What you need to know:
- In 1989, Kigia’s song had headlined the political break-up between then President Daniel Arap Moi and his Vice-President, Dr Josephat Karanja.
- The Sagana III event seems to have given a new lease of life to Kigia’s song, which was uploaded on YouTube 13 years ago.
As President Uhuru Kenyatta all but confirmed there was no love lost between him and his deputy William Ruto on Wednesday, the deejay interspersed Mr Kenyatta’s speech with Peter Kigia’s song, ‘Reke Tumanwo’ (‘Let’s Part Ways’).
Unbeknownst to many at the packed Sagana State Lodge, this was not the first time the song was being played to mark parting of ways between a Kenyan president and his deputy.
Slightly over three decades earlier, in 1989, Kigia’s song had headlined the political break-up between then President Daniel Arap Moi and Kenya’s fifth Vice-President, Dr Josephat Karanja.
Marked by the influence peddlers of the Moi regime, who included Dr Kuria Kanyingi, Vice-President Karanja was humiliated at every turn. His tormenters, politically dancing to the lyrics of Kigia’s song, hounded the VP after only 14 months in office.
Dr Karanja tendered his resignation on the afternoon of April 28, 1989 after he was accused of usurping presidential powers and forcing people to kneel before him. He was replaced by Prof George Saitoiti.
Dr Karanja’s presidential ambitions came to naught when he died of throat cancer on February 28, 1994.
The Sagana III event seems to have given a new lease of life to Kigia’s song, which was uploaded on YouTube 13 years ago and had attracted 95,000 views and 116 comments by Wednesday.
Rated among the top 10 most influential musicians from the Agikuyu community, the 58-year-old Kigia from Gatanga Sub-county says he was surprised at the renewed interest in the song he recorded 33 years ago.
In 1990, the song won Mr Kigia, whose stage name is Kigia wa Esther, the song of the year award.
The 4:37-minute song revolves around a romantic relationship on the rocks, with the persona telling his erstwhile lover that “today I have declared that we part ways; from now henceforth be selling to me whatever I may have been getting from you”.
The song is traditionally popular in the larger Mt Kenya region and is a favourite for functions where a party wants to sever links with another.
On March 1 last year, Nyali MP Mohammed Ali belted out the words of the song in Gatanga Sub-county, where he had accompanied Dr Ruto for Hustler Nation campaigns.
Former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth urged that Kigia’s song be played as a special request for Raila Odinga on August 8 last year, when leaders allied to the ‘Handshake’ camp congregated at media mogul S.K Macharia’s home in Gatanga for a meeting with Gema musicians.
The song is also being used by Dr Ruto’s Tangatanga wing to tell off President Kenyatta, even as the President’s minders use it to remind the DP that the political marriage that brought together the United Republican Alliance (URP) and The National Alliance (TNA) in 2013 was irretrievably broken.
Kigia says he released the song to mark the divorce between the Moi administration and Mt Kenya region.
"I released the song to protest against Moi's harshness towards us. It was at the peak of the agitation for multipartyism and Moi had launched a very aggressive campaign against my community. He had dropped Mwai Kibaki as his deputy, humiliated Dr Karanja and was executing a crackdown on our heroes – Kenneth Matiba, Charles Rubia and Archbishop David Gitari," he said.
The artiste said he was not surprised that the song was making a comeback in the political space to wage a political war against Dr Ruto.
"In any case I personally oppose a Dr Ruto presidency. I don't support him and if my song will work against him, the better," he told the Nation.
He, however, does not take kindly to politicians profiting from his creativity.
"This song was not sponsored by government taxes. It was also not sponsored by any quarters. It is my original thought financed from my personal resources. I want to urge all those who are using it to seek written permission from me and only after paying for it," he said.
In the first stanza of the song, the persona tells his nemesis: “Even if you are my relative just go… the time to take advantage of each other is over, each of us must now devise their own survival tactic.”
He adds: “Each must navigate independently… I am at pains…I am cross but sometimes I laugh as anger grips me… but if I had my way, I would beat you up till you swallow me and sneeze me out…”
In words that aptly capture the falling-out between the Jubilee top guns, the song goes on: “But let me tell you this once more…I don’t trust you, you are just like Judas in the Bible who sold Jesus Christ for 30 cents…” the lyrics go.
Mr Kigia says there is no greater thrill for a musician than to see his/her artistic work stand the test of time.
“But we in the music industry have been pushing for real recognition of our copyrights. We should have a national policy that quantifies a copyright holder’s gains for all forms of consumption,” he said.