Ayub Ogada, the legendary Kenyan musician, who popularised traditional African melodies around the world and was a composer of note for movies, passed away earlier this month. Alan Donovan, who first recognised his talent more than 40 years ago, pays tribute to his long-time friend and collaborator.
For 40 years I have worked closely with the legendary Ayub Ogada, who co-founded the African Heritage Band with me in 1979. It was a great shock to wake on the morning of 1 February and hear of his passing at his home in Kisumu.
For the past seven months I have been organising the Gala Night of the Century for the launch of the magnificent double-volume opus, African Twilight by Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher, on 3 March, when 400 selected guests will take the train from the Railway Museum in Nairobi to African Heritage House (see NA, February issue).
Ayub Ogada was to open the show with his famous song, Koth Biro (The rains are coming in the Dholuo language). Fernando Anuangu (former dancer for African Heritage and Rare Watts, now in Paris) is to dance to Ayuhu, a tribute to Ogada written by his protege, Papillon.
I first met Ayub Ogada (then Job Seda) as he was coming down the steps of the Conservatoire of Music opposite the National Theater, Nairobi in 1979.1 was looking for musicians to accompany African Heritage on its tours to Europe, and go around the world with its troupe.
I realised I needed a musical group with a complete African sound and repertoire, who played African instruments, as African Heritage was the first organisation in Nairobi that held shows with all-African models, all-African fabrics and costumes and all-African jewellery.
Job had been performing with his guitar and drums with a group called Black Savage, which was getting a lot of press coverage. I tapped him on the shoulder and asked him if he would consider forming a new musical group which would feature only original music with African instruments.
At 3:30 that afternoon, he had moved into the African Heritage Gallery on Kenyatta Avenue with all of his instruments and equipment and I felt this was an omen for both our futures.
He soon put aside his guitar and started taking lessons on the 8-stringed Luo instrument, the Nyatiti, which I had given him and which was to become his longest lasting 'partner'--it was Ayub and his famous Nyatiti, with which he was to travel the world.
The African Heritage Band soon became known as East Africa's leading musical group and...