Kenya: Benga Musician Albert Gacheru, His Brother Basilio Ngunjiri Buried

A section of Kenyan musicians has asked for prayers following the deaths of several local artistes in the recent past.

At the funeral of Benga musician Albert Gacheru and his brother Basilio Ngunjiri in Nyandarua County on Saturday, musicians noted that several of them have died of diseases including Covid-19 and in road accidents.

Gacheru died on March 6 at the Kenyatta National Hospital, where he was being treated for chronic pneumonia, while his elder brother died two days later at JM Memorial Hospital in Nyandarua County, due to Covid-19 complications.

A joint funeral service was conducted at their mother's home in Boiman village before they were buried at their adjacent farms.

Police had a difficult time controlling thousands of mourners and ensuring compliance with guidelines for curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

Speakers eulogised the two brothers as dedicated, loving and hardworking persons who always supported the community.

Among them wereTamko Sacco chair Epha Maina, members of the music industry and representatives from the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK).

Gacheru was described as a dedicated defender of musician's rights, who fought for their recognition.

"The country has lost several musicians, a big blow to the music industry. We are sad ... we call on Kenyans to pray for artistes," said Mr Maina.

Mr John Mwangi, from MCSK, said Gacheru demonstrated good leadership in the industry, in his fight for the improved welfare of fellow musicians.

Gacheru's music career

Gacheru, best known for hit songs "Mwendwa Wakwa Mariru" and "Mumunya" was the producer behind artistes such as the late Queen Jane, the late John De'Mathew and, gospels singers such as Mary Wambui and Shari Martin.

He was born in Nyandarua and was a trained accountant who later studied law at Mt Kenya University.

Gacheru's music career began in the 1980s, when he opened a hardware shop along Duruma Road, Nairobi, which he later turned into a music shop in the mid 1980s, when his song "Mumunya" hit the market.

But he suffered significant losses early in 2000, when the music store burnt down with all his tape recordings inside, a setback that saw him retreat from the limelight. He blamed the fire on music pirates he said were determined to bring him down.

Before that, vandals and thieves broke into his Wamaitu Productions shops in Nairobi and stole equipment.

Gacheru was once a director of the MCSK and the Kenya Music Composers Association.

He fought in the courts for the rights of musicians and for the streamlining of the copyright law to protect them and producers.

His battle against music piracy saw him lodge several cases at the High Court, where he represented himself.

His death is a big blow to the local music fraternity as he was one of the few musicians daring enough to take on River Road-based music pirates and rogue producers, putting his life at risk.

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