9th March 2019: Marehemu George Mukabi – Bibi Mama Ngani Mzuri

Artist: Marehemu George Mukabi
Title: Bibi Mama Ngani Mzuri
Language: Swahili
Translation: What a beautiful mother she is

This fabulous Kenyan track is originally from George Mukabi’s album ‘Sengula Nakupenda’, which was recorded in 1956. This version here is from a 2007 compilation called ‘Lipa Kodi Ya City Council’ (which is named after one of the tracks on the album by Isaya Mwinamo).

George Mukabi was a member of the Kikuyu tribe from western Kenya, and his wonderful guitar playing style combined with beautifully poignant lyrics has made him very popular. He only recorded 30 songs in his musical career. He was sadly killed in 1963 by a member of his wife’s family after an argument got out of hand. The word ‘marehemu’ is Swahili for ‘late (i.e. deceased), and this is the reason he is now often described as ‘Marehemu George Mukabi”.

There is a really great article here on the Bandcamp website, written by Beverly Bryan, about the style of music George Mukabi played (also, by all accounts, invented), called Omutibo. It was all the rage in mid-50s / late-60s Kenya! The article describes more about the style of music, other artists who played / play in the Omutibo style, and also how a record company in Portland, Oregon called Olvido Records, along with Portland’s Mississippi Records and Chicago’s Raw Music International, are on a joint mission to share music from this time in Kenya. Have a read – it’s fascinating! I am always in awe of people who are so in love with a particular type of music that they go on amazing research trips to preserve it and share it with the rest of us. Thank you!

DJ Esperanto


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