There has been an outpouring of grief following the death of top Kikuyu Benga musician John Ng'ang'a Mwangi, popularly known as John DeMathew, in a grisly road crash near Thika Town on Sunday night.
Since the news of his death broke, condolences have been pouring in from fellow musicians, fans and political leaders from across the country.
DeMathew, who was the chairman of the recently launched Tamco Sacco, was returning home from a fundraising meeting at Metro Fill bar in the town when he met his death.
His body was moved to the Kenyatta University Funeral Home where a post-mortem examination will be done Tuesday ahead of burial on Saturday in his Mukurwe village in Gatanga, Murang’a County.
His death echoes a warning in his first most popular hit Peris Nduku, which he released in 1987 and in which he narrates about his lover’s death in a grisly road crash, warning that sometimes vehicles are unreliable.
In the song, DeMathew narrates how, with his lover, they were involved in a fatal crash as they went to visit his parents in Gatanga.
But their car rolled while climbing a hill thus cutting short their journey home.
They were taken to hospital where his lover Nduku died while undergoing treatment. He ends the song with farewell words to his lover, who kisses him a final goodbye as she breathed her last, telling her that he is also on the way and that they will meet in heaven.
It was a classic masterpiece that threw DeMathew into music fame which he maintained in his over 30 years singing career.
Incidentally, DeMathew died in a similar way as happened to his imaginary lover Nduku.
On Sunday, August 18, 2019, his car hit a trailer-truck from the rear as he drove up an incline near Thika’s Blue Post Hotel along the Thika-Murang’a Road.
He was pronounced dead at the Thika Nursing Home where he had been rushed following the crash.
Following the news of his tragic death, many FM radio stations and local TV stations in Nairobi and central Kenya were for most of Monday playing most of DeMathew’s popular tracks, and, especially, Peris Nduku, in which he appears to have had a premonition of his own death also in a road crash.
Like the poet or “prophet” he was, DeMathew follows other stars, who also seem to have predicted the manner in which they would die.
Speaking to the Nation Monday, fellow Kikuyu musician Kamande Wa Kioi expressed his sorrow at having lost a close friend and fellow singer.
“We are lost for words following his untimely death, as we had closely worked together over the years,” Wa Kioi said.
A really notable tribute came from the Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege, who, before venturing into politics some years ago, had starred alongside DeMathew in the video of another of his popular songs Njata Yakwa (My star).
In a biblical verse on her Facebook page, Ms Chege posted: “Good people die, and no one understands...But when they die, no calamity can hurt them.”
The woman rep remembered the closeness the two had, particularly in the earlier years when they recorded and performed together.
The Njata Yakwa video clip was trending for most of Monday, receiving a lot of views online, with fans relieving MP Chege’s earlier days as a recording artiste and later radio a presenter before she joined politics.
Also eulogising DeMathew was Gatanga MP Joseph Nduati Ngugi who said the musician’s death has deprived the county of one of the music gems from his constituency.
“We received the news of his death with utmost shock among all the Gatanga constituents and other Kenyans,” he said in statement.
Last year, the MP organised Gatanga Night, a cultural and performing concert in Nairobi, where De Mathew was among the artistes on stage.
DeMathew, who was also popularly known as Baba Ciku, had a carved a niche for himself as one of the most popular Kikuyu benga musicians.
His father's name was Mathew, hence the DeMathew stage name sometimes abbreviated as D’Mathew.
Gatanga, often referred to as the cradle of music in central Kenya, is also home to other renowned singers, including Peter Kigia Wa Esther, Timona Mburu, and the veteran Daniel Kamau or DK Wa Maria.
Others are the late John Ndichu, Kariuki Wa Kiarutara, Kimani Thomas, the late Makibi James and Joseph Muruaru.
Top gospel singer Sarah Kiarie also hails from Gatanga.
Incidentally, it was Timona and Joseph Wamumbe who inspired DeMathew in his early music career, particularly with the “Jennifer’ song.
Speaking to the Nation Monday, Timona recalled how he, DeMathew and Sam Muraya went into temporarily self-exile to Uganda in 1993 over some controversial songs they had released at the height of the struggle for multipartyism in Kenya.
“We had fled fearing arrest but returned shortly later after it was realised there wasn’t anything bad with lyrics of the songs,” he said.
In October, last year, the Benga music fraternity suffered a major blow with the death of veteran Kikuyu crooner Joseph Kamaru, who also excelled in recording and performing Kikuyu folks songs.
To most fans of De Mathew his catchy songs were not only filled with love messages, but also social awareness.
And like many other artistes, he in some instances rubbed music lovers the wrong way with his controversial lyrics, some said to be bordering on ethnic incitement, and for which he was arraigned, but later acquitted.
DeMathew was ever vibrant on the stage, bold and donning cowboy hats.
His ever-sharp eyes were also a distinct identity.
Also mourning the star was Jacqueline Njambi Kamau a Nairobi fan who said she particularly liked his chart buster “Njambi” that she grew up listening to.
"This particular song reminds me of my name Njambi and how in my community women named Njambi were often loved and cherished,” she said.
She also liked other songs such Pin Number, Menye Menye and Ndinda Kakwa.
Also paying tribute to the late singer was Joseph Njoroge (Deejay Njoroh Sweet), also from Nairobi, who said he had been a fan of his music.
“Ever since I got the news of his death I have been playing some of his popular tracks," he said.
Fellow musicians, politicians, fans and family members have begun making funeral arrangements for DeMathew.