The story of Rose Wahu Kagwi (Wahu) and David Kamoni Mathenge (Nameless) is not just one of seasons of love; but also about the highway of life.
It is a celebrity love that has endured everything, even as their docu-reality show ‘This Love’ sparks the airwaves. And as they celebrate their 16th wedding anniversary, we go down memory lane.
Season One: A boy called Neto
The first time I hear that the teenager sitting opposite us at the back of a London taxi is going to be a star is a quarter of a century ago.
We are with a former classmate from Starehe called Bernard Neto, whom at the time we think is her boyfriend, and have just picked up (the late) Janet Kanini (later Mrs Ikua) and this young lass called Rose from the County Hotel, next to Phoenix Players Theatre, where Janet has brought down the curtain on some now long-forgotten Falkland show.
We are on the way to Westlands, which is the only happening place outside Carnivore and Bernard Neto has great ambitions to be a rapper. Young Rose is his backup artiste.
There’s always that guy/girl in life who unintentionally match makes a couple that’s meant to be, and in the Nameless and Wahu story, Bernard Neto was that dude!
Shortly afterwards, at a gig at the Grand Regency put together by legendary musician-cum-producer, Pete Odera, this young Rose – now called Wahu – will go backstage to tell Mathenge how “cool your show was ....” He will feel butterflies, because he’s thinking she was so fine in her own show. “Is she even in my league?” But the man will shoot his shot, in their first season of love.
The stars will sparkle, sparks will fly, and after a song called ‘Majitu’ that flops like a stone thrown into a pond in the msitu, the name Nameless will soon be on everyone’s lips, following a hit song called ‘Mega Rider’ after the round fare ticket introduced by the KBS (Kenya Bus Services) at the turn of the century.
Season Two: Pink Clouds on the Horizon
It is now that heady season of 2002/2003, when Kenyans were said, for a very tiny slice of time, to be ‘the happiest people in Africa’ by those folks who measure National Annual Joy indices every year.
Among the happiest new celebrities on the land, now ranked second only to the dynamic duo of Gidigidi-Majimaji riding very high on their ‘Unbwogable’ continental hit, is Nameless aka ‘Kamonski’ (for his then habit of saying “c’mon, maaaan,” then you add a ‘ski’).
Wahu is also saddling the sun of female celebrity.
Her hits ‘Liar’ and ‘Sitishiki, na hizo hela zako, hazini tishi ...’ plus well placed grapevine have a certain female rock presenter (at a major radio station) being the inspiration behind the furious passion of those club bangers.
The presenter’s, from-a-very-loaded-family, fiancé is also quite distraught about her reported affair, and is once found sobbing in his brand new BMW outside the station, on a hot Friday afternoon.
But what happens, as with every great love story — and is the key reason that soap operas have such lengthy seasons — is that the princess ends up with her prince.
That fairytale wedding of Wahu and Nameless, on the September 10 of 2005, is still the most spoken about local celebrity wedding. It took place at the Lake Naivasha Country Club.
It was outdoors and threatened to rain, but like a sign of serendipity, the sun came out as the celebrity couple exchanged their vows; and the only sign of pink were the flamingoes on the horizon.
Season Three: The Queen of Africa
2008 didn’t begin auspiciously for Kenyans, and the celebrity scene was as dead as in corona times this last year and a quarter.
On January 1, 2008, the only celebrity news we had was that a major petrol station that belongs to former ace rally driver Patrick Njiru, a Kikuyu, has been razed to the ground by arsonists from Kibera...
By the November of that year, days after the election of Barack Obama as the first black president of the US, we were seated at the JKIA at 4am with Nameless (sipping coffee to stay awake), Wahu (sipping mineral water to stay healthy, and with a young baby girl, Tumiso) and myself (sipping something stronger with journalist Julie Masiga, for journey mercies).
Jua Cali, Professor Jay from Tanzania and a planeload of local celebrities and regional entertainment media were all there, on our way to Abuja, Nigeria, for the 2008 continental MAMA (MTV AFRICA MUSIC AWARDS) awards. Where Wahu had been nominated in the Best Female Artiste category for her song ‘Sweet Love’. Whereas my most memorable moment of that particular trip was a bunch of us, including Femi Kuti, and The Game in his plush hotel suite, the BEST moment was when Wahu won, and the Kenyans for once outshouted ogas — a first in the history of the continent of Africa.
And the knowing that the song that had won, the muse had been Tumiso, the sweet child of this exemplary showbiz couple.
Season Four: Near Death Experience
Everyone knows about how Nameless nearly died with E-Sir in the mid-March of 2003, that infamous Ides of March that robbed Kenya of the most prolific musical genius of his generation.
But it is the incident that happened shortly after their 12th year wedding anniversary, in the September of 2017, that gets Wahu quaking in her high boots, as she recalls the incident.
“So Nameless has been having these dizzy spells, and like you all old school macho cool guys, he’s brushing them off with ‘nothing serious’ (plus a bunch of aspirins),” Wahu says..
“Next thing I’m picking a call from Hurbert Nakitare (Nonini) who says Nameless was in studio, and has asked to be ‘taken to hospital.’ Which hospital?, I want to know, calmly enough, but my heart is racing. I want to also race across town to Aga Khan, but man, si you know that’s the day there’s traffic on the road from Nairobi to Timbuktu, so I’m just crawling (almost crying), dying kwa road.”
Nameless had had a seizure, and been rushed to the Aga Khan where, there being no HDU beds, he was taken to Nairobi Hospital, and after a week and days, was let to go home to his wife and children.
“I prayed God not to let me become a widow, and my daughters be left without their dad,” she says. And although Wahu had always been a regular service goer at Mavuno Church, that is when, beyond religion, she became truly spiritual.
Season Five: The King and Queen of Showbiz
So here they are, at the Monarch Hotel.
They may no longer be the absolute monarchs of music, but after more than two decades, and now still working on a musical project together, they are now the reigning couple: King and queen of showbiz.
Complete with their own docu-reality show on Showmax called ‘This Love,’ about the arch of their life together.
As we leave The Monarch, I notice for the first time that it is on ‘Rose Avenue.’
And think of that teenager at the back of a London taxi on Uhuru Highway 25 years ago, and a wannabe rapper when I asked who she was saying: “Who? Wahu? This one is going to be a star.”