This was originally posted on Thoughts and Stuff in two parts. It was the post that gave birth to this blog because it brought so many readers from Google. I realized that there was a gap. This is the beginning of the filling.
2023 Update: I have started making videos for each of the Kikuyu rhymes! I have sat on that task for 10 years until I got my own babies. SMH. I will link under each rhyme as I publish them. Enjoy with your babies!
In the world of social media, today is #ThrowbackThursday. So I am going to make some Thursdays the same here too. I love history. I also love it when I remember stuff from way back (way back being my very long 24 years of existence). Unfortunately, sometimes I forget. Fortunately, I have this blog to document stuff and the Internet never forgets. So today, I am going down memory lane with some of the Kikuyu songs my dad and mum taught me and my brother as kids.They doted on us a lot. They dote on my younger brother and sister too (who came years later) but they have no knowledge of the songs I am about to write here. I guess parenthood changes as you grow old and get used to it.
Here are five songs I remember from my childhood. There are more but let’s leave those for another day. My dad came up with them all the time. Some I am not even sure were actual songs in the Kikuyu community. He may have made them up for all we know. If you know them, you can sing them out loud, don’t be shy. And if you know some popular ones from back in the day, you can go ahead and share, regardless of tribe.
Niweka uru bad
Ni kwira ciana children
Cithie mugunda garden
Cikaune mbembe maize
Itari na rutha permission
You have done bad
To tell the children
To go to the garden
To harvest maize
This has never made sense to me by the way. I figured if the teacher told the children to harvest the maize, how did they not have permission? Maybe the garden did not belong to the school or the teacher… Makes sense.
Ni kwaria githungu o kiugo kiugo
Teacher ni mwarimu
Chair ni giti
Window ni diricha
Arm ni guoko
You have to speak in English, word for word
Mwarimu is teacher
Giti is chair
Diricha is window
Guoko is arm
Ngurugire ngima ina cama
Waigua ngima, ni kindu kiri murio,
Kiri murio, ta uki wa njuki
I will cook for you sweet ugali
Ugali is something very sweet
Very sweet, like the bee’s honey
gagitenyera na au githakaini
Bauro agitenyera na ndakanyitire,
Gagikora mbwe na gicuthi kinene
Ko-ko-ko, kaguku kau gakiuga
Ko-ko-ko, ndigacoka mucii ringi
and ran to the forest
Paul ran after it and did not catch it
It found a fox with a huge tail
Ko-ko-ko, the little chicken said
Ko-ko-ko, I’ll never go back home again
This also makes no sense and I presume my dad probably made it up. How do you meet a fox that will gobble you up in a second then decide never to go back home? Isn’t that like the complete opposite of what you should do?
Gekugwa nja na mitheko
Ndakoria atiri, ndakoria atiri
Wamichore watinda ku?
Ndatinda Koiri, ndatinda Koiri
Na mbirigiti, na mbirigiti
Na ndinainukia magoto
Magwa iriaini, magwa iriaini
Gwa cucu wa Kamerukia meru!
Fell outside with laughter
I asked it, I asked it
Striped one, where have you been?
I have been to Koiri, I have been to Koiri
Spreading (no idea what mbirigiti is)
And I have not brought home banana fibre
They fell into the lake, they fell into the lake
At grandma’s of Kamerukia meru!
We can now all laugh at my weak attempt at direct translation which finally led to the discovery that I may not know Kikuyu as much as I would have loved to.
I am back with some more Kikuyu songs/rhymes from my childhood years. I noticed lots of you loved them and keep searching. Seriously, that was the life. I made mum and dad sing them and they did, joyfully, to the amusement of my baby bro and sis who have never heard most of them before. Needless to say, I had forgotten some words. I am old, people. You should see the white hairs on my head.
If I find or remember more after this, you can be sure I will add them here for you to walk down memory lane with me. Continued from last time.
Nu, nu waiya mburi?
Nu, nu waiya mburi?
Maitu ndume wone,
Maitu ndume wone,
Ni igiri, ni igiri,
ni igiri, ni igiri,
Na ciuma ithatu!
Who, who stole the goats?
Who, who stole the goats?
Mum come and see, Mum come and see,
They are two, two, two,
And they were three!
This song is sang to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”. I remembered it after that cute baby on Kameme FM sang it during one episode of the children’s programme on Saturdays. You know that kid? The one who can’t pronounce big Kikuyu words like ‘kurugaruga‘? Makes my Saturday mornings.
Joma, kihuti, mumero ugituura
Gutiri, dawa, I hinya, gukira Cofta
(Ati atia cofta lol)
Flu, cold, throat pain
There is no medicine with power like Cofta
(Say what Cofta)
First of all, all along, I used to sing it wrong. We said it as mumero wa nguku for some strange reason. Mum corrected me recently. Apparently, joma is another name for homa. I had no idea what it was back then when we sang it while going round four boxes drawn on the ground. Sometimes, we would do it on an old tyre. The singing game involved you getting a partner and jumping around the four squares in circular motion while throwing your legs about without a care in the world.
Kururia mwana tukanyue maai thiririkaini!
Wamucuha-i maai magwa-i,
maitika thii-i, nandikunde-e,
ndaciariirwo o hau!
Drag the kids we go drink water in the stream!
Wamucuha the water has fallen
And spilled on the ground, without my sipping it
I was born right there!
These are two rhymes. I always related them both because they are short and make no sense whatsoever. I guess that’s the whole point of being a kid.
Nguringa caitani ngundi ndimugaragarie
Na wona agaragara ndimuringe iteke
Caitani ni kahote, gatiri na tuhindi
Tuguru ni tucembe, na tuoko ni tuhoma
Caitani ndangihota kunyita,
Na mbarathi kana motokaya
Ona angitumirira mathangu
Ndorete kwa Ngai ndanginyita!
I will punch Satan then roll him
Then when he rolls,
I will kick him
Satan is defeated, he has no bones
His legs are hoes and his hands are forks
Satan cannot catch me
On a horse or motorcar
Even if he sews wings on
When I am headed to God’s, he cannot catch me!
These are three songs, obviously, Sunday School-ish. I always relate them too. Plus they are clearly very childish. That’s how we were taught to imagine Satan.
Kairitu karia twari ndugu,
ndakona Dagoreti Kona
Gekirite ngima muhuko, gakauga ni keki
Na ni riria ndari thibitari
Ndionire mundu wa kunyona
No mwendwa wakwa wokire na cai birika imwe
The girl with whom we were friends,
I saw her at Dagoretti Corner
With ugali in her pocket, claiming it was cake
And when I was in the hospital I did not see anyone come see me
But my love came with tea in a kettle
This was mum’s favourite. We would sing it with her a lot, with our hands held out to each other in those clapping motions, similar to the English singing games. (E.g. “By shot I love you baby” What did this one even mean?)
And because y’all deserve better than just song and rhyme. I will leave you with this classic tale.
Tene tene muno ri ni kwari muthungu,
wahaataga nja yake,
kanyoni ka nja gagiuka,
gakimia, muthungu agigakora,
agikooria, “Niki wamia nja yakwa?”
kanyoni gakiuga,”Ti kumia ngumiaga, ni itina ngumemagia, me, me, me!”
Long long time ago, there was a white man
He was sweeping his compound
A little bird came
The white man found it and asked, “Why are you pooping in my compound?”
The little bird said, “I was not pooping, I was just…
Karugano gakwa gathirira hau.