John Gathu has released his first CD, 3 Chord Poker, via MP3.com. The first track I listened to was Bwana Nipe Ushujaa which is Swahili for “Lord Give Me Courage”. I instantly liked this song and is my favorite one. It reminded me of the music I heard in Kenya. Party Tonight sounds like what I fondly call “matatu music” – that loud music constantly played on matatus. If you’ve been to Kenya, you know what I’m talking about.
John sings in English and in Swahili. He is good enough to include the lyrics for his songs and English translations for the ones sung in Swahili.
John describes his music as being progressive, rootsy, African popular music. That’s just what it is. Listening to Mama Moja there are many influences in his music. I can hear the Kenyan influences along with many many western influences including Billy Joel. Party Tonight has a definite Caribbean flavor. You can find Caribbean and Reggae music playing all along the coast of Kenya.
Evidenced in John’s work is how he has been touched by the events in his life. Martin’s Dream is about Martin Luther King Jr. A Madman and His Friends is about the shooting of one of his friends. John describes many of the places he has been in his lifetime – Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Amsterdam.
The synthesizer and computer generated music are heavily relied upon for this CD. This CD is not a “techno pop” composition. The music still has a human quality to it. John has decided to essentially become a one man band. Personally, I don’t find that this detracts from his music as I tend to prefer that type of music. I do like acoustic music as found in Martin’s Dream. Having the ability to publish music over the internet has brought John Gathu to my attention and I can only hope that I run across other quality Kenyan music.
Is there anything I don’t like about John’s music? Yes, in fact I did find something – at the end of Mama Moja John put a bit of Jingle Bells at the end. I’m not completely sure of the purpose of it. Perhaps he visited his mom in Kenya around Christmas time? Personally, I would have left that off.
I enjoy all the songs on this CD and have purchased it myself. To listen to Harare you can go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJ9uQ00owts and John has a Myspace page at: http://www.myspace.com/3chordpoker