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David Amunga

Born in Kakamega district in 1938, Amunga had been spotted by Funde Konde, a musician, comedian and talent scout for Equator Sounds Studios. His first recordings for the label included one song, Someni Vijana, Study Hard, Young Men, that became a hit and gained Amunga a powerful fan, the trade unionist Tom Mboya.

Fed up with the poor remuneration he received for Someni Vijana - it was standard practice for musicians to receive a flat fee for recordings - in 1965 Amunga broke with Equator Sounds and set up Mwangaza Music Store as an independent production company, possibly the first African-owned one of its kind in Kenya. Mboya, by then a minister in the government, guaranteed a loan that launched the company.

America to Africa, Mwangaza Music Store’s first release, was a huge hit, topping The Nation newspaper’s chart for six months. It was inspired by a very particular set of events: the granting of independence to Kenya in 1963 and the exodus, sponsored by the new government, of many of the country’s brightest young men to universities in America and Russia.

Amunga, like many other Kenyans, was concerned that the students return after their studies to develop the young nation so he wrote a song to encourage them to come back.

Mwangaza, though, didn’t last. In 1967 he set up another label, Kassanga Star Sounds. He had one further hit, Jane is Pretty, but also produced some of the earliest recordings of 1970s stars such as DO Misiani and Daniel Kamau. This label also folded, but in 1980 he started Artco, an artistes’ cooperative which he had to leave when he was appointed director of the Presidential Music Commission. Two years later, he became a founder member of Music Copyright Society of Kenya.

As of May 2010, Amunga is still alive and well, according to the Abeingo Community Network, whose Shad Bulimo has interviewed him and will be posting the interview shortly at abeingo.org