‘MALAIKA FEST’ SET TO BECOME A KENYAN BRAND?
The residents of Rong’e Juu Location and Taita Taveta County in general are bracing themselves for a major ‘Mwazindika dance’ and a heartfelt rendition of Fadhili William ballads come February, 2013 to mark the late music icon’s 12th Anniversary since his demise.
Fadhili, to whom the Festival is a tribute, is the acclaimed author-composer of the World-famous song ‘Malaika’ which the late South African songstress Miriam Makeba erroneously and, unfortunately, attributed to a Tanzanian.
Other Artistes, like Angelique Kidje, also, have unwittingly repeated Makeba’s original ‘sin’. Starting with ‘Ukifika Taita’-arguably Fadhili’s most evergreen Kiswahili song in praise of Taita Hills and their lush pastures that is gradually becoming one of the event’s signature tunes besides ‘Malaika’ in equal measure, the fete promises to deliver aesthetic, sound and culinary tastes that so far characterize the growing Malaika Festival.
In February 2011, although curious revelers at the Grand event were initially at pains to comprehend the real meaning of the unfolding cultural event after a seven-year hiatus, the sheer sound of ‘Malaika’ the song and the unmistakable voice of the late Fadhili William, served to re-kindle old memories of the departed songster who caused ripples in Kenya, East Africa and beyond from the late 50s to the mid-seventies. But, the presence also of ‘banana chapatis’, Kimanga, Kipunde, Mkango, the local Taita brew ‘M’bangara’ and, the eminent ‘Mwazindika’ Drums and ‘Kishawi’ dances all went a long way to convince the patrons of the sustained blend of Fadhili William’s legacy and faltering Taita cultural practices which serve as a reminder of Fadhili’s deep Taita roots.
Strangely though, at first, last year some local Christians had thought of the ‘Malaika Fest’ as a form of the long-forgotten ”ancestor worship’ among the Taita, before they could safely conclude that the event was no more than a pure celebration of the life and music times of their own departed son, whose remains they wished they had interred in his Rong’e ancestral home, instead of far away in Nairobi’s Cosmopolitan Kariokor Cemetery.
Fadhili William grew up and settled in the Eastland’s side of Nairobi, before moving to the United States of America in 1983, where he was to remain for thirteen years.
In his younger days, the late Fadhili composed lyrics and sang in his Taita language, besides Kiswahili and English. ‘Niko Kireti’, ‘Ngamba Niagesha Wasi’, and ‘Munilaguye Saru’ for instance, are some of his Taita lyrics whose rendition caused even aging nostalgic female fans to gyrate and sweat out at the height of the last event which is gradually gaining local acceptance. This year’s event attracted a huge crowd, both young and old, with host School Mwanyambo Secondary School students leading the way through their scintillating drama, songs and dancing styles.
In the unfolding ‘branding’ of Malaika Festival whose Fadhili William image is, singularly, its most conspicuous mark besides red, cream and pink colors associated with the late musician, the sounds, traditional foods, dances and surrounding scenic beauty of the Taita Hills closely resembling the Swiss Alps, all combine to create what is fast becoming the ‘Malaika Fest’ brand promise!
“It is not complete without first slaughtering a Bull for us to feast on!”, says an old Fadhili William fan during the climax of this year’s festivity. Although he alone voiced his concern, this apparently, was the general feeling of most fans of the celebratory occasion. “This will be in keeping with the old customs!”, added Mzee Silvano Nyambu, a retired police officer from Rong’e Juu who also plays the Mwazindika Drums as a pastime. But, will this also, be a future expectation?
As a pointer of better things to come, the Organising Team of the forthcoming Third edition of the Festival has given notice, through the aptly-framed theme of ‘Promoting Peace & National Cohesion”, of the full Kenyan brand potential comprised in patriotic songs like ‘Kenya Nchi Yangu’ and ”Harambe Harambe’ , to which Fadhili contributed both lyrics and guitar works, and dances by various groups from across the cosmopolitan Taita Taveta County representing “the face of Kenya”, spiced, of course, by the everlasting ‘Malaika’, if the Festival Team’s appeal to local Corporate sponsors including Kenya Commercial Bank, Silent Guest Resort and Wildlife Works, bears more fruit.
Needless to say, however, guarantees of peace and security, besides the availability of traditional Taita foods, drinks, and Taita Mwazindika and Taveta Uruasi dances and sounds, as well as, possibly, other Kenyan sounds, will be uppermost as “givens” in the minds of tourists, both foreign and local expected at the Fete, which was initially held in Nairobi but subsequently “devolved” to Taita Taveta County three years ago where it is set to be anchored in more fertile ground.
Voi City, Saturday, December 22, 2012
Duncan Mwanyumba is a practicing Advocate of the High Court of Kenya currently based in Voi City, Coast Province of Kenya, and a cultural enthusiast.