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Popular Kenyan Musician John Ng’ang’a aka John De’Mathew, Dies Through a Tragic Accident

Known as the King of Kikuyu music, the singer was on his way back from an event in the town of Thika when he met with a car accident

By Geoffrey Isaya

Popular Kenyan musician John Ng’ang’a, known by his stage name John De’Mathew, has been killed in a car crash.

Known as the King of Kikuyu music, the singer was on his way back from an event in the town of Thika, 45km (27 miles) north-east of the capital, Nairobi, when his car ploughed into a lorry.

Famous for wearing a white cowboy hat, he reportedly produced more than 50 albums in a three-decade career.

His style of music was known as Benga, with guitar setting a fast-paced rhyme. He always sang in Kikuyu, one of Kenya’s main languages.

The hashtag #RIPDeMathew trended in Kenya for the better part of Monday hours after the news of his demise, with people sharing their memories.

One tweeter said he always addressed social issues in his songs, like one about alcoholism,Tribalism and corruption.

Fans have been paying tribute to Kenyan musician, John Ng’ang’a, known by his stage name John De’Mathew, who has died in a car crash – but not everyone has been praising the Benga singer.

john-de-mathew
John’s songs focused on love, politics and societal ills such as alcoholism – often using proverbs, metaphors and references to Kikuyu mythology. Wikimedia Commons

Dubbed “the King of Kikuyu music” – he was one of the few musicians to be famous countrywide despite only singing in his Kikuyu language.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Twitter that he played a big role in promoting “African cultural heritage through his music”

His songs focused on love, politics and societal ills such as alcoholism – often using proverbs, metaphors and references to Kikuyu mythology.

While some have praised him as a “modern prophet”, one of his political songs was controversial and has divided opinion about his legacy.

Wituite Hiti, which means “You Have Made Yourself a Hyena”, was released ahead of the 2013 election.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), set up to ease ethnic tensions after the violence that followed the 2007 election, said the lyrics bordered on hate speech.

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It was thought he was referring to politician Raila Odinga, the main rival to Mr Kenyatta, a Kikuyu, who went on to win the presidential vote. De’Mathew was charged in court over the song, but acquitted the following year.

Defending himself, he said the translations were taken out of context and had missed the message of the song. Mr Odinga, who also lost the 2017 presidential vote, has tweeted his condolences to De’Mathew’s family, saying the singer was a great educator “on culture and current affairs”. (IANS)

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