiful lady) and Mama Kiwinya (Kiwinya’s mother). He was an uncle to veteran reggae artiste Kevin Wyre.