Kamanu M’Tuamwari: A Melodic Journey through Culture and Music

By Harun Mugambi

Mutai M’tuamwari, affectionately known as Kamanu M’tuamwari, is a musical maestro whose enchanting voice and mesmerizing melodies have captivated audiences in Meru and far beyond.

Beyond his Musical prowess, his multifaceted personality embodies and shines through his roles as a fervent environmentalist, a compelling storyteller, and a social media influencer with a global reach.


A Fusion of Tradition with Modernity

Kamanu’s musical oeuvre is a fusion of tradition and innovation, skillfully blending the traditional African Folk melodies with contemporary songs.

Rooted in Meru, Kenya’s culturally vibrant region, his distinctive blend of sounds resonates deeply with listeners. Whether performed on local stages or shared globally, Kamanu’s creativity knows no bounds.

From Kiorone Village to the World

Born 44 years ago into a family of twelve in Kiorone Village, Kigane area, Imenti South Sub-County, Kamanu’s journey began at St. Lucy’s School for the Visually Impaired, where he enrolled at the tender age of four.


Kamanu recalls, “My education journey started at St. Lucy’s primary where I attended from nursery through to class eight. It was a period marked with steadfast determination and perseverance -a peculiar journey indeed.”


His early life, steeped in local culture, set the stage for a musical journey that would span continents. Kamanu’s artistic foundation rests on the bedrock of Meru’s rich traditions.

Kamanu’s passion for music deepened when his brother, then a military officer, brought home a black flute, igniting musical ardor in his soul as he began singing to its melodies.

“My brother brought a black flute into our household, which lay dormant as none of us was conversant with it, it was not until a benevolent foreigner who was visiting St. Lucy Primary taught us how to use a flute,” recounts Kamanu. “Since then, the flute became my constant companion especially whenever I went home for holidays,” he adds.

Transitioning from Salvation Army High School for the Visually Impaired in Thika to Kenyatta University, Kamanu honed his craft while staying true to his roots.

Kamanu( in the middle) with his high school friends/PHOTO COURTESY

An impromptu performance at the Cultural Week during his university years revealed his innate talent and solidified his path in music.

Kamanu and Band performing at Kenyatta University/PHOTO COURTESY

“Through a fortuitous twist of fate, I found myself thrust into the spotlight at the Kenyatta University Cultural Week, courtesy of my enthusiastic yet discerning roommate, Fairman, who recognized my hidden potential,” narrates Kamanu vividly.

Initially against his will, this unplanned journey would soon take a melodious turn. Kamanu joined the performing band, and it was there that his latent musical talent came to the fore. The pivotal moment arrived when they performed the popular cover song “Senorita” by Don Williams for the Vice-Chancellor who was wowed by his exemplary performance. The performance was a resounding success, marking the beginning of Kamanu’s new identity as a musician.

The Origin of the name ‘Kamanu’

In the annals of 1992, Kamanu was given the name James at school, though he preferred his native name, Mutai. This was one of the names he bears as he would later be christened ‘Kamanu’.

It was fellow artists Kajairo (Peter Kaimenyi, former Embakasi MP aspirant) and Mc KJ (currently Dagoreti South MP Kiarie John) of the Redykyulass comedy crew who bestowed upon him the appellation ‘Kamanu’ following the success of his eponymous hit song—a title he embraced wholeheartedly.

“Unable to recall my given name, they christened me Kamanu,” he reveals.

The origin of the song “Kamanu” stemmed from a folk tune infused with elements of the French song “Aisha,” a melody that resonated deeply with Kamanu.

“Kamanu was a folk song that my band and I took and gave a blend of ‘Aisha’ a French song I loved to sing even while doing laundry,” he narrates.

Reflecting also on his early days of performing country music covers, Kamanu reminisces, “The ballad ‘Senorita’ by Don Williams held a special place in my heart; there was even a phase where I earned the moniker ‘Senorita’.”

A Distinctive Musical Style

Kamanu’s musical evolution transcends borders, blending Benga rhythms, Rhumba flair, and traditional Kimeru folk melodies.

His innovative sound, characterized by an amalgamation of African folk melodies and contemporary influences, resonates with local and international audiences alike.

“I believe music chose me; I merely acquiesced,” shares Kamanu, reflecting on his music journey.


Recalling his choir days in primary school, Kamanu admits a waning interest upon entering high school, eventually finding solace in solo performances and later, collaborative endeavors with a band.

“My love for music made me enroll in the University choir but it turned out not to be my preference, so I reverted to singing alone and then later to a band,” Kamanu adds.

International and high-profile performance

Performing internationally, Kamanu says, is a crescendo of joy. Kamanus’s passport wears the stamps of distant lands. In Berlin’s music theaters, he has serenaded the cosmopolitan crowds with his mellifluous tunes. Parisians Soirees have also swayed to his captivating melodies.


“The applause, the shared rhythms at both local and international stages are heartwarming,” he says.

Captivating audiences in France or Germany or entertaining dignitaries at the Statehouse remain etched in his memory.

Recounting a memorable performance during the 2020 Madaraka Day celebrations, Kamanu reminisces, “Following my stage performance, I was invited to serenade President Uhuru Kenyatta at a luncheon—an honor that opened doors to perform for esteemed dignitaries.”

Cultural Ambassador

Kamanu’s mixes have become a staple at Meru weddings, creating an enchanting atmosphere during celebratory occasions.

“Our culture is our legacy,” asserts Kamanu.

Kamanu in Traditional Attire

Deeply rooted in his Meru heritage, Kamanu advocates for preserving the Kimeru language and culture.

“Mwenda and Makena are now the names that everyone is naming their kids,” Kamanu notes.

He applauds efforts like Harvard incorporating Kimeru into its curriculum and urges the current generation to embrace African naming systems that carry lineage and meaning.

Through social media, Kamanu breathes life into Ameru proverbs and tales, weaving a vibrant mosaic of heritage from Tharaka to the wider Meru community.

Collaborative Endeavors

Kamanu’s collaborations with local artists underscore the unifying power of music across cultural divides, with his Meru influences infusing their compositions with newfound vitality.

He believes Akothee’s choice to sing using Kimeru in their hit ‘Nkoro Ndito’ song, was a symphony of uniqueness. To make her stand out, and to resonate with Meru fans.

Hinting at upcoming collaborations, Kamanu reveals, “While several projects are underway, it’s premature to disclose details.”

A man of many facets

Beyond his musical pursuits, Kamanu’s love for the environment is not just theoretical; it’s practical, tangible, and deeply rooted like the trees he strives to protect. Kamanu is the founder of a community-based organization (CBO) dedicated to tree conservation, a testament to his commitment to preserving nature’s grandeur.

“Back in 2019, we started an initiative dubbed Save Our Rivers Initiative (SAORI) with a clarion call which says ‘bring the roar back to our rivers’”

His efforts are not just about saving trees and rivers; they’re about securing the future, one sapling at a time.

Kamanu engaging in tree planting exercise

Apart from singing, Kamanu was a respected lecturer at Mount Kenya University, imparting knowledge in the Department of Hospitality and Foreign Language.

“I can speak French fluently,” Kamanu says as he utters some French words to showcase his prowess in the foreign language.

However, his love for music made him abandon being a lecturer and venture into music full-time.

“Once one harbors a passion for something, distractions dissipate, or you get them out of your way. I often penned lyrics between lectures before fully embracing music,” Kamanu affirms.

His academic background and environmental advocacy underscore a multifaceted persona driven by passion and purpose.

He recounts taking part in a drama, a path he thinks he might want to explore in the future.

“I once acted as Mzungu mwenye shaba a character in a book called ‘Kilio cha Haki’ and I did very well,” Kamanu reveals.

Resilience in the Face of Adversity

Kamanu’s journey is not just a tale of talent and tenacity, but also one of resilience. Born with albinism, he has faced the harsh glare of stigmatization. Yet, he stands tall, his spirit unbroken, his resolve unshaken.

“Stigmatization is part of Society’s fabric; I choose to let my critics be,” asserts Kamanu.

His condition has not deterred him; instead, it has become a part of his unique identity, adding a distinct hue to his life’s canvas.


“Like any other business, the music industry demands dedication and capital,” Kamanu reflects.

Indeed, his journey has been faced with challenges. From establishing a band and acquiring equipment to navigating criticism, each note has tested his mettle. This doesn’t deter him from remaining steadfast, as his music resonates with resilience.

“When I started singing the Meru music industry wasn’t as enthusiastic as I was as people believed that people from our region could not sing. This gave my music a poor reception. Meru music pioneers like Samuel Muriuki, Nathan kirai, and George king’ua laid good foundations in the 20th century before experiencing what I could call a “dark age” in Meru Music. However, currently, the young generation is picking up,” Kamanu elaborates.

Looking Ahead

With Numerous upcoming events, collaborations, and projects in the works, Kamanu urges fans to follow his social media accounts for timely updates.


“I’m currently in the planning stage for my upcoming events, collaborations, and projects. I can’t disclose details just yet, I’ll keep my fans updated,” Kamanu adds.

Kamanu, the troubadour and the Meru culture custodian continues to strum the strings of tradition.

His music bridges the past and present, inviting all to dance to the rhythm of Meru’s prestigious culture.

“I encourage young artists to be patient, and persistent as they remain true to themselves and what they believe in. But they must remember that artistic enterprises, like any other business, must apply business principles to thrive,” Kamanu emphasizes.

Beyond music, Kamanu finds joy in fatherhood, hosting gatherings, and planting trees testament to his well-rounded persona.

As each day passes, Kamanu’s melodies linger with timeless echoes in the winds of change.

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