Saturday, February 06, 2016

Maurice White Rejoins Ancestors

A tribute from Nairobi by Onyango Oloo

This is a question I am posing to my fellow Kenyans.

Who was the leader of a  globally famous soul, funk group;   bandleader and producer of most of

  Earth, Wind and Fire's albums;

Who earned legendary status winning six Grammy Awards out of a staggering fourteen nominations, an NAACP Hall of Fame Award, a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame and four American Music Awards and the sale of over 90 million of the group's albums worldwide?

He was born in 1941 and died a couple days ago in early  February 2016.

Since I was a teenager in Mombasa in the 1970s  I can positively answer that question.

Those were the days when the internet was largely unknown in most of the world.

Kenya had only one main radio station-run by the government.

It had a Kiwahili  channel and the English language "General Service".

These were the days of Leonard Mambo Mbotela,  Elizabeth Omolo, Abdul Haq and Mick Ndishu. Musically on the local scene people like  John Mdichu, Slim Ali and the Hodi Boys, Gabriel Omollo and Apollo Komesha, Daudi Kabaka,  Habel Kifoto and the Commandoes, Sukuma Bin Ongaro, Kabila Kabanze and Mangelepa, Samba Mapangala and Les Kinois reigned supreme.

As far as African-Americans went, this was the  heyday of Millie Jackson, Roberta Flack, Marvin Gaye, Cameo, Fireside, Side, Donna Summer, Aretha Franklin, the Commodores, Bootsy Collins, George Clinton and Parliament to name just a few.

And yes, teenagers like myself who went to Mombasa Baptist High School and Patrick Mukholi of Lenana School in Nairobi  followed Earth ,Wind and Fire avidly.

We knew standards like standards like


Boogie Wonderland



Today we mourn the untimely passing of one of the main faces of the band-Maurice White- yes we knew he had a brother called

Verdine and another one called

Fred and that

Phil Bailey was the other main vocalist.

To find out more about Maurice, go to this link.

It is a  sad testimony that today's Kenyan teenagers with access to Google,  Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, iTunes and Netflix do not know what is happening in their own town, county or county leave alone other cultural events. They may have heard fleetingly of  Niki Minaj, Justin Bieber and Rihanna through some accident.

But in our day- when we used to pen university undergraduate essays with Biros and heard never heard of YouTube, we  were  better informed.

And it was not just about pop culture.

We could talk about the Sandinistas in Nicaragua with some intelligence and we  knew about Steve Biko in South Africa and the  poet Kim Chi Ha from the Korean peninsula. We could discuss questions to deal with the world's political economy and could debate the feminist ideas of Angela Davis, Germaine Greer and Simone be Beauvier. We knew where Ben Bella had been  born and what Ho Chi Minh did for national liberation. We had read the Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born and  seen local theatre productions of Waiting for Godot. And we  could tell you where Bob Marley lifted the lyrics of  War from.

Today many of  the Kenyan youth spend their time on the internet surfing for hard core porn or  hurling  tribal abuse at strangers even though most of them can not put a coherent sentence together in their own mother tongue.

What  a shame.

Rest in Peace, Maurice White!  

Many of us miss you already.