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‘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 Saturday, May 25th, 2013 to
mark the late music icon’s 12th Anniversary since his demise.

Fadhili William, to whom the  Kenyan ‘Malaika Festival’ is a tribute, is
the acclaimed author-composer of the World-famous song ‘Malaika’ whose
original composition the late South African songstress Miriam Makeba
erroneously and, unfortunately, attributed to a Tanzanian. Other
Artistes, like Benin’s Angelique Kidjo, 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 Festival’s signature tunes
besides ‘Malaika’, the fete promises to deliver  aesthetic, sound and
culinary tastes that  have so far characterized  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 being held in Rong’e Juu, Taita Taveta County after  a
seven-year hiatus since its last performance in Nairobi City, 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 of ‘banana chapatis’, Kimanga,
Kipunde, Mkango, the  local Taita brew ‘M’bangara’  and ‘Mwasina’ 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 not
only of  Fadhili William’s rich music legacy but, also, of  his  deep
Taita roots.

Strangely though, at first, some local Christians had thought of
‘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 had grown 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 songs 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 and,  fanatics. Last
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 performed in their
multi-colored School uniforms. To cap it all, even aspiring politicians,
including  Taita Taveta Governor aspirant Engineer John Mtuta Mruttu,
Women Representatives Joyce  Wanjala Lay  and Anna  Nyambu, got pulled
away from another social event held  nearby, to throbbing Malaika Festival
sounds and Mwazindika Drums.

In the unfolding ‘branding’ of  Malaika Festival, Kenyan style,  whose
Fadhili William image is, singularly, its most conspicuous  mark besides
the 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  Kenyan ‘Malaika Fest’  brand promise with all
its trappings!

“It is not complete without first slaughtering a Bull for us to feast
on!”, says an old Fadhili William fan during the climax of last year’s
festivity. Although he alone openly 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 of remembering our departed
souls!”, added  Mzee Silvano Nyambu, a retired police officer from Rong’e
Juu who also plays the Mwazindika Drums as a pastime. But, will this too,
become  a future expectation?

As a pointer of better things to come, the Organising  Team of the
forthcoming Third edition of the County Festival has given notice, through
the aptly-framed  theme of ‘Promoting Peace & National Cohesion through
Music”, of the full Kenyan  brand potential comprised in appealing
patriotic songs  like ‘Kenya Nchi Yangu’ and ”Harambe Harambe’  in 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’ song,
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 Mwazindika Drums
and Taveta Uruasi dances and foods, as well as, possibly, other Kenyan
sounds,  will be uppermost as “givens” or “cravings 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. Ironically, although the event’s devolution to Taita Taveta
County was aimed at boosting the County’s potentially rich cultural
profile, it may very well, fortuitously, become a ‘Kenyan Brand’ whose
popular ‘malaika.co.ke’ website domain already reflects its future trend.

Duncan Mwanyumba

Festival Convener,

Voi City, Saturday, January 12, 2013