David Karanja had big dreams when he released his first single in 1989. This included getting rich and giving back to society by building a state of the art music school in Gatanga Muranga county his home village. He teamed up with John Ndichu and James Wamumbe the pioneer stars of benga beats in Gikuyu land.
His first hit song ‘Mbeca’ (money) released in 1990 came second to the National Anthem in Mt.Kenya region. In a simple word, it says, life on the first lane is only for the loaded. Soon enough his songs started earning him money that in just a short time of two years he made his first million.
The money came with the bottle making him lose almost all the money he had earned. At 40 with dwindling fortunes and fading dreams. With piracy and the one-man-guitar revolution sweeping the analogue breed of musicians off the highway, he decided to move to Nakuru to start a new life but was met with cultural shock and the inability to get a job at his age. To try and fit into the economic situation he decided to join the boda boda business but things got harder and he ditched the boda-boda business and started mending shoes on the streets.
Talented Musicians and Composers (Tamco) Sacco started compiling classics and went in search for him.
“We were hurt by the condition we found him in. It was unimaginable that all these years his songs remained evergreen getting airplay across the market spectrum but no royalties ever got to him,” says Tamco Chairman Epha Maina.
Mr Maina says that despite the many promises made to artists and threats against music pirates, the government is yet to stop royalty thieves who deprive the musicians of their deserved earnings.Mr Karanja and other Tamco members set out to help Karanja build his own home and start an income-generating project. However, last week when the three-bedroomed house in Mirango village, Laikipia County, was 80 per cent complete, it was demolished by unknown people.
He is beseeching his benefactors not to despair but consider building the house in a more secure place and appeals to President Uhuru Kenyatta to come to the artists’ aid.