7 KR-based Maroon Commandos Band this year October 1st marked its 51st anniversary.
The Journey started in 1969 when the first CO of 7KR (GilgilBrks) Lt. Col. J.M.M Wambua alias Nyeusi came up with an idea of forming a music band within his unit. He wanted to improve the performance of Drum Platoon at the same time start a performing dance band.
He tasked Col (rtd) Muchemi then a captain/adjutant to look for youngsters who would be recruited into the Army.
Then eventually achieve the desired objective.
Muchemi embarked on the search which brought him to Bamboo night club executive club then in River road Nairobi. Here he met Habel Kifoto and the bands men.
Muchemi who was also a fan of Strollers Band during Boogie shows when they were performing at Small World Night Club (now known as Sabina Joy) Admired their skills little did they know that the small talk would transform their lives forever. Kifoto, Kibe, Kizito, Ringo, Shem, and Tony had a closely knitted relationship that sprung from the fact that their Dads worked for the Kenya Railways cooperation and they lived in the quarters namely Makongeni, Kaloleni and Shauri Moyo estates….They were vijana wa mtaa….hood boys…were recruited in the Kenya Armed Forces, (Kenya Army).
After nine months of training in Gilgil, the six civilians graduated into Military and posted to 7th Battalion (7KR). HQ Coy, Drum Platoon then later posted to different Coys,
Habel Kifoto, David Kibe Juma Kizito, were later attached to Pay office, Shem Shisia attached to Signal Dept. Ibrahim Ringo attached to QM.
Peter Masheti & John Bushi Kimani was a members of Bongo Boys Band which based in Nakuru they were also working in the Barracks as a Civilians before recruited into the military and joined Maroon Commandos Band, they were later joined by Joel Muchiri & Jared Otieno.
And that was the birth of MAROON COMMANDOS BAND.
Maroon Commandos Band was formed in October 1st 1970 at Gilgil Barracks under the first CO 7KR…Lt. Col. J.M.M Wambua alias Nyeusi
Capt. Muchemi~Adj., Lt. Munene~ OIC Capt. DR. Kadenyi~RMO
During that period the band played cover versions, popular Classic music, Soul Rhythms, Blues and Lingala, Rhumba, Coastal, Old Skul & Twist.
In 1971 the Maroon Commandos found its way to PolyGram Studio and recorded two songs,one of them was “Emily” composed by Ibrahim Ringo who later composed songs like Mary Nangira, Korona & Engira….soon topping out groups like Jamhuri Jazz Band & Morogoro Band which were dominant by then.
Their success prompted them to perform beyond the confines of the military and travelled to major towns in the country and entertained people in various institutions and private events.
In August 1972 during one of their performance trip up country,the band was involved in a terrible accident in Mbaruk-Nakuru Road after performing at Egerton University. Unfortunately claimed the life of Peter Masheti (saxophonist).
In 1973, Maroon Commandos Band & entire 7th Battalion relocated from Gilgil to Nairobi Langata Barracks, and 5th Battalion occupied Gilgil Barracks.
Their journey motivated the other Army, Air Force & Navy units that made them start their own bands too, they include,
1. 5KR~Band Blue Rangers Band,
2. 3KR~Scarlet Band,
3. Moi Air Base`Air Raiders Band, Col. Lewela Chard was a Bass Guitar player
4. TPT BN~Yellow Wagoners,
5. Navy~Pirates Band
6. 1KR~Green Rovers Band,
8. DoD CAU~Ulinzi Ochestra.
In the mid 70s.The devastation saw the group stall for almost five years eliciting suggestions they had quit the band for other careers within the military.
The release of “Mama Yu Wapi” did not take off .However, Habel Kifoto proved doubters wrong when he recruited Hamisi Shaban, Paul Mwandembo (1977), Laban Ochuka & Tuesday Oguro (1978) lead to the big break of “Charonyi Ni Wasi” in 1978. The song became the most listened hit , besides selling thousands of copies across East Africa which earned the band silver disc.
Then “Uvivu Mbaya” which was like an anthem in Radios stations & TV’s,and chartbusters like “Usiniambie Unaenda” propelled them to even higher heights. Maroon Commandos became a house hold name in Kenya and earned its place as a formidable Kenyan Band.
No stopping Maroon Commandos! The following members were posted out.
1. Ibrahim Ringo RTS DQMS
2. Tony Sobayeni MT Driver
3. Juma Kizito 12 Engineers Pay-Clarck
4. Shem Shisia Signal Battalion Signaler
5. Joshua Ogoma 75 Artillery QMS.
but that didn’t stop Maroon Commandos.
The band recruited Thomas Mutuku & Iddi Ngereri Matthias in early 80s, hence producing hit songs like , “Christina, Riziki Haivutwi Nakamba, Bi Sophia, Wazazi Wako Wamenikata, Tucheze Sambale, Dada Mdaku, Dawa Nimuone Hanny, Wakesho, Sine Ndoe,” among others.
Founder members of Maroon Commandos Band
1. Habel kifoto~Lead Guitarist
2. David Kibe ~Rythm Guitar, Blues & Soul singer
3. Juma kizito~Second Lead
4. Ibrahim Ringo~Rhythm Guitar & Singer
5. Shem shisia~Drummer
6. Tony Sobayeni~Singer
7. John B. Kimani~Bass
8. Peter Masheti~ Sax
9. Jared Otieno~Bass Guitar
10. Joel Muchiri~Lead Guitar
11. Paul Mwandembo~Rhythm
12. Joshua Ogoma~ Trump
13. John Gitau~ Tumba
14. Hamisi shaban~Drummer.
In the mid 80s the band recruited James Onyango Mugele, David Kombo & Festo Riziki.
In 1990s the band recruited John Ogega aka Johnie Magneto & Sure.
In 2000s the recruited Diwani Nzaro, Doris Chepchumba, George Kingi, Tumaini Joshua, John Muzina Were, Samuel Kirwa, Wickliffe Osurah,
Samson Kiptoo, Eliano Nyamawi Mtaliano, Abraham Masha Sirya, Christopher Munga, Emanuel Mwamkemba and Patrick Kioko.
The band was invited to performed in Namibia before & during independence day in 1990.
David Kibe who was also assistant of Habel Kifoto, started as a lead singer/rhythm guitarist (cord) then become a saxophonist in 78.He left the group when he was Sargent (Sgt.) in 1990 and later commissioned to a rank of First Lieutenant.He got promoted to Major.
Maj. David Kibe is credited with composing hits like, “Usiniambie Unaenda, Kaka Saidi, Jangwa, Uliamua Uniache,” which did well in the charts.
He was posted in Kenya Army Band as admin officer and also incharge of our famous Ulinzi Band from 1991 to 1996 where by he was posted back to 7KR,and appointed Quarter Master (QM). He retired from the military in 2006 November.
SSGT. HABEL MWALUMBA KIFOTO lead the band from 1970.He also served as an accountant for regimental funds in QM before moving to being a store keeper and finally a Senior Sargent (Ssgt.) until his retirement from the military in 2002 handing over the leadership of band to Sergent (Sgt.) Albart Tuesday Oguro in 2004.
SGT. ALBERT TUESDAY OGURO,
before joining Maroon Commandos Band, was playing with Onono Paddy in Uganda and Nyanza Night Club Kisumu. He was a very talented Rhythm guitarist, one of the best (Composé known as double string) rhythm guitarist in the country. Sgt. Tuesday joined military in 1978, he composed songs like “DADA MDAKU, MAGENDI,” among others.He took leadership of the band from 2004 to 2006,and later handing over the leadership to WOII. David Kombo in 2006.
WOII. DAVID MWAKIWIWI KOMBO
is a younger brother to Solomon Kombo who was also a legendary musician.
He joined the military in 1984.Although he was not a musician before,but he gained his music career interest as a vocalist through Maroon Commandos Band, within the barracks.
He composed songs like “NIDHAMU, BIBI NITARUDI, SAADI among others, he took the leadership of band from Sgt. Tuesday Oguro in 2006 to 2019 and later handed over to Ssgt. Johnie Magneto in the year 2019.
SSGT. JOHN OGEGA (JOHNIE MAGNETO), joined the military in 1993, before joining Maroon Commandos Band. He played with musicians like; Prince Jully, Omore Mamor and Collela Mazee. He joined Maroon Commandos Band as a rhythm guitarist and later specialized in Solo guitar. He composed songs like “SHIKA KAMBA, DOTTY, BETTY, MWANA UTAJUTA, CORONA RHUMBA,” among others.
He took the leadership from WOll. David Kombo in 2019 till today.
The current Maroon Commandos Band members are as follows:
1. Ssgt. Johnie Magneto I/C band & Solo Guitarist
2. Sgt. Juvenalis Otukia-Vocalist
3. Sgt. Harrison Juma Ngonyo-Vocalist
4. L/Cpl. Tuamini Joshua-Trumpetist
5. Cpl. Erick Ageng’o-Drummer
6. Pte. Elisha Nyamawi aka Mtaliono-Vocalist
7. Pte. Abraham Masha Sirya-Bassist
8. Pte. Samuel John Were Muzina-Keyboardist
9. Spte. Samuel Kirwa-Vocalist
10. Pet Christopher Munga-Saxophonist
11. Pte. Emanuel Maganga-Drummer
In 2001 the band released Dotty album of eight tracks,
*Dotty Dr. James On’gare & Mwana Utajuta composed by Johnie Magneto.
*Saadi, Ufunguo, Bibi Nitarudi composed by David Kombo
*Atieno, Mugendi composed by Tuesday Oguro.
In 2006 the Maroon Commandos released another hit “Shika Kamba,”album of six songs.
1. Shika Kamba composed by Johnie Magneto.
2. Betty composed by Johnie Magneto
3. Kaka Yangu composed by Juma Ngonyo
4. Heshumu Wazazi composed by Juvenalis Otukia
5. Kazi Ni Kazi composed by Festo Riziki
6. Penda Mkeo composed by Albart Wekesa
7. Siku Ya Wazee composed by Tuesday Oguro
Maroon Express composed by Johnie Magneto.
The “Shika Kamba” song was a praise song of Maroon Commandos Band.
Today Maroon Commandos Band is 50 years old, and the band is still growing stronger.
Maroon Commandos Band is the only remaining Kenyan original music group.Also among few remaining East Africa Bands like DDC Milimani Park of Tanzania and Afrigo Band of Uganda.
Recently the Band composed two Corona hit songs:
1. CORORNA RHUMBA composed by Johnie Magneto
2. CORONA REGGA have composed by Eliano Mtaliono.
The band is based in Nairobi, Langata Barracks 7th Battalion Langata road.
In 1960s Habel Kifoto played with Bata Shoe Shine Boys with the Gwada Boys….Rocky and Athura Gwada, also with Elijah Taliani a prominent guitarist with Ishmael Jingos Gloria Africana.
Gwada Boys later formed Ashantis Band very popular later in the Scandinavia in Europe.
David Kibe formed Spurs Band Also played with Doldrums a group composed of Zambian students at the Railway Training College Nairobi South B. before joining Strollers Band.