Discordant note as musicians go for each other’s throats

Ken Wambua wa Maria, the founder and band leader of Yatta Orchestra. PHOTO / FILE

What you need to know:

  • Former best of friends trade insults and accusations through CDs and VCDs

A bitter war of words has erupted between two leading musicians in Ukambani, sharply splitting adoring fans into camps.

Ken Wambua wa Maria, the founder and band leader of Yatta Orchestra, and his former lead vocalist Ben Mbatha Mutua, popularly known as Kativui Mweene to his fans, are arguably the most sought-after musicians in Ukambani today, but the fact that they no longer sing from the same hymn sheet has given local music a discordant tone.

Before 2006, Ken and Kativui were the best of friends, and with Yatta Orchestra, belted out hit after hit.

Relations turned sour after a van in which the group was travelling was involved in an accident on the Nairobi-Mombasa highway as they drove to the coastal town for a show.

All band members were injured and took long to heal.

Back on his feet

After he got back on his feet, Ken released his Volume 20 Ajali ya wana Yatta where he sang about the accident.

Kativui skipped the launch event and went solo. And in response to the song, he came up with Malanga aa tulikanata namo tata — (“What do you expect us to do with these broken limbs, dad?)”

The song triggered an avalanche of barbs and insults that has refused to go away.

Listening to Kativui’s songs with his Kyaume Boys band leaves one with the feeling that he is listening to Yatta Orchestra as the beat and vocals are similar.

This seems to have infuriated Ken wa Maria and, in his song Kavaluki tells the story of a hare who, after crossing a flooded river on elephant’s back, started insulting him once he was safely on the other side of the river. Kativui replied with the song Kivuthya, meaning “Stop belittling me”.

From audio CDs the war moved to VCDs, with Ken releasing Fala wa Kawaida, or typical village fool, in which he sings about an illiterate villager who is seen in the VCD reading a newspaper upside down.

In response, Ben came up with the song Kavaluki na Nzou where he invites fans to Kasarani stadium to witness a duel where kamwana (child) and tata (father) fight, resulting in the son flooring his father!

In the same VCD, Ben, aka Kativui, talks of a band leader who can neither play the guitar nor sing without help.

In the song Vai Kyoo in Ken’s latest album, Ka-yori Yori Kakwa, he sings about his enemy visiting traditional witchdoctors in an effort to harm him.

In a recent interview with Review, Ken wa Maria denied knowing Kativui.

“I have to check my records. You see, my band has seen many musicians come and go, maybe he was one of them,” he said from his Doonholm home.

Ken, a former personal assistant to slain Kilome MP Tony Ndilinge, scored a mean grade A- in his KCSE exams and enrolled at the University of Nairobi School of Law, but quit to pursue a career in music.

Unending battles

The two musicians’ unending battles have prompted colleagues to call for a ceasefire.

Veteran musician and guitarist Bosco Mulwa and Bob Mbithi said this week that something needed to be done urgently to end the feud.

Mulwa said political leaders in the region were dividing the people and musicians had a role in preaching unity.

“It is sad that instead of uniting the people, the musicians have joined politicians in dividing the community further,” he said.


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