ISHMAEL NG’ANG’A – The legendary ‘Water is Bitter’ composer who gave taste to the morality of a nation

Over the years, our motherland has produced several great music composers – Men and women whose creativity changed the course of a nation. Those who deserve the highest national honour.

But perhaps, none can claim to have put together magical works of choir musical art that can outdo those of Ishmael Ng’ang’a; his only peer in that area perhaps being Mwalimu Paul Wesonga, he who of ‘Tushangilie Kenya’ patriotic hit. Whereas Paul Wesonga composed for patriotism to the republic, Ishmael Ng’ang’a penned down his lines for the morality of a society whose norms and culture appeared to be at imminent risk with the rapid spread of Westernization.

Born in Ikinu village, Githunguri, Kiambu county, Ishmael Ng’ang’a founded and built from scratch the legendary PCEA Gathaithi Church Choir whose tunes remain timeless.

Gathaithi Choir produced masterpieces which appealed to people from all walks of life.

Back then, just as Wambui, the wife of Njiru, a peasant quarry worker from Kanjinji village, Mwea, Kirinyaga, one of the deepest, silent and forgotten corners of our Republic, would abandon everything to just listen to Gathaithi Choir’s compositions, whenever they played on Voice of Kenya, the only outlet by then, so would Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, seated in Ichaweri, Gatundu, Kiambu, the actual independence seat of government.

Through his music, Ng’ang’a counseled, corrected and guided a nation for decades.

Among the choir’s most famous tunes include ‘Mai Ni Maruru’ and ‘Mbathi ya Mihang’o.’

But my favourite of Ng’ang’a’s works is ‘Mwana Ni Kiheo.’

The curtains finally fell on this great soul in late 2011 but his legacy outlives him.

Below are links to some of his best tunes …..