The Kikuyu Benga (Mugithi) music scene in Kenya has witnessed the rise of talented musicians who have captured the hearts of many with their melodious tunes.
However, behind the glitz and glamour, some of these music kings have faced significant hardships that have impacted their lives and careers.
Here are the six Kikuyu mugithi artists who ended up living in poverty as told by WoK.
Julius Kangethe Mwangi ‘By Law’
Julius Kangethe Mwangi, popularly known as ‘By Law,’ is a celebrated Kikuyu Benga musician who has achieved great success with his hit song “Mumbi.”
However, his journey to stardom has been overshadowed by a personal battle with multiple sclerosis (MS), a debilitating disease that affects the nervous system.
‘By Law’ has experienced the full impact of MS since 2006, and its progression has left him emaciated and unable to spend time in the recording studio.
Fortunately, the support from fans and the intervention of Kameme FM, through their breakfast show, raised funds for his treatment in India to undergo CCSVI surgery to address the disorder.
Albert Gacheru, a prominent figure in the Kikuyu Benga music industry, recently passed away at the age of 59. Gacheru, known for his hit song “Mwendwa wakwa Mariru,” made significant contributions to the industry.
He not only entertained audiences with his music but also played a vital role in jumpstarting the careers of other Kikuyu Benga musicians.
Gacheru’s commitment to protecting artists’ rights led him to pursue a law degree and actively engage in organizations such as the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) and the Kenya Music Composers Association.
Despite facing challenges such as music piracy and the loss of his music production studio, Gacheru’s passion for music remained unwavering.
Moses Wanyoike, the celebrated Kikuyu Benga Maestro and member of the Muthithi Komesha Band, is currently facing challenging living conditions at his home in Githunguri/Kiahiti, Muthithi Ward.
He is famed for hit songs such as ‘No Nguka Ndi Murira’.
Muchoki Wa Kibe ‘Wakagimbi’
Muchoki Wa Kibe popularly known as ‘Wakagimbi’ is a veteran Kikuyu Mugithi Musician who hails from Murang’a. He is known for pioneering Kikuyu adult music and believed to inspire popular musicians in the same line such as Mike Rua and Mike Murimi.
In a Youtube video seen by WoK, Wakagimbi is seen living in deplorable conditions in Mathare slums and he was asking for help from fans and well wishers.
SK Kimani, a renowned Kikuyu musician, passed away on 4 March 2023 at the age of 85. He was well-known for his hit song “Karaiku” and contributed significantly to the Kikuyu music industry throughout his career.
His musical repertoire extended beyond “Karaiku” and encompassed other popular songs such as “Kwari Muthenya wa Juma,” “Kiamaiko,” “Mwendwa Joyce,” and “Rugano rwa Naivasha.”
His music resonated with a wide audience and left an indelible mark on the Kikuyu music scene. The late musician passed in while living in deplorable condition in slums in Nairobi city.
Wilson Kuria a.k.a Mukaramani
The artist, popularly known as Mukaramani, is a Kikuyu Benga musician with a musical career spanning over 40 years. His rise to fame came with his hit song “P3 ya Wendo.”
Mukaramani shares his life history, recounting his early struggles as an uneducated herd’s boy and his life in the Nairobi slums.
He also narrates an interesting anecdote about being transferred from Karura to Mathare after eating a goat that was shipped from Australia as a gift to Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
Despite starting with limited education and resources, Mukaramani’s passion for music drove him forward. When the late Joseph Kamaru changed tune to gospel music, most veteran musicians who performed with him, including Mukaramani faced career hitches.
Over the years, he has witnessed the changing landscape of the industry, including the impact of music piracy and the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.