For 37 years, Uyoga Band, formerly Them Mushrooms, charmed music enthusiasts in Kenya and beyond with great hits like “Jambo Bwana” and “Ndogo ndogo”.
And now, the band’s contribution to music has been recognised after its lead singer, John Katana Harrison, was awarded the Head of State Recommendation by President Kibaki on Friday.
Two other musicians also got the honours. They are John Nzenze and David Ndung’u, a retired teacher who has been involved in music training for many years.
King of twist
Also honoured was Conrad Njeru, popularly known as “Mr Tiger”. He is known for his muscular antics, including getting Land Rovers to run over his chest.
Nzenze, widely regarded as the remaining “King of twist”, has entertained Kenyans for more than five decades. Some of his popular tunes are “Julieta Rudi Tuone” and “Habari za Nairobi (Nairobi twist)”.
He has also been a board member of the Music Copyright Society of Kenya, which has been in the forefront of fighting for musicians’ royalties.
The awards were presented by the National Heritage and Culture permanent secretary, Dr Jacob ole Miaron.
Speaking during the ceremony, Dr Miaron said these awards are a testimony to the fact that the government recognises the important role musicians play in the country’s development.
“Today we are celebrating a breed of musicians who are back to the Independence Day Kenya, who kept this country together and wore a spirit of nationalism and nationhood among Kenyans of all walks of life,” he said.
“It would be my wish and request that this calibre of musicians continue nurturing young talent in order for our musical heritage to have a measure of continuity,” the PS said.
He said the ministry and the Permanent Presidential Music Commission would continue identifying, nurturing and promoting upcoming talent. This was in recognition of the importance of music as a tool of educating and informing the public, he added.
The Permanent Presidential Music Commission director Rufus Thuku said the four will join 20 other artistes who have been decorated in the last three years, on the recommendation of the commission.
Additional reporting by Tim Kamuzu Banda