Since 1902

Philip Yegon, band leader of Moto Moto Band [Photo:Standard]

By Charles Ngeno

When Ezekiel Kemboi was the first to cross the finish line of the 3000 metres steeplechase race during the 2011 IAAF Daegu World championship, he broke into dance. During the London Olympics held in August this year, after winning the same race, he danced again to the same song, christened ‘Emily Chepchumba’.

 Many have heard or even danced to the song, but few know the man behind the hit. Philip Yegon, popularly known as Bamwai, is the band leader of Moto Moto Band and composer of the song.

Kemboi’s love for the song has thrust Yegon into the public limelight in Eldoret town where he conducts live performances at a local club.

“Emily Chepchumba is a song about a young beautiful lady I met at Kaptarakwa in Keiyo in 2004. She requested me to compose a song about her. It is a song of two lovebirds separated by long distances. It expresses the desire by the two to meet again,” said Yegon.

His musical journey began when he dropped out of school in 1987 after his father died. Since he could not raise school fees at Moi Minariet Secondary School, Yegon opted to become a shoe shiner.

Instant hit

From the little he saved, he approached a friend to teach him how to play the guitar. After he learnt how to strum the strings, he started saving for a box guitar which he bought a year later.

In 1989, he recorded his first song titled Ngoro Bamwai. A few days after the release, he met Jacob Kimulwo, who then worked for KBC Kisumu.

“I introduced my music to him and he told me he would give it some air play. The song immediately became an instant hit among Kalenjin fans,” said the musician.

However, he had to contend with stigma that his society associated music with immorality. His in-laws were opposed to this venture.

“My first wife left me when I ventured into music. Her relatives associated music with immorality,” said Yegon.

“Through music I educated my siblings and children. I recently bought a plot because of music,” he added.

After the first release, fans demanded another hit. He did not disappoint and in 2002, he released his second album titled Kitabaran Cheptongilo.

Yegon says though he is a registered member of Music Copy Right of Kenya the organisation has done little to protect musicians from piracy. He also said leaders have done little to promote music, yet they come to musicians asking for praise songs.

“The relationship between musicians and politicians should be symbiotic, a win-win situation. Unfortunately they dump us once they ascend to power,” said Yegon.

Most of his songs revolve around love and he says the reason is “all things shall come to pass, but love remains.”

The father of two calls for unity among musicians. He also appeals to them to sing educative songs.

Educative songs

“Musicians should compose songs that as much as they are entertaining should also be educative. It is through music that society can be empowered. Equally, music can be used to urge evil doers to change,” he said.

As a way of appreciating the publicity that Kemboi has given his song, Yegon has composed a song in praise of the athlete’s achievements on the track.

He was born in 1972 at Yaaganek village, Sotik District in Bomet County. He attended Yaaganek and Soimet Primary Schools.