The new crew in town
By By JAMES WANZALA
| July 5th 2013
By JAMES WANZALA
Members of the Ameru community of Mt. Kenya region may not be highly acclaimed for their musical prowess, but that is not to say they have no musical talent.
A cursory glance unearths household names such as gospel artist Makena, Aaron Rimbui, DJ Joe Mfalme and Silax of Ogopa DJ. Into this list, the Ameru Crew deserves a mention.
Formed in December 2010, the group consisted five members. However, one member left to pursue other interests and was replaced by a lady member, to revitalise the quintet. The members are; Wycliffe Muthomi (Colonel Wicky), Euticus Murori (Feita Ziki), Boniface Muthomi (Mr Somi) the producer of Somi Records, Kenneth Kirimi (Melani Falaki) and Lisa Gatwiri— the only female member.
“Initially, we were all doing our own solo music projects until we luckily met at Somi Records in Meru one day,” says Wycliffe.
The chance meeting happened in 2009/10, at around the same time there was inter-clan fighting between the Tigania and Tharaka sub-tribes over the land on the border of Imenti, Tharaka and Tigania of Meru. This inspired them to record their first song as a group, as well as choose a name— Ameru Crew— that reflected the wholesomeness of their communities.
‘‘We saw it befitting to do a song and use it to tell our communities that there was need for peaceful coexistence, and that is how we recorded Twendaneni (Let’s love each other),” added Wycliffe.
Wycliffe says the song was an instant hit in local and national TV and radio stations, thrusting them into the limelight and earning them a Best Song of The Year (Eastern Province) nomination at the 2013 Groove Awards. When the 2012 Niko na Safaricom Live Concert came to town, the group featured as one of the guest star artistes.
Soon, TV and radio shows came calling as well, with shows like KTN’s Cheche Za Burudani with presenter Peter Adamz unveiling them to a national audience. They sold more than 1500 copies, around Meru only, of the same song.
Recently, an American marketing and distribution company showed interest in marketing and distributing their music abroad.
“We thank God for the deal because our main challenge has been marketing and distribution. We have already signed the contract and are just waiting to iron out the finer details,” explains Wycliffe.
It was around this time that the group experienced one of its earlier challenges, when one of the founder members named Jehushaphat (Kimaita) left to do his solo projects in 2012.
Luckily, they got a lady, Lisa Gatwiri, who joined the group as a singer and guitar player to fill the void.
Piracy and imposters keen to cash in on their success are the other challenges the crew grapples with. From last year through to the election campaigns, there were many fake groups calling themselves Ameru Crew that profited from unwitting politicians during their campaigns.
So far, the group has an album called Twendaneni with eight songs. The songs, which include Mazingira (Environment), Watoto Mitaani (Street Children), Mwinere (Dance), So Low, Usisare (Don’t give up), Tumukumie (Lets Praise), Wakenya (Kenyans) and Kura Yako (Your Vote) all address socially issues and advocate for causes like environment conservation, civil responsibility, and street-children rehabilitation.
“We aim to encourage people through our songs to be optimistic about life despite the hard economic challenges, love one another, love the environment, culture and peace,” he adds.
Since they are a group of diverse talents their style of music is a fusion of different styles, from reggae like in Twendaneni to more contemporary styles like in Mazingira.
They have also recorded in different languages, making their music transcend local boundaries.
The crew plans to do a worldwide tour next year, to be preceded by a national tour in the coming month of December.
Next month they plan to release their first fully complete album, a compilation of the twelve songs that they have been releasing singly.
No ill talk
Away from the music, each of the artistes also pursues interests in other fields. Somi is a producer and a video producer, Kenneth is a trained doctor while Wycliffe is a banker although the latter says he does not practice, having decided to concentrate on music and theatre. He is also the one in charge of public relations for the group.
As a group, they have faced stereotypes that they wish to debunk. “People should not think that since the name Ameru Crew connotes Meru, all of our songs are sung in Meru language,” he says.
He adds: “We are a humble and God-fearing group and people should not hate or talk ill of us.”
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