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This track has been removed at the request of the request of a representative of the copyright owner, KenTunes, LLC.

Not much of a pocket education this time I am afraid, the internet has a serious dearth of info on this group and my copy of “Rumba on the river” is non-existent.
Anyone who may want to fix that, please get in touch so that I can give you an address to send it to.

Anywayyyyyyyyyyyy . . .

The Maroon Commandos ( along with Les Wanyika and Super Mazembe if they are still out there ) constitute a third of the last of East Africa’s rumba big bands from the late 60s/early 70s. Formed at the start of the 70s by a group of active Kenya Armed Forces soldiers – hence the name of the band since soldiers in the Kenyan Armed Forces wear maroon berets as part of their uniforms – to perform mainly at army events, standard fare for this group was covers of hits by other hot rumba bands as well as pop from the west.

The Maroon Commandos were and continue to be very adaptive in that they would and still perform a mix of original and cover work. Their music is characterised by the use of trumphets and horns (martially music rears it – here – pretty head). However, as with all other other East African rumba from this period, the music centers around bass or rhythm guitars and sweet vocals with a story. The thing – like it has been said elsewhere – with Kenyan music from the 70s and the 80s it that it was all about the vocals. If you had a lead singer who was a good story-teller and had a sweet voice, you were very good; if you also had some band members who co-incidentally could also play then you were magnificient.

The group enjoyed an all time high in 1977 with the hit “Charoni – Ni Wasi” that I have posted here for your listening pleasure. I have to let you know however that to me – and many others I am sure – Maroon Commandos is all about “Amuka Kumekucha“, that instant early 80’s (I think 1981) hit that tell everyone to get their “behinds” out bed or out of wherever, sign up for “Patriotism 101” and go out and build the nation – basically M’s message to you KTs out there.


As of early 2003, there were still 13 members in the group including vocalist Mike Kajiwe, the new band leader John Ogega who replaced Habel Kifoto after he retired in late 2002, Tom Ogweno, Ngereri Mathias, Festo Riziki, Gideon Mwania, Diwani Nzaro, Papa Wekesa, Josephat Shikali, Yassin Hussein and Ravanelli who played keyboard for the group. Ogega is also known as “Magneto” for his ability to strut his stuff on the dancefloor. In late 2003/early 2004, the group was working on releasing an as yet un-named new album with the tracks “Marooni Shika Shika” and “Kenya Nchi Nzuri” while still performing two nights a week at a popular Nairobi nightspot – Simmers. They went on tour in Tanzania in 2003 and also performed at Kenya’s 41st anniversary of Independence celebrations in 2004.

Interestingly enough, in what I think is another example of the Kenyan adage of prophets having no favor in their own land, the Maroon Commandos frequently feature on ambiance radio in the US (here, here and here).

The Maroon Commandos and it’s members like all other Kenyan bands have had more than their fair share of woes from a 1972 road accident in which several band members perished to current wrangles over mis-appropriation of royalty revenues by the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK).

You can learn a little about the group here and here.

Again, a bonus track for this of you who went the distance – this is my all time favourite Maroon Commando track apart from the stuff that they play at the Tatoo at the Nairobi Show.

East African rhumba circa 1970/1980 Maroon Commandos – Amuka Kumekucha


Click here for a list of all the other pre-1990 East African music posts that I have posted in the past.

what KTs miss about Kenya.

+ Ever wondered what some of Kenya’s top radio personalities look like? Well, here are Leonard Mambo Mbotela, “Cruicial” Jeff Mwangemi & John Karani.

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23 Responses

  1. maitha says:

    charonyi ni wasi is a killer track . I can give you a rough translation seeing that I have an understanding of that tongue. once again excellent an writeup

  2. maitha says:

    * meant to say an excellent writeup … maybe I should stick to kiswahili , hiki kizungu kinachenga sana :-)

  3. Steve, your site always makes for interesting reading. And it looks good too.

  4. Steve, I am learning much from your site! Memories of old return: Mangelepa, Franco, Wanyika etc. I have learnt what I didn’t even know way back then in the seventies!

    I wonder why you don’t mention such greats like: Salif Keita, Baba Maal and Morie Kante! I consider Salif as the Greatest African voice ever! It is odd, in East Africa – very few have even heard of these West Africa great stars!

  5. mbave says:

    send me “Kifo” if possible an thnx for ya site steve

  6. Hi all, enjoyed reading this. I am currently editing the next issue of kwani? (www.kwani.org) and am looking for somebody to write an obituary of the late Dino Misiani. Would also love some personal memoir style writing about Maroon Commandos, kenyan music in the 70s and 80s from someone who was there, and for whom this music matters. Can any one help?

    Also, I have been trying to get a copy of Amuka Kumekucha and my favorite Maroom Commando song, Sitaki Uniambie sang by Laban Ochuka – whose voice is just amazing….

  7. […] Again, I will present two tracks from already featured groups this week: the Maroon Commandos & Orchestra Super Mazembe. […]

  8. kabinti says:

    slowly crawled onto this post. I enjoyed reading it and listening to commandos. Thanks for the links!

  9. Malulu says:

    This is great!!! Never thought I could ever again hear the music of my youth

  10. Jean-Luc says:

    Thank you, sounds excellent…

  11. Ongore julius says:

    I have really enjoyed these website especially maroon commandos anbd les wanyika, please post more les wanyika like shilingi ya maua and others and all maroon commandso , i beg you. I love these two bands and their songs never become old. I am waitinbg for more please. Good job.
    Sincerely Julius.


    Happy to hear that you are enjoying the music, that is the reason that the music is up here.

    As for your requests, see this page. You can also check out all my previous posts on pre-1990s East African music here. Be sure to hit previous entries at the bottom of the page to see ALL the entries that I have as they cannot all fit on one page.

    – Steve

  12. shei maina says:

    I have really looked for these old songs they remind me of when i was growing up. used to hear them all the time. yaani siku hizo ngoma ilikuwa na meaning poa sana

    Thanks for the comments Shei.

    Keep coming back.

    – Steve

  13. Ronald Mukasa says:

    Am so much impressed with your website. Keep our music up, this is our

    Tradition. Am an East African From Uganda based in South Africa. Keep well bye

  14. Ronald Mukasa says:

    I would like to listen to Wakumbuke Wazazi by Kakai Kilonzo. What Can I do Please? roniekats@ yahoo.com

  15. […] Initially a member of the famous “military band”, Maroon Commandos, Habel Kifoto released a bunch of solo tracks as well. Benn loxo friend, Steve Mugiri, can tell you more about the Maroon Commandos – and much more – if you’re curious. […]

  16. Gerald Chege says:

    I would like to invite you to the website [linked removed by Ntwiga] where we will try to get you the old music from way back when. Also, all the music there is given under copyright so that the musicians and their families get roaylties for the music they produced long time ago.

    We are yet to finalise agreements with Maroon Commandos and Fadhili Williams…

    Thanks for this blog…

  17. ongore says:

    I love your music collections but they are hard to download and listned this time than before, why? Since this year i have not listned to any b/c the url could not be found. What is the secret.


    Thanks for the comment.

    I talked a little about why I take tracks down after a week in the last comment that was left by Ochan at this link.

    Basically, what it amounts to is that it would be impossible for me to afford to keep these tracks posted here indefinitely due to bandwidth costs. It is also not fair to the artists who perform the music for the tracks that they depend on for a living to be up permanently.

    The idea is that you get a taste so that you go out and buy the album.

    The best way to guarantee yourself that you get all the tracks is to show up Saturday or Friday night (I usually post about midnight Friday) and download the latest track. After a week, when I do the next post, the files that were up go down.

    If you would like to get a track that has been up in the past, just drop me an email with the request and I will post it as soon as I can.

    – Steve

  18. […] Ongore and Binyavanga Wainaina all asked for more Maroon […]

  19. Murithi says:

    Niaje Steve. Manze si unitumie MV Mapenzi if you got the track. Beautiful track that but cant find it anywhere. Peace….


  20. AMOO JUSSAB says:

    MY PHONE NO.+265 0830 3680

  21. Alfred-Malawi says:


    Im looking for a song by Habel Kifoto and /or Maroon Commandos titled Sine Ndoe. I dont seem to get it on your web. Does it have a different title


    While I do have a couple of tracks of that album, I do not have that specific one.

    May one of these is acceptable as a substitute?

    – Steve

  22. munene mbaka says:


    am wel in the know now. quite some good work on the music/artists

  23. PETER says:

    Great songs will never die keep up and dont stop entertaining Kenyans please…I love you alot send me Sitaki Uniambie album pls…on Box 2072 Nakuru PETER KAHARE….

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