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Raphael Kipchamba araap Tapotuuk was born in 1937 in Bomet as the first born son to the family of Mugulaya Tapotuuk araap Sitienei and his wife Tapsabei Kobot Kipchamba chepo kaap Tangus.

He had two brothers and four sisters namely Joseph, Livingstone, Raeli Marusin, Esther Chepkwony, Juliana Maritim, Salina Cheptepkweny. Some few years later his parents moved to Mau Narok and settled there for a while before returning to their original home at Kapsirich village where the family still live.

    Kipchamba developed love for music at a tender age of ten. His music talent was discovered by his primary school teacher a Mr. Sitienei at Segemik Primary School in 1950. Besides music, young Kipchamba loved athletics. In spite of his wide knowledge and discerning mind, Kipchamba later dropped out of school for lack of school fees. His peasant parents could not afford a hundred shilling school fees which was required at the then catholic sponsored Kaplong Intermediate School.

    Being the first born in the family, he spent most of his free time with the father who was very wise and proverbial. In his youthful life, he found himself so much inclined to senior members of his community unlike his age mates. In fact, his music partner Kipkwaamburiot araap Riiro informed us when we visited him last week that, Kipchamba used to sleep at the feet of elders while his age mates entertained their sweet hearts in their cottages. He could listen to the elders narrate stories, events and incidences that have since occurred amongst the Kipsigiis, the Kalenjin and even other neighboring communities like the Luo, Abagusii and the Maasai.

    Kipchamba araap Tapotuuk was initiated into Sawe age set in 1955. His age mates admired him for his prolific mind and music prowess. He was seen as the shining star and a brain of reference among his friends. He started his music career that spanned almost half a century by playing the traditional guitar Chemooonges. As time went by, he picked up other modern music instruments such as the accordion. His main intention in singing was to educate and pass on the knowledge he had acquired from his seniors. He never thought that one can earn a living through music until his music partner Wilson araap Labooso informed him so. Before then he could compose songs for leisure, entertainment and more importantly to educate the masses who listened to his soothing music which transcended age,sex, religion,tribe and socio-economic barriers.

   Together with his friends and music partners that included Oriango araap Chepkwony, Francis araap Koeech alias Cheemiirei, Morris Maineek,Pole araap Sitoonik and Segeri araap Talam Kipchamba formed Koilongeet Band.Kipkwaamburiot araap Riiro was later recruited into the band because of his prowess in music composition and traditional dancing which Kipchamba reckoned.His songs which numbered a thousand have made immense contribution in the preservation of the Kalenjin history, culture, idioms and sayings. His family have since not fully accounted on the exact number of the songs Kipchamba composed and sung. Kipchamba knew how to blend his traditions and the catholic religion he professed. Always clean shaven and in a smart suit, Kipchamba was not a village musician for he dined and wined with the honoured and the mighty.

    Kipchamba married his first wife the late Esther Chepo kaapkwei in 1962 immediately before Kenya attained independence and ten years later he married his second wife Ann Jepng’eno. They were blessed with seven sons and three daughters. During our last visit to Kipchamba home at Nyatembe village we interviewed the jovial Mrs Ann Tapotuuk who shared a lot of insights on the life and times of the great Kalenjin educator the late Raphael Kipchamba araap Tapotuk.

    Under the umbrella of Koilong’eet Band Kipchamba’s music touched on every aspect of human life. He addressed politics, social life, religion, economics, health, culture, education among other things. His music was timeless and he really moved with time. In one of his last songs Lane one, he advised other musicians to sing songs that will beat the test of time. Though he never practiced politics, Kipchamba was very keen on the rights and interest of his people. He sung on the need for independence and after independence he detested the British continued siphoning of Kenya’s wealth in one of his songs Banee Rogorooni? Kipchamba personally resented any form of exploitation for he condemned it so much until he was called upon to record a statement with the police. He was accused of inciting farmers against high interest rates by banking institutions who were willing to loan farmers buy the white highlands.

    On social life Kipchamba in his song Madam is urging husbands not to be lured by the young and educated wives until they forget the family role of a polygamous man. As a religious man Kipchamba proudly sings that he is a baptized Christian and urges others to be believe in God and be baptized too in preparation for the second coming of Christ. He even gives the year and the name of the catholic priest who officiated over his baptism at Kaplong Catholic Church.

    Some of Kipchamba songs advices on the importance of eating balanced diet and the need to be hygienic through washing of hands and fruits given to children. He encouraged people to work hard in whatever they do to improve their livelihood and provide for their families. Having been deprived of education early in life, Kipchamba said a lot about education. In fact he was more of an educator than a singer. He urged Rift Valley residents to pull resources and built an institute of science and technology in Rift Valley. In one of his songs he even encouraged those old people to join adult education program. In 2000, Kipchamba was proposed for an honorary award by Moi University but when the award was shelved, it never crushed his spirit for he was not a self seeker.

    The father of Kalenjin music hero Kipchamba araap Tapotuk died on 7th April, 2007 at Tenwek Mission Hospital after a short illness. He was laid to rest one week later at his Nyatembe home where people of all walks of life attended. Though a great musician Kipchamba died a poor man and by the grace of God most of his children went to school. Since he had no capital for his music production he could only survive on the royalties from Chandarana music studio where most of his songs were recorded. It is so unfortunate that such royalties have since stopped with the passing on of Kipchamba. During the funeral many promises were made even to the extent of instituting a Kipchamba Foundation to cater for the welfare of his family and music. Our attempt to establish the fate of all the promises made to the family became futile when those concerned have kept away. Kipchamba died but he still talks to us through his music and will continue to do so for eternity!

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