Joseph Kamaru’s on and off relationship with Presidents Kenyatta, Moi


Joseph Kamaru's on and off relationship with Presidents Kenyatta, Moi
Joseph Kamaru. Photo/FILE

In Summary

  • Kamaru enjoyed a warm relationship with Kenya's first president Jomo Kenyatta but all of that changed after the assassination of politician JM Kariuki.
  • He also enjoyed a warm relationship with President Moi but that too came to an end when he supported multiparty democracy in the late 1980s.
  • In 1993, Kamaru shocked many when he announced he was a born-again Christian and would concentrate on gospel music.

Kenyans woke to shocking news of the passing on of popular Kikuyu musician Joseph Kamaru who was receiving treatment at MP Shah Hospital in Nairobi.

Kamaru’s family through his son Stephen Maina confirmed the death saying the celebrated musician died at about 9pm Wednesday night after developing difficulties in breathing.

Kamaru’s talent accorded him fame and fortune and saw him call all five of Kenya’s presidents friends with the exception of Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi with whom he had a bitter fallout.

Birth

Joseph Kamaru was born in 1939 in Kangema Murang’a County where he attended his primary education till 1957.

After his Primary School education, Kamaru, who didn’t continue with his Secondary education, moved to Nairobi in search of a job.

He hawked clothes in the streets of Nairobi and also engaged in odd house chores in the different neighborhoods to eke out a living. In a month he could roughly raise about Ksh.180, a tidy sum back then.

Music career

Tired of life as a hawker, Kamaru decided to venture into music with little knowledge of just how successful and impactful he was about to be.

In a past interview, he revealed that he loved music growing up in the village where he enjoyed participating in singing sessions with Mau Mau fighters as a boy.

He said even as a boy, he used to record songs in a little book that he unfortunately lost when colonizers, hunting for the freedom fighters, stormed his village and torched houses.

During this period he loved singing Wiyathi na Ithaka (Freedom and land) na Twathiaga Tukenete songs.

Rise to fame

It wasn’t long before Kamaru released a hit song. His rise to fame begun in 1960s when he released a hit song and he never looked back.

By the mid 1970s, Kamaru was a household name in the Kikuyu community something that brought him fame and fortune.

Some of his popular songs included; Ndari ya Mwalimu a rebuke of illicit affairs between teachers and their pupils, Tiga Kuhenia Igoti (Don’t lie to the court) which touched on rape and Thigari cia waitina.

Many of Kamuru’s song are widely loved as many people say they are characterised by wise sayings that are relatable to everyday life.

His talent opened doors from the local pubs to the highest office in the land, State House.

Relationship with Jomo Kenyatta

Kamaru enjoyed a warm relationship with Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta but all of that changed after the assassination of politician JM Kariuki.

He released a song that harshly condemned the murder of his friend and called for the people who had murdered his friend to be sentenced to death.

In an interview, Kamaru said that after the song, he experienced very tough times because the song didn’t go well with the ruling elite and he even started receiving death threats.

“I received threats that if I was not careful, my head would be picked from Ngong where Kariuki’s lifeless body was found, ” he said.

Relationship with Moi

He also enjoyed a warm relationship with President Moi but that too came to an end when he supported multiparty democracy in the late 1980s.

So close was Kamaru and the president that he accompanied President Moi on an official trip to Japan in 1980. On their return, the singer composed Safari Ya Japan which was solely dedicated to Mr. Moi.

His song, dubbed Mahoya ma Bururi (prayers of the nation) didn’t go well with the politics of the day during Moi’s regime which led to him being summoned.

In 1992, things got worse after Kamaru publicly said on live TV that Kenyans were not happy with Moi’s regime during Madaraka Day celebrations.

Venture into gospel industry

In 1993, Kamaru shocked many when he announced he was a born-again Christian and would concentrate on gospel music.

He disbanded his band “Kamaru Supersounds,” but it was here that his career took a nosedive and never quite recovered.

Life in Kibaki’s regime

During Mwai Kibaki’s regime, after he sang Mbaki ya Kibaki, Kamaru was invited to pray for Kibaki who was involved in a car accident during the 2002 elections.

The two, unlike with Kenyatta and Moi, continued with their cordial relationship until the end.

The former president mourned Kamaru as; “a living example of how potent art is in opening new vistas of human imagination and creating possibilities that inform, transform and reawaken social consciousness in profound and memorable ways.”

Ailment

In April, 2018, Kamaru was admitted at a Nairobi hospital though his ailment was a closely guarded secret. Rumours of his death hit social media a few days later but were quickly dismissed.

A few weeks later, it was revealed that his family was unable to foot his hospital bill forcing a section of MPs to fund-raise for his medical treatment.

President Uhuru Kenyatta promised to take care of his bills.

Death

On October 4, Joseph Kamaru died at the MP Shah Hospital in Nairobi where he had been admitted since Monday after he fell ill.

Additional reporting by Wycliffe Nyamasege

 

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