Thursday, September 20, 2012

RIP Music Maestro Arthur Mudogo Kemoli

Jeff Koinange  hosts Dr. Kemoli (left) on the Bench
Remembering Musical Kemoli
Dr Arthur Mudogo Kemoli died on Sunday after a long battle with diabetes and renal disease. Many will remember Dr. Kemoli for his mastery in composing choral music with pieces such as ‘Fimbo ya Nyayo’ remaining golden. 
Back in February when the frail-looking Kemoli was hosted by Jeff Koinange on the bench, many Kenyans were saddened by the condition in which he was in, having conducted the choir during Jomo Kenyatta’s funeral and performed in virtually all state functions in Moi’s regime.  
Dr. Kemoli lost his sight to Diabetes five years ago later suffering from renal failure and receiving compulsory retirement, leaving the music genius without enough money to cater for his medical bills. Family members and friends later organized a kitty in which well-wishers donated for him to undergo a kidney transplant.
The death of Dr. Kemoli comes only four months after the passing away of another great architect of Kenya’s choral Music Prof. Caleb Chrispo Okumu with whom they defined Kenyan Choral music.

A music Scholar
Born in 1945, Dr. Kemoli, a Kakamega and Alliance High School alumni attended the University of Nairobi where he obtained a first class Honors in Bachelor of Arts (English Literature), 1970.
In 1970, he travelled to the United Kingdom to major in Music a passion he had acquired in Alliance, returning home in 1971 with a Masters of Arts and a Bachelor of Music Part One from Durham University .
Two years later (1973) he obtained a Doctorate of Philosophy from Sussex University in the UK.
He was a pioneer African literature lecturer at the University of Nairobi as well as the founder of the annual Maragoli Festival of Arts.    
He also worked tirelessly in the growth and development of the Kariokor Friends Choir and the University of Nairobi Choir, where he served as the director of choristers.
Dr. Kemoli will be remembered for composing the Organization of African Unity (now African Union) anthem in 1986 as well as the University of Nairobi anthem.
Some of his notable publications include ‘Songs for Africa’‘Sacrifices for Africa’, ‘Voices for Ancestors’, ‘The Satiric Voice: Modern African Writers ’, ‘Adwendende’ (Luhya wedding) and ‘Asio’ (Luhya initiation) songs.
Other pieces Kenyans will remember him for include ‘Safari ya Bamba ni Machero’ and ‘Mbinguni Kuna Raha’ sang at Kenyatta’s funeral in 1978.

Awards to his name
1970, Shell Prize awarded him Outstanding student of the University of East Africa (later split into University of Nairobi, Makerere University and the University of Dar es Salaam).  
1998, The Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya  (OGW) for his extensive teaching and research experience in literature, development of linguistics and culture in the country through music.   
2002, The University of Nairobi honored him for distinguished service to the university.
Other great music wizards who have left us recently include Darius Mbela the former choirmaster at St. Stephens Church, Jogoo Road and founder of Muungano National Choir Boniface Mganga.

For more on Dr. Kemoli and other Music Greats, Daily Kenya highly recommends ‘A Biography of Kenyan Musicians: Volume 1’ – a book that unveils the faces of the founding fathers of Kenyan music, their challenges, and vision for the local music.   
The book was unveiled by the Ministry of National Heritage & Culture early last month. It features 11 artistes namely Mary Atieno, Joseph NgalaHabel KifotoKakai KilonzoD.O. MisianiArthur Mudogi KemoliMwalimu Thomas WasongaPaul Mwachupa MwazeraGeorge RamogiGeorge Mukabi, and Joseph Kamaru.
Here is a YouTube clip of Dr. Arthur Kemoli interview with Jeff Kionange

‘The Pause is as important as the Note.’ – Truman R. Fisher


  1. Kenyan heroes always go unrewarded

  2. had 1 day experience with him but was memorable

  3. Wen need to do more to our unsung heroes look at the life Legendary Kadenge is living.

  4. Harmony Mutoka BusiaSeptember 29, 2012 at 10:55 PM

    I attended his burial today though the politicians had to be themselves


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