Cel­e­brat­ing the Life of Fad­hili Wil­liams

Diplomat East Africa - - Table of Contents - By BRIAN MURE­I­THI

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.

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