Seven Legendary Mugithi Musicians Of All Time And Their Top Hits

Kikuyu Benga music, also known as Mugithi, holds a significant place in Kenyan music, particularly among the Kikuyu community. This genre has a rich history and has produced numerous influential artists who have left an indelible mark in the music scene in Kenya.

From the early pioneers to the contemporary stars, Kikuyu Benga musicians have captivated audiences with their vibrant rhythms, powerful lyrics, and distinct musical style.

Here is a comprehensive list of legendary Kikuyu Benga musicians not listed in any particular order of preference as compiled by WoK.

Legendary Mugithi Musicians Of All Time And Their Top Hits
Photocredit/Nation Media Group

John Ng’ang’a Mwangi alias John De’Matthew

John De’Matthew, a renowned Kikuyu Benga musician, gained fame with his timeless hit “My Dear Nduku” in 1987. The song tells a fictitious story of De’Matthew’s profound loss after the tragic death of his lover, Peris Nduku, in a road accident. The emotional lyrics struck a chord with Kikuyu music lovers, earning him a place in their hearts. 

The popularity of “My Dear Nduku” propelled De’Matthew to music stardom. Throughout his career, he composed other notable hits like “Njata Yakwa,” “Njambi,” “Tuuragio Ki,” “Muoyo ti Kibandi,” “PIN yakwa,” and “Ngoro Gitina.” De’Matthew’s contributions to the Mount Kenya region’s secular music industry were unparalleled.

Legendary Mugithi Musicians Of All Time And Their Top Hits
Photocredit/Nation Media

Joseph Kamaru (1939 – 2018)

Joseph Kamaru, an influential figure in Kenya’s music scene since 1967, was a legendary Kikuyu Benga and gospel musician, political activist, and icon. Known for his politically motivated songs that praised or criticized the government, Kamaru’s music also covered life teachings, promiscuity, and social issues in Kenyan politics and culture. He enjoyed a close relationship with President Jomo Kenyatta and later with President Daniel arap Moi. 

Kamaru’s breakthrough came with his hit song “Celina” in 1967, and he continued to release popular songs like “Gathoni” and “Charia Ungi.” In the 1990s, he shifted to gospel music and disbanded his previous group, the Kamaru Supersounds. Kamaru’s legacy as a Kikuyu music legend lives on, with his songs addressing morality and offering life teachings.

Paul Mutonga (Wanganangu)

Paul Mutonga, popularly known as Wanganangu, was a visually impaired Benga legend born in 1930 in Gatukiini village, Murang’a County. Despite losing his eyesight at a young age, Mutonga pursued his passion for music. He bought his first guitar in 1963 and produced his first song, “Mwendwa Lucy,” which gained popularity. 

His dream of performing for President Kenyatta was fulfilled, and he entertained former Presidents Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Moi, and Mwai Kibaki. Mutonga’s music resonated with many East Africans, and his hits like “Muhiki wa Mikosi” and “Muti Uyu Mukuona” left an indelible mark on the Kikuyu music scene.

Musaimo Wa Njeri Photocredit/Facebook

Simon Kihara (Musaimo Wa Njeri)

Simon Kihara, widely known as Musaimo Wa Njeri, has been a consistent force in Kikuyu classic music for over three decades. His powerful vocals and classic hits like “My Dear Kwaheri,” “Chai wa 14,” and “Kanyenya–Ini” cemented his status as a Kikuyu music legend in the 1980s. Musaimo drew inspiration from music legends like Mbaraka Mwinshehe, Dr Nico, and DK Kamau. 

He persisted in pursuing his dreams, recording songs with the help of a friend, Mwalimu wa Gatanga. Musaimo’s talent and dedication paid off when his song “My Dear Kwaheri” became an instant hit.

C.D.M. Kiratu and co-singer Waitherero [Photo: Courtesy]
Christopher David Mwaura (CDM) Kiratu

CDM Kiratu is a respected musician hailing from Limuru, Kenya, known for his heartfelt compositions. His close bond with the late Joseph Kamaru, a mentor and friend, shaped his musical journey, enabling him to gain recognition and become a household name. Despite the challenges musicians face, Kiratu emphasizes the importance of political goodwill, protection against piracy, and proper royalty collection to uplift Kenyan music. 

He also advocates for music education in schools and the establishment of talent centers and music studios at the county level for the development of local talent. Kiratu draws inspiration from both real-life experiences and imaginative storytelling, as exemplified in songs like “Kaba Kuinuka” and “Therera Ngoro.” 

John Ndichu, AKA Ndicu wa Gakunga

He was a highly gifted and influential musician in the Gikuyu music industry during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Hailing from Gatunyu Village, Gatanga, Ndichu began his musical journey in his school days, recording hits like “Cucu wa Gakunga” and “Akinyi.” He formed a band with Kimani Thomas, and their collaboration produced timeless classics such as “Mwendwa Veronica,” “Joyce,” and “Carolina.” 

Ndichu’s songs touched the hearts of his audience, exploring themes of love, financial struggles, and humor. As a member of the renowned Rwengo Brothers band, he reached the peak of his career. However, the rise of audio cassettes and piracy brought financial challenges.

Kariuki wa Kiarutara Photocredit/Facebook

Kariuki wa Kiarutara

He was born in the early 1960s, is a renowned Kikuyu benga and mugithi musician. He gained popularity as a member of the Kiarutara Boys Mwanzo Band, which he co-founded in 1985 in Gatanga, Murang’a County. Kiarutara’s musical journey was inspired by the late Joseph Kamaru and John Ndichu. 

He recorded his first track in 1984 and went on to release numerous albums and over 180 recorded songs. Some of his notable hits include “Wira ni Wira,” “Ututo Muritu,” “Reke tûrîmo,” “Ciûmbani,” “Waruhiti,” “Mbarî ya mwenda njerû,” and “Wî tirimie naguo.” Kiarutara continues to contribute to the vibrant Kikuyu music scene with plans for future recordings.