Maroon Commandos

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Maroon Commandos is a musical group from Kenya. It is a military band belonging to 7th Kenya Rifles (Kenya Army Infantry) of the Kenya Army. They are based at the Langata Barracks in Langata, Nairobi. The group performs benga, rumba and other styles of music. They perform both original and cover versions.[1] The band plays often at state functions.[2]

The group was formed in 1970 by bandleader Habel Kifoto and some other member. The next year they signed with Polydor Kenya[3] and released the hit "Emily".[4] In 1972 the band had a traffic accident, which left some of their members dead. After the accident the band was dormant for five years before releasing their album Raziki Haivatu after 1977.[3] They also released the song "Charonyi ni Wasi", whose lyrics were written in the Taita language. "Charonyi Ni Wasi" became Maroon Commandos' first major hit.[5]

The band had a 10-year recording break which ended with the release of Shika Kamba album in 2007, released by the Sound Africa label.[2][6]

The band has had several line-up changes since its formation. Former bandleader Habel Kifoto has retired from the military and is currently (as of 2009 )the chairman of Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK).[7] One of its former core members, David Kibe Left the band after he rose in the military ranks and had no more time for the band.[2] Another former member was Laban Ochuka, who also played for another army band, the Ulinzi Orchestra. Ochuka died in May 2006.[8]

Diwani Nzaro was the band leader still in 2009. From late 90s he was part of the Malindi-based "Magazines"-band, that disbanded in 2002. He subsequently joined Kenyan Army and their band Maroon Commandos. He contributed for the two latest albums of the group, Shika Kamba and Kenya Unite. While still a band member, he released his debut solo album in 2009. On the album he performs traditional giriama songs.[1] The group has also had female members, like singers Doris Chepchumba Tanui[9] and Barbara Chepkoech Kiprotich (aka Waridi)[10]

The album Kenya Unite was written in the response of the 2007–2008 Kenyan post-election crisis. David Kombo is the current band leader, who joined the band in the late 80s and is the longest serving current band member (as of 2010). In the recent past the group has also had some members outside the military ranks.[11]

Habel Kifoto died on 31 July 2011 in Nairobi as he collapsed due to a suspected heart failure[12]


Their albums until 1991 were released by Polydor Kenya[3] and the latest albums by Sound Africa.

  • Raziki Haivatu (1977 or later)
  • Dawan Nimuone Hani (1983)
  • Pesa Maradhi Ya Moyo (with Daudi Kabaka) (1986)
  • Hasiri na Hasara (1986)
  • Bila Jasho "Mwakaribishwa na Maroon" (1989)
  • Bonya Kutché (1990)
  • Shikamoo (1991)
  • Shika Kamba (2007)
  • Kenya Unite
  • Habel Kifoto & Maroon Commandoes – Greatest Hits


  1. ^ a b The Standard, 7 August 2009: Soldier marches back to his roots
  2. ^ a b c Daily Nation, 12 February 2009: Maroon Back With Hit Album[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ Simon Broughton, Mark Ellingham, Richard Trillo: World Music: Africa, Europe and the Middle East Rough Guides, 1999
  6. ^ Sound Africa: Maroon Commandos – Shika Kamba[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Daily Nation, 9 March 2009: Fat cheques for Kenyan musicians at last
  8. ^ Daily Nation, Saturday Review, 13 May 2006: Curtain falls on Ochuka
  9. ^ Daily Nation, 24 March 2009: Soldier Turns to Music to Heal Nation[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ The Standard, 19 June 2009: Sweet scented rose of music and theatre[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ Daily Nation, Saturday Magazine, 30 January 2010: Maroon Commandos march to their rhythm 40 years and counting
  12. ^ Daily Nation, 31 July 2011: Top Kenyan musician Kifoto dies