When the famous airlift of Kenyan students to the US was announced in the early 1960s, David Amunga (centre in checked coat) thought he stood a good chance of being selected during interviews for the candidates to be awarded the scholarships.
As it turned out, Amunga was not chosen but instead his friend and fellow musician, Ben Blastus O’Bulawayo, was among those picked to join various colleges in the US in order to gain useful skills for the newly independent nation. Interestingly, the two musicians had worked together on the classic 1950s recording, Someni Vijana, a song extolling the virtues of education.
Struck by homesickness, O’Bulawayo, who was studying in Alaska, wrote to his friend lamenting about loneliness and the cold weather. This letter inspired Amunga to write a song called America to Africa in 1964.
Released on the Mwangaza record label, which he had started as an independent African music production house, the song made a huge impact, registering sales in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.
In 1967, after the closure of Mwangaza, he launched another record label, Kassanga Productions (not to be confused with a similar company started in the 1980s). It is on this label that he released Mama Mukoya and Jane is Pretty in 1968 and also recorded songs by emerging music stars of the time like Daniel DK Kamau and DO Misiani.
Born in 1938 in Kakamega, Amunga has spent almost 60 years as an influential artiste, producer, talent scout, and champion for the rights of Kenyan musicians. In the 1980s, he formed ARTCO, the first cooperative society for artistes and was also a founder member of the Music Copyright Society of Kenya. He is one of the few survivors from the early generation of Kenyan pop musicians.