BY CAREN ROTICH
Maroon commandos is a musical group from Kenya. The military band belonging to the 7th riffle of the Kenya army, was formed in 1970 by the late Habel Kifoto, who was also their bandleader. Kifoto died in July 2011, in Nairobi, after he collapsed due to a suspectesd heart failure. The Maroon Commandos band perform rhumba, benga and other styles of music and often play their music at state functions.
Ater it was formed in 1970, the band signed with Polydor Kenya in 1971 and released a song, “Emily”. But in 1972, the band had a tragic road accident, which left some of the members dead. This lead the band to be dorminant for 5 years. They later released the album, “Raziki Haivatu”, after 1977.
In 1978, they recorded and released their greatest single and first major hit, “Charonyi ni wasi”, (song) – who’s lyrics were written in Taita language, and won a silver disc in 1981, which saw them sell approimately 30,000 copies in 3 months.
The band which has more than 10 albums, is popularly known for the familiar anthem, uvivu (song) Christina and Riziki.
Some of the band members were David Kibe, who after some time left the band after he rose in the military ranks and had no more time for the band. laban Ochuka who was also a member of the band, left to play for another band and later died in 2006. Other members were Diwani Nzaro and David Kombo, who joined then band in the late 80’s, and is also the current band leader.
The band, also had female members, like the 2011 nominee for the best female Afro Fusion artiste at the East African Music Awards, Doris Chepchumba Tanui who was known for her Kalenji hit song “Kipla” (Song Kipla), and also singer Barbara Chepkoech Cheptaab Kiprotich, aka Waridi, who’s known for her kalenjin hit song “Tilyenun”.(Song- Tilyenun).
Their prowress as vocalist and song writers shone through the bands releases like their 2008 peace album, Kenya Unite (Song) which was written in response to the 2007 – 2008 Kenyan Post – election violence.
For over 30 years now, the Maroon commandos, has remained to be Kenya’s consistent and most celebrated band.