Thursday, 6 February 2014

Maroon Commandos: Usiniambie Unaenda (1981)

Every time I visit Kenya and Tanzania I can hear its’ contemporary music still echoing strains of earlier seventies and eighties roots. Towards the end of last year I had the privilege of listening to and watching ensembles of musicians, dancers and acrobats from Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Norway rehearse and perform ahead of Tanzania’s 32nd International Bagamoyo Arts Festival.
Bagamoyo sunrise. Commuters on their way to Zanzibar

In Bagamoyo I heard new fusions from young artists, plucking the Taarab “banjo/type-writer” 72-string flat zither into Cuban Rhumba territory. The sensational contortions of young Ethiopian circus performers, in time to live Ethio-jazz, convinced me that they had absolutely no spines. The enthusiasm, music and energy of all the performers convinced me that Africa’s artistic futures are in good hands.

Drinking in beautiful sunrises ahead of a day’s work I found time to digest the rush of exhilarating experiences. The drive back south to Dar Es Salaam was accompanied by a  mellow soundtrack  of Habel Kifoto’s Maroon Commandos oozing through the taxi-driver’s sound-system.

I had the good fortune of watching another combined performance of these amazing artists at the Sarakasi Dome in Nairobi a little later last year. If you are in Nairobi, do yourself a favour and go and see a performance hosted by the amazing Sarakasi Trust.

Bagamoyo sunrise
The recording I share today was made in 1981 at the CBS Studios in Kenya, Nairobi.

The sleeve notes have the following to say:
“The group was formed in 1970 but only became popular in 1975 mainly because the material they performed was copied from the then popular bands in Kinshasa, Zaire. The Maroon Commandos later decided to compose and record a few singles; but these failed to take off because they were not well rehearsed, and fans were then of the opinion that the Group performed copyright material better than their own compositions.

“The group, however, did not give up, and worked hard at improving their compositions – in fact, the “Maroons” of the eighties are a totally different story in that they have gone far to establish that they are a “force to reckon with” music-wise.
“The Maroon Commandos signed on with CBS Records (Kenya) Ltd in June 1980, and recorded two singles, both of which sold fairly well. Their first recording in CBS Records

 “Kenya Studios, “Usiniambie Unaenda” turned out to be a nation-wide hit in Kenya. Since its release in April 1981 it has dominated top positions in local charts and it still there in December 1981. The other single, “Bi Sophia NO 1” has also ben a hit, though not as massive as the former.

Their new album “Usiniambie Unaenda” includes both the above hits, as well as two new ones. All four songs have been composed by David Kibe and Laban Ochuka. Listen to the album once and you will only be able to say the group is HEAVY!!!.”

Habel Kifoto: Group Leader; Lead Guitar; Keyboards; Vocals
David Kibe: Deputy Leader; Vocals, Tenor and Alto Sax
Laban Ochuka: Bass; Vocals
Albert Orguro: Rhythm Guitar
Joshua Ogoma: Trumpet
Tom Mutuku: Drums
Paul Mwandembo; Idi Mathias: Vocals
Hamishi Shabani: Tumba

1. Usiniambie Unaenda – Part 1 & Part 2
2. Bi Sophia NO 1 – Part 1 & Part 2
3. Bi Sophia No 2 – Part 1  & Part 2
4. Safari Ni Ndefu – Part 1 & Part 2

Rapidshare here
Mediafire here


  1. Jo_Schroedter
    Thank You very much for this one in the best quality. I was waiting very long that I would find it. Super!!

  2. Great record I have always liked East African rumba but failed to find copies in Belgium or Congo where of course Congolese rumba always had the upper hand. Only some compilations cd's where available. Thank you for this post or better this initiative. A lot of the records we find back on this website bring back the memories from the time we used to live in Zimbabwe. We are very happy that this fantastic heritage is being spread. For me African music is the most enjoyable and diverse music in this world. I am not (yet) a person who comments a lot on internet but I feel that in one way or another I needed to thank you guys for all the time and effort you put into this project.

  3. Many thanks Rik and Jo for taking the time to leave your great comments - it just makes the pleasure of what we do even greater!

  4. Always enjoy yr posts. Thought this might be of interest to you and your readers -

  5. Really beautiful pictures from your trip in Kenya and Tanzania !
    I prefer the fourth track of your new and enjoable post.
    See you in Durban and CT
    Best wishes

  6. I am so glad I bumped into this post! The quality of the music availed here is exceptional, so is Maroon Commandos, obviously - reminds me of my father and the days when we had only ONE radio station.

  7. Thank you so much...i have been looking for sophia No.2 i have it...Good work

  8. Thank you, enjoying the music I find here!


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