From Nairobi To The World: Ricky Na Marafiki Band Giving Benga Enthusiasts New Experience

Ricky Na Marafiki Benga Band Members [Photo/Courtesy]

For over 75 years that Benga music has been in existence in Kenya, there has been a misconception of it being associated with people from the low social class. Amid such beliefs, a crop of youthful bands is determined to break the stereotype.

One such group is Ricky Na Marafiki, a band born in the year 2010, with the aim of connecting the world through music.

The group based in Nairobi, Kenya, started as a four-piece band made up of friends who enjoyed making music together. Over the years the group has grown to a five-member band that is determined to give Benga music, which evolved between the 1940s and 190s, a fresh feel.

Ricky Na Marafiki band [Photo/Courtesy]
In a recent interview, Patrick Nanjero, the Ricky Na Marafiki band founder, divulged to Kahawa Tungu that passion has greatly contributed to the group’s success both locally and internationally.

Read: Sabina Chege Finally Speaks On Relationship With Benga Maestro De’ Mathew

The 38-year-old says that unique vocals, instrumentals and songs that relate well with the on-goings in the modern society make the group stand out in the entertainment industry.

“Music for us is not a casual undertaking, with this understanding, our shows have always left our fans dancing, laughing and many overwhelmed with emotions,” he said.

Other members in the band include Papi Odeq, an experienced percussionist, singer, and songwriter and John Were an experienced guitarist and singer.

Ricky Na Marafiki Benga Band [Photo/Courtesy]

Ricky Na Marafiki’s Michael Okinyo, a pharmacist by profession, plays the Keyboard and sings too. Edward Barasa is the band’s drummer.

Ricky Na Marafiki band [Photo/Courtesy]
Ricky, as he’s popularly known in Benga circles, is a talented Afro-jazz bassist, who has successfully led the band in various performances.

Read Also: Kenyan Benga Star Lady Maureen Jailed In Tanzania For Lack Of Travel Documents

With the Jazz skills, Ricky is determined to make Benga the “Kenyan sound.”

“Many people hold the view that Benga is the low-class kind of music, and Jazz is synonymous with the elite. I’m aiming at bridging the gap because I can play both,” said Ricky.

Patrick Nanjala alias Ricky during a past performance [Photo/Courtesy]
The band has been privileged to perform in many towns in the country as well as in Uganda, Tanzania, United States of America (USA) and Europe.

Ricky Na Marafiki band is currently in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in the ongoing fourth edition of the East African Community’s Jumuiya ya Afrika Mashariki Utamaduni Festival (JamaFest). The festival that began on Saturday, September 21 is scheduled to end on Friday, September 28.

Ricky Na Marafiki band en-route to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, for Jama festivals on September 18, 2019 [Photo/Courtesy]
Last month, Ricky had the privilege of attending the Victor Wooten bass players camp at Nashville City in Tennessee, United States.

Read Also: Benga Singer, Atomy Sifa Asks Uhuru For A Job After Composing Anti-Raila Song

Wooten is an American bass guitarist, record producer, educator, and recipient of five Grammy Awards.

In the US, Ricky shared a platform with Wooten and other jazz icons in the industry namely Steve Bailey, Mike Stern and Lenny Stern.

From left to right Mike Stern,Steve Bailey,Ricky, Victor Wooten and Leni stern [Photo/Courtesy]
While in the US, Ricky says, he also got to interact and learnt a lot from American musician Bootsy Collins who he described as the father of funk bass.

Ricky interacting with American musician Bootsy Collins [Photo/Courtesy]
Ricky says the journey to owning and managing a band has not been easy.

The father of two began his journey as an artist at the age of 19.

“My brother who later became my first producer managed a band so I used to skip school to go watch their band perform. I started with the drums, I joined our local church and started learning,” he said.

Read Also: How Sabina Chege Dumped De’ Mathew For Controversial Pastor Ng’ang’a

Later, he started playing at local restaurants on Saturday evenings a move a majority of his church ministers didn’t approve of.

He had to change churches to continue with his weekend gigs.

“The church did not approve of me playing in a restaurant on a Saturday evening then playing with the praise and worship team on Sunday morning. It contradicted the beliefs of the church. They felt it was wrong to play for a secular and gospel crowd,” he added.

Ricky has played for popular American televangelists Juanita Bynum and TD Jakes when they visited Kenya in 2005.

Locally, he has performed with Kenyan singer and songwriter Erick Wainana and veteran musician Suzanne Gachukia.

Read Also: Sabina Chege Demands Respect As She Denies Siring Children With De’ Mathew

The talented artiste also played for Kenyan music group Les Mangelepa as well as performing at Safaricom Kenya Live events.

Ricky released his first album, “Tucheze”, in late 2010.

Since then, with the support of his team, the band has been able to produce a number of albums that continue to receive a good reception among their audience.

He enjoys quite a lot of support from his family.

In fact, his nine-year-old son is following in the father’s footsteps.

“My son has started playing the bass guitar. I’m confident that he’ll be one of the best bass players not just in Kenya but the whole world,” he added.

Read Also: Magufuli Thrills Tanzanians With Sauti Sol’s Extravaganza Song During Speech [Video]

The band’s latest album, “Soko Huru”, that they released this year, has 10 songs. They are; New Day, Dhak Dereba, Mamayoo, Abednego, Soko Huru, Kitheka, Baraka, Marafiki, Gimme Chamo and Hinya Wa Mutumia.

The artiste takes pride in the band’s achievement so far and he hopes to make the world a better place through music.

“We shall be launching another album in February next year, I urge our fans to keep supporting us. We are grateful guys, we owe you more music!” Ricky said in his parting shot.

Watch the band’s performance here:

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Written by Wycliffe Nyamasege

Passionate digital Journalist with a bias for political and current affairs stories.

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