Nairobi News


Revealed: How Benga star De’Mathew spent his final moments

By Simon Ciuri August 20th, 2019 4 min read

A fellow Benga musician and a friend of John De’Mathew has detailed his last moments with the artiste before he met his death through a fatal road crash in Thika on Sunday.

Already, former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo has been endorsed by the family to chair a committee organising the burial. Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria has promised to accord the musician a burial befitting a music star.


Kamande wa Kioi told the Nation by phone that De’Mathew was heading home after attending a fundraiser in aid of fellow musician Peter Kigia when he met his death.

The appeal was in aid of Kigia’s child who is admitted at Avenue Hospital and needs Sh1 million to undergo surgery.

“De’Mathew was driving to his home at Gatanga from Metro Bar and restaurant along Thika-Garissa Road. He was jovial all through. In fact, he was the Master of Ceremony at the event. At around 10.05pm, he left for his home only to learn that he had perished in an accident near Blue Post Hotel,’’ said Mr Kioi.

“Contrary to reports in some social media platforms that De’Mathew was drunk, I can confirm that he wasn’t and he had not differed with anyone as it has been said. His death is a big blow to his family and friends who really loved and cherished his music,” he added.

Contacted by the Nation, Mr Kigia said he was not ready to speak about the issue since the incident had traumatised him.

But even in his heydays as popular Benga maestro from Mt Kenya, John De‘Mathew remained humble until he met his death despite the influence he commanded from both the political and corporate class.

A radio presenter at Inooro FM, owned by Royal Media Services, who used to be the musician’s closest friend, told the Nation of his interaction with the artiste.


“He was a friend and mentor to many upcoming musicians. He always wanted to see the unity of musicians and his songs were more of prophesies because most of the issues he sang about came to pass. His songs were rich in content and his message and lyrics blended with his audience because he was singing about the issues affecting his fans and more so he knew what they wanted to hear,” said Mr Kamau wa Kang’ethe.

“The government should help fight piracy and restructure Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) so that the artistes can benefit from their work. De’Mathew’s death is a big blow to the local music fraternity,” he added.

De’Mathew has over 375 songs and 50 albums under his name and he is one of the most sought musicians from central Kenya.

He got into trouble with the National Cohesion and Integration Commission for a song he sang in 2013, Mwaka wa Hiti (the year of the hyena).

In the song, he portrayed “Mt Kenya political enemies” as greedy hyenas. He was arraigned in court for hate speech at the time Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, who De’ Mathew was supporting for the presidency, had a criminal case before the International Criminal Court (ICC). De’Mathew was hitting out at those who were hoping for a possible conviction to bag the presidency.

Those who were captured in the song as recipients of hate speech were Mr Raila Odinga, Mr Peter Kenneth and Ms Martha Karua.

He was later be acquitted of the charges by senior principal magistrate Ellena Nderitu who said there was no evidence that the words in the song constituted hate speech.

So respected by his peers in music that in 2018, he was elected to be the chairman of Talented Musicians and Composers (Tamco) Sacco a position he served till his death.


While launching the Sacco in May, De’Mathew had implored the President to take charge of the music industry and direct elimination of “piracy, bad government policies and flawed music users and musicians returns agreements.”

By the time of his death, De Mathew had launched a grass roots caravan to Gikuyu speaking counties, where his messages centred on preserving his tribesmen hegemony in politics as well as accepting that “we are politically indebted to those who helped us win in the 2013 and 2017 presidential race.”

He had released a hit song Twambe Turihe Thiri (We should settle our debt first) in which he was imploring his tribesmen to support Deputy President William Ruto’s presidential bid in 2022 on account that he helped President Kenyatta win in 2013 and 2017.

The caravan had visited Embu County and he was scheduled to tour Nakuru on August 31.

Multiple interviews with people who knew De’Mathew corroborate that he was born John Ng’ang’a Mwangi in Gathiru-Ini sub-location, Gatanga Constituency, in Murang’a County over five decades ago. He was the fourth born in a family of eight.

He schooled in Mukurwe-Ini now Githambia Primary School and later proceeded to Naaro Secondary School in Kandara and later finished his high-school education at Igikiro Secondary School in Murang’a.

Before he ventured into music, his first stab into business was selling vegetables in Nairobi’s Soko Mjinga. He later relocated to Nakuru where he sold plastic shoes.

De’Mathew would later be introduced into a full-time music career by fellow musician Timona Mburu and Joseph Wamumbe who financed him to release his first single Jenifer in 1986.

Additional reporting by Mwangi Muiruri