Kikuyu Songs From My Childhood


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.

Song One

Mwarimu witu teacher
Niweka uru bad
Ni kwira ciana children
Cithie mugunda garden
Cikaune mbembe maize
Itari na rutha permission

Our teacher
You have done bad
To tell the children
To go to the garden
To harvest maize
Without permission

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.

Song Two

Ungienda guthoma cukuru umenye
Ni kwaria githungu o kiugo kiugo
Teacher ni mwarimu
Chair ni giti
Window ni diricha
Arm ni guoko

If you want to study in school
You have to speak in English, word for word
Mwarimu is teacher
Giti is chair
Diricha is window
Guoko is arm


Song Three

Njeri koma, wakoma ningugwita,
Ngurugire ngima ina cama
Waigua ngima, ni kindu kiri murio,
Kiri murio, ta uki wa njuki

Njeri sleep, if you sleep I will call you
I will cook for you sweet ugali
Ugali is something very sweet
Very sweet, like the bee’s honey

Song Four

Kaguku ga Bauro ni kaumire kiaga,
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

Paul’s little chicken left the coop
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?

Song Five

Kanyoni kanja, kanyoni kanja
Gekugwa nja na mitheko
Ndakoria atiri, ndakoria atiri
Wamichore watinda ku?
Ndatinda Koiri, ndatinda Koiri
Ngiaragania mbirigiti
Na mbirigiti, na mbirigiti
Na ndinainukia magoto
Magwa iriaini, magwa iriaini
Gwa cucu wa Kamerukia meru!

Little bird, little bird
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. 😀

Do you know some songs from your childhood? It would be pretty neat to learn some from other tribes.

Happy Throwback Thursday to you!

21 thoughts on “Kikuyu Songs From My Childhood

  1. This is so amazing! I’m a kindergarten teacher and can’t wait to teach my kids some of these songs! Thanks for the wonderful memories!

  2. Girl! How glad am I that these lyrics are here? I am performing this song tomorrow and behold here you have them. Then I know you! #lifemade Thank you for this. 🙂 Hope you are keeping well. Xxx Keep shinning.

    1. A.W.E.S.O.M.E. So thrilled they helped! Thanks Wambu! Ace that performance as always! You should know how often I tell people “I know that girl!!” ☺

  3. Nguruta Ngware ku x4
    ndwarire Mwalimu

    Mwalimu angiruma x4
    Nogwatuka igego

    Nogwatuka igego x4
    Ni murio wa ngare

    Na Ngware iri murio x4

  4. …. Nayo njau nayo njau írere múka írere múka
    Nake múka nake múka akie úcúrú akie úcúrú
    Naguo úcúrú naguo úcúrú…..

  5. Hi, For your Song Four –

    My wife is from Hong Kong, born in 1957, she remembers the following childhood poem. It was in English (HK was a British colony), and she says she’s 99% sure she has every word right:

    Paul’s little hen flew away from the farmyard
    Ran down the hillside and into the dale
    Paul hurried after but down in the brambles
    There sat a fox with a great bushy tail
    Cluck, cluck, cluck, cried the poor little chicken
    Cluck, cluck, cluck, but she cried in vain
    Paul made a spring but could not save her
    Now I shall never dare go home again

    I was born in the USA in 1959, but don’t remember any such song.

    They certainly sound like they came from the same source somehow, eh?

    Thanks for your cute site!

    Mike, Atlanta GA USA

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