Ketebul Music Speaks To ‘MDQ’ – Muthoni The Drummer Queen

In our quest to retrace the origins and development of popular music in Kenya over the past fifty years, we have been conducting interviews with individuals who have contributed significantly to the music scene over the years. Events, venues and spaces that offer platforms for this music to reach audiences, play a major role in this development. In this regard, it was only right that we spoke to the songwriter, poet and social entrepreneur ‘Muthoni The Drummer Queen,’ to get her insight on Blankets & Wine – the  picnic styled music festival that she initiated in November 2008.

MDQ with Ketebul Music Crew

We caught up with her at Blinky Bill’s studio during one of her recording sessions. MDQ as she is popularly known shared with us among other issues,  the struggles of balancing her own music career with the rigorous demands of putting up the event on a monthly basis.

Blankets & Wine dwelt on multicultural collaborations with a mix of contemporary traditional music to urban genres. The success of the festival led it to be a much sought after venue by international artists from all across the world. The event expanded into Kampala in 2013, seeking to reach a wider East African audience.

With an aim to redefine its objectives, Blankets and Wine has developed to cater for all art lovers with the introduction of visual arts, a writers’ stage and a DJ stage among others.
For more on Blankets & Wine and other like events that have helped shape the popular music scene in Kenya, we urge you to stay tuned and watch out for the release of – Benga: Evolution of Kenya’s Popular Music!

For more on Blankets & Wine, click HERE


The Retracing Series on KBC Tv: Kikuyu Popular Music

Over the past 3 weeks Ketebul Music in conjunction with KBC TV have been airing our Retracing series of documentaries. These are aired as a 13 part series every Sunday at 5:30pm on KBC channel one.

The Retracing Series is based on research documentaries on the origins and development of different genres and styles of music from Kenya. So far we have documented;

Benga: Retracing The Benga Rhythm, (which was aired over the first 3 weeks)

Kikuyu Popular Music: Retracing Kikuyu Popular Music

Funk: Retracing Kenya’s Funky Hits

Protest music: Retracing Kenya’s Songs of Protest

This coming Sunday, we shift focus from “Retracing the Benga Rhythm,” to “Retracing Kikuyu Popular Music.”

Stay tuned on Ketebul Music website and social media for updates and extracts from the Kikuyu popular music edition, and be sure to join us this Sunday at 5:30pm on KBC Channel One for the first installment of this edition.

All the editions of the Retracing Series of documentaries are available at Ketebul Music Studios and selected outlets. For inquiries and delivery within CBD call +254 720 561 198


Ochieng’ Nelly: The Passing of A Legend

We at Ketebul Music, on behalf of the Kenyan music fraternity and all lovers of benga music regret to announce the sudden passing of veteran musician Ochieng’ Nelly Orwa.

Ochieng' Nelly's career span over 5 decades

Ochieng’ died on Wednesday 30th April at Kenyatta National Hospital where he had been rushed by family and friends.

Ochieng’ was one of the two surviving members of the original Ogara Boys Band of the 60s which was led by John Ogara Kaisa. This trio, which also included Akech Oyosi Jabuya, are credited as being the pioneers of the old school benga sound.

Ochieng' Nelly (center) during a recording session at Ketebul Music Studios with his band mate from the Ogara Boys Band: Akech Oyosi (far right) and his late wife Rosemary Andego (far left). Photo: No Nation

His passing is especially regrettable coming at this time when we were in the middle of preparations for the upcoming Smithsonian Folklife Festival to be held in Washington DC in June, where Ochieng’ was scheduled to perform.

Ochieng’ Nelly was not just a veteran but an important influence to the younger crop of musicians who wanted to master the art of playing benga music. Shiphton Winyo, Akuku Danger and Eddie Grey are some of the younger generation of musicians who have benefited from Ochieng’s influence and mentor ship.

Ochieng' Nelly sharing a few benga guitar tips with Winyo. Photo: Steve 64

Ochieng' Nelly and his young protege Jared Akuku Danger during a recent performance. Photo: Quaint Photography

Ochieng' Nelly & Eddie Grey at a performance. Photo: Quaint Photography

One of his recent projects was a collaboration with the rap duo of MC Matre from the US and Paleface from Finland on a studio recording which they were set to release. The joke at the studio was that he should start donning bling bling and practicing walking with a rapper’s swagger. We obviously didn’t know he wouldn’t live to see the project come to fruition.

After a chequered musical career that span five decades, Ochieng’ was making a successful comeback to the live music scene and festival circuit. He had secured 14 confirmed bookings to tour Germany, Holland, Belgium and France in 2015, a tour that now has to be cancelled. The French tour follows a series of recordings he did with Radio France International last year. Ochieng’ had also been booked to perform at the closing of the DOADOA music market which will be taking place in Jinja Uganda in May 2014.

He was also keen on re-recording and introducing to the younger generation popular old music from the 1950s by such greats like Olima Anditi and Lango Obiero.

Ochieng' Nelly during a Singing Wells Recording @ Ketebul Music Studios. Photo: Singing Wells

The passing of Ochieng’ Nelly should remind us of the importance of researching and documenting Kenya’s rich and diverse cultural history in order to assist the youth in developing a sound that truly reflects and captures Kenya’s identity.

Our condolences go to the members of his family.

Photo: Quaint Photography

Ochieng' Nelly

Welcome to Music Monday!

Owing to the fact that it is the first day after the weekend and the beginning of the ‘official’ work man’s week, Monday is normally viewed in sort of a negative light. With terms like ‘Monday Blues,’ in reference to having to get over the effects of an easy going weekend, Mondays are dreaded by both young and old be it in school or the work place.

Well, in an effort to break the ‘Monday Blues’ stigma, and to give you a positive outlook to the day, we would like to welcome you to Musical Monday(s)!

We will be featuring stories, music and profiles of musicians and artistes that we like. This will not be a critics review, but just us pointing out the music we like: more like a musical compass pointing you out to the ‘right’ direction from our perspective.

To start us off this Monday, we will feature the group Sarabi.


Sarabi is Swahili for Mirage. It also means, Imagination, Vision and Creation. They describe their music as a vivid representation of our society, and influenced by the everyday happenings. It features traditional Kenyan rhythms, Benga and a blend of Western sounds.

Sarabi was formed in 2005 and has in the recent years emerged as one of the most exciting and sought after bands in Kenya. The Band is made up of 8 young men, hailing from the Eastlands area of Nairobi, who started playing music before they were even teenagers. They have worked together and grown into an accomplished and solid band, with very high levels of professionalism, that is sometimes lacking in bands who are even twice their age.

They have been described by the press as “The next force in Kenyan music,” (Drum Magazine, Oct 2007) and as being “The new face of AFRO-Fusion in Kenya” (BUZZ Magazine, August 2013).

Sarabi released their debut album titled “OYAORE”- A new beginning in July 2013.

They will be on stage this Friday the 31st of January 2014, performing at the launch of Ketebul Music’s Retracing Kenya’s Songs of Protest.

Retracing Kenya's Songs of Protest E Poster

Be sure to join us and catch Sarabi live on stage where they will perform Fwata Sheria among other of their popular songs.

CLICK HERE for more on Sarabi

CLICK HERE for more on Retracing Kenya’s Songs of Protest

for details on Retracing Kenya’s Songs of Protest launch concert


Welcome to Throwback Thursday!

Welcome to Throwback Thursday!

We dedicate our Thursdays to reviewing and revisiting our past projects, events and generally things we have been involved in.

Today, as we are gearing up to release our latest edition of the Retracing series titled Retracing Kenya’s Songs of Protest, we shall revisit one of the earlier editions in the series: Retracing Kikuyu Popular Music.

Retracing Kikuyu Popular Music is the 2nd edition in the Retracing series. It was officially released on Friday 17 December, 2010. The launch was held at Alliance Francaise de Nairobi and included a concert that featured performances by non other than the legendary musicians Joseph Kamaru and DK Mwai.

The Retracing Series

Joseph Kamaru in the 1970s

Dk Mwai

The project traced the roots of Mugithi and aimed at answering the following questions:
Why did Gospel music become such a big part of Kikuyu popular music?
Is it true that there is a Jim Reeves, Don Williams or Kenny Rodgers cassette in the home of every music-loving Kikuyu?
Why is it that amongst the Kikuyu rural elite and urban middle-class, one of the nicknames given to a fast-talking know-it-all is “Jimmie Rodger?”
How did the name of the American “father of country music” – Jimmie Rodgers – come to be inscribed in the spoken idiom of the Kikuyu of the 21st Century? Why does Kikuyu urban guitar music carry the riffs of American country music?
Why do virtually all Kikuyu popular musicians wear American Stetson hats and Denim suits, and occasionally, a leather jacket and studded belt?

Retracing Kikuyu Popular Music Front Cover

Retracing Kikuyu Popular Music takes a journey into the roots of Kikuyu music tries to answer these and many other questions. The answers may not be straightforward but in trying to unlock the riddles, Ketebul Music avails part of the archive of Kikuyu popular music in new and accessible formats.


Retracing Kenya’s Songs of Protest, Preview & Prelaunch Concert

Ketebul Music releases its most recent compilation in the popular ‘Retracing series.’

The Retracing Series

This latest compilation ‘Retracing Kenya’s Songs of Protest (1963-2013)’ chronicles the contribution of generations of Kenyan musicians in the movement for social and political reform.

Retracing Kenya's Songs Of Protest

It celebrates ‘protest’ music and those who make it: music that plays an important role in highlighting injustices and the visionaries whose creative spirit and sacrifice makes social change possible.

The project is supported by the Ford Foundation Office For Eastern Africa.

In conjunction with the Alliance Française, Ketebul Music will air a preview of the documentary contained in this multimedia package, which also comes with a narrative booklet and an audio CD compilation of recent protest music, at the Alliance Francaise de Nairobi gardens.

This will be followed by a concert featuring performances by Just A Band, Sarabi, Juliani, Eric Wainaina and Ohanglaman Makadem.

Just A Band



Eric Wainaina

Makadem in Ontario Canada

Makadem in Ontario Canada

This event will be hosted by John Sibi-Okumu.

Entry is absolutely FREE!

The multimedia package will be on sale at a one time special collectors introductory price of KES 1,000/= ONLY! After that, prices revert to the usual KES 3,000/= price of the Retracing Series collection.

Unsung Heroes Photo Exhibition
In the weeks preceding the launch of this multimedia package, Ketebul Music will hold a photographic exhibition at the Alliance Francaise de Nairobi lobby.

The pictures in this exhibition are a culmination of research and archiving carried out by Ketebul Music over a period of seven years as part of the Retracing Kenyan Music series.This photo exhibition, produced with the support of the Kenya Music Week, pays tribute to musicians who have shaped the various genres of music in Kenya, and influenced our social psyche over the past five decades.

One of the pictures featured in the exhibition: Gidigidi Majimaji

The “50 Years of Kenyan Music” photo exhibition made its debut at the 10th Annual KENYA MUSIC WEEK which took place at the Sarit Centre Expo Hall from; Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th December 2013 as part of Kenya @ 50 Celebrations, and plans to tour the Country for the next 12 months.

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