Celebrating the Life of Fadhili Williams
The life and times of the late music icon Fadhili Williams who rose to international fame with his hit single Malaika, will be celebrated at the fifth edition of Malaika Festival under the themeCelebrating Love, Peace and the Elephant (LOPELE) on February 14, a date close to his death anniversary.
The theme of the elephant was factored to underscore the need for its preservation.
The festival is held in memory of the famous musician is the handiwork of music enthu- siast and lawyer Mr Duncan Mwanyumba who was the Fadhili family attorney.
Just like last year’s event, this year’s festival will be held at at Galaxy Resort, Voi, Taita Taveta County. In earlier years, the event was held in Nairobi before it was devolved to the County four years ago with the intention of turning it into a Taita Taveta’s County’s Cultural Brand. Taita Taveta is Fadhili’s home county even though his remains were interred in Kariokor, Nairobi when he breathed his last in 2001.
Besides celebrating the ex- traordinary talents of the world class music producer, performer and sound engineer, the festival also aims to identify the historical origins of the hit single Malaika which he composed. It is also used to bring people together, promote local musical talents and encourage environmental conservation. It also advances Taita Hills and the greater Tsavo as a prime tourism destination.
Among the activities planned at the festivity are traditional dances, exhibitions, music, food and drinks, poetry, acrobatic shows and sports. A football tournament was scheduled to start on January 31, with the finals set for the day of the festival. It will comprise 10 men’s teams and four women’s teams. There will also be tourist excursions and a tree planting exercise planned.
According to Mwanyumba, the convenors could not have picked a better day to hold the festival than on the universally celebrated Valentine’s Day since Fadhili music was entirely dedicated to romance and happy times.
The all-time hit single Malaika narrates the agony of a man who falls deeply in love with a beautiful woman but is too poor to afford her bride price. He appeals to his community to help him out.
However, the hit single has a
deeper meaning; it signifies Africa’s innate beauty and the spirit of sharing. It reflects communal peace and individual aspirations that is based on mutual help and co-operation, according to Mwanyumba.
“It transcends racial, ethnic, cultural and religious boundaries. That is why we invite all cadres of people at this festival,” he told Diplomat East Africa in an exclusive interview.
Fadhili was born last in a music family of four. His father died when he was seven years old and was brought up by his mother. He started singing while in primary school in his native Taita district. He proceeded to Shimo la Tewa High School for his O-Levels but dropped out in Form 3 to pursue his music dream.
He would later record his music at Equator Sound Studios, where even Malaika was recorded by Charles Worrod. It was an instant hit and captured the hearts of East Africans. It was then that he was spotted by South African music legend Miriam Makeba who helped him spread his wings beyond East Africa.
His was invited to the United States of America as part of a government delegation where he performed and recorded for a year. On his return he embarked on performances at high-end hotels in Tanzania and Kenya.
He returned to the USA again in 1987 to chase his music dream, settling in New Jersey and New York for 15 years. During this period, he participated in an all- Kenyan based artistes music tour with fellow celebrated artists such as Les Wanyika, Samba Mapangala and John Ngereza. It is perhaps his interactions in the USA that his music blended with diverse tunes such as American country, jazz chords, Latin rumba. South African Kwela and Western tunes.
His career spanned nearly half a decade before he died at a Nairobi hospital in what was reported to be suspected pneumonia on February 11th, 2001. He was then buried at the Kariokor cemetery.
Besides being Fadhili’s attorney, Mwanyumba is a long serving lawyer and musician in his own right with a bias for the saxophone. He plays rhumba, benga, taarab, blues and gospel in churches, funerals, weddings and other events. He is one of East Africa's foremost copyright and entertainment lawyers who fought hard for the protection of Fadhili’s copyright for the song Malaika. The song has been at the centre of lengthy copyright tussle over its original composition.
He first mooted the idea of the Fadhili memorial through the Malaika Festival while in Tanzania where he was a defence attorney at the now defunct International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda (ICTR).
In 2003, Mwanyumba donated the Fadhili Williams trophy to the Kenya Schools Music Festival to be awarded to musicians of outstanding talent and to raise awareness on original composer’s legal rights. Currently, he is also the legal counsel to the Fadhili family and secretary to the festival as well as the East African Cultural night in Arusha.
The organisers of this year’s festival have partnered with the Rotary club of Voi where part of the proceeds from the festival will be used to construct a public library in the town
Besides being Fadhili’s attorney, Mwanyumba is a long serving
and lawyer musician in his own right with a bias for the saxophone.