The day I forced Joseph Kamaru to return to secular music
- In 1999, Kamaru had moved on from singing popular secular music to gospel music and started preaching.
- Apparently, he had one way or another been convinced that he was sinning all the time he had been singing popular secular music.
- But I told Kamaru God had created him to be a prophet to the Gikuyu people and not a preacher.
During the Nigerian Biafra war something tragic happened which prompted one of our Kenyan scholars to write a book of fiction. I am talking about the late Prof Ali Mazrui. He heard a news item on radio which said that one Christopher Okigbo had been killed while fighting in the war alongside his tribesmen.
Apparently, Mazrui had met Okigbo when they were both students in England. As soon as he heard the news Mazrui reflected upon the matter, made a quick mental calculation and immediately started writing a story which became a book called The Trial of Christopher Okigbo.
In this book, Mazrui imagined what may have happened to Okigbo after he got into what he calls the Hereafter.
In his thinking, Okigbo must have been put on trial when he got there for having abandoned his calling and chosen a path that was totally different and probably even opposed to his vocation. Before joining the army, Okigbo had been a lecturer and poet. He had rejected all that and gone on to become a soldier in order to be with his tribesmen.
Last Wednesday, a Kenyan who I think many Kenyans have never even thought about and particularly people from his community — the Gikuyu — died. He is a popular musician by the name Joseph Kamaru. I must say here that Kamaru had become a friend of mine in the last 20 or so years. The reason for our friendship arose from my own interest in popular culture when I was doing my higher studies in Europe in the late 90s. When I came back in 1999, the first person I looked for was Joseph Kamaru.
At that point, Kamaru had moved on from singing popular secular music to gospel music and started preaching. Apparently, he had one way or another been convinced that he was sinning all the time he had been singing popular secular music. He and I had quite a number of cups of tea at the Norfolk and this was my message to him. “Kamaru, when God created you, he meant you to be a prophet to the Gikuyu people and not a preacher. You were an effective prophet when you were singing secular music.”
After a lot of argument, he agreed with me and forced me to go to the Carnivore and sing with him. I did.
From then on, Kamaru went back to his secular singing and that is what he has been singing in his last years of his life. I am happy that Kamaru, in the Hereafter, will not be put on trial like Okigbo.
Fr Wamugunda is the Dean of Students, Univeristy of Nairobi. [email protected]