Joseph Kamaru

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Joseph Kamaru (born 1939) is a benga musician from central Kenya. He is a leading Kikuyu musician,[1] who has sold about half a million records.[2]

Kamaru is from Kangema, Muranga District. In 1957 he moved to Nairobi where he got a cleaning job. He started pursuing music in 1965.[3] Kamaru made his first breakthrough in 1967 with Celina.[1] The height of his musical career was between 1975-1985. In the late 1980s he was the first Kenyan artist to play at the Carnivore Restaurant, then only hosting foreign artists. According to Martin Dunford, the owner of the restaurant, Kamaru's vibrant performance opened doors for other Kenyan artist to perform at the venue.[3]'

Many of his songs were political, either praising or criticising the government.[4] Initially he had a good relationships with president Jomo Kenyatta, but after writing a song condemning the murder of Josiah Mwangi Kariuki in 1975 Kamaru fell out with him. After Kenyatta died, the next president Daniel arap Moi was close to the artist. In 1980 Kamaru toured Japan as a part of President Moi's entourage. After the visit he composed Safari ya Japan praising the president. But the President was not pleased with Kamaru's support for multiparty democracy in the late 1980s.[3]

In 1993 he turned from secular music to gospel music and disbanded his previous group, the Kamaru Supersounds.[5] The change saw a plunge in his record sales.[3]

Kamaru is the chairman of the Kenya Association of Phonographic Industries (KAPI), and owns a church ministry in Nairobi.[6] He also runs two record stores in Nairobi.[7] In addition, Kamaru has recorded more than 2000 songs since his debut. He is still enigmatic in music industry for he can sing, dance and somersault as he claims. Kamaru remains to be a great Kenyan legend in the field of entertainment.

His popular songs include muhiki wa mikosi and muti uyu mukuona among others[8]


  1. ^ a b Rough Guide to the World Music
  2. ^ The Music Business in Kenya
  3. ^ a b c d Daily Nation, Lifestyle Magazine, April 18, 2009: The memoirs of a musical maverick
  4. ^ Kimani Njogu & Hervé Maupeu (2007): Songs and Politics in Eastern Africa
  5. ^ Allmusic profile
  6. ^ Daily Nation, July 7, 2006: My Take - Joseph Kamaru
  7. ^ East African, January 27, 2003: "Kenyan Music Stays 'Unbwogable' in Hard Times". Archived from the original on February 27, 2003. Retrieved 2009-02-01. 
  8. ^