What you need to know:
- Some of the popular songs they released in the Lunyore dialect of Luhya include Khwakosa Sina, Khwesimba Murwe and Esimiti Khusilenje.
- They also released several Kiswahili songs including Joyce, Maombi ya Mummy, Mary Ondiso, Grace Mpenzi and Hadija Mrembo.
Veteran musician Shem Tube, who died two weeks ago at a hospital in Vihiga County, will be laid to rest at his home in Mwilonje village, Bunyore today.
He passed on after a short illness on February 7 at a hospital in Luanda.
Tube will be remembered for his mastery of the guitar and vocals. Tube was one of the innovators of the popular ‘omutibo’ beat that took the Western region and country by storm in the early 1960s. He was renowned for fusing the danceable beat with percussion sounds from scratching the grooves of the vintage Fanta soda bottle with a coin.
The Fanta bottle sound was heard in faraway Europe by music connoisseurs, who would later set out to establish its origin. This led to the elevation of the “omutibo” beat to international status.
Radio disc jockeys in Kenya, the UK and other parts of the world would marvel at the ingenious use of the bottle.
Alongside his colleagues in the Abana ba Naserry (Nursery schoolchildren) band Justo Osala and Enos Okola, the band attracted attention in Kenya and beyond, earning the musicians invitations for performance tours to the UK and the US.
In the early 1990s the group toured England and performed live on radio stations.
Besides the Bana ba Nassery, Tube also had stints with the Mwilonje Jazz Band and Les Bunyore Band. Both were session groups.
With two of the original Bana ba Nassery now gone, the sole survivor, Enos Okola, who was the youngest of the three, says that it is not over yet as the beat goes on.
Speaking to the Saturday Nation earlier in the week, Okola, who was one of Tube’s longtime musical associates, recalled their long musical journey, with performances both in Kenya and overseas.
It was Okola, who scratched the Fanta bottle grooves with a coin to make the unique sound. “As we prepare to bury our brother this weekend, my fond memories of him and Justo will forever be in my mind. I still remember the tribulations we went through as we tried to build our musical careers in Nairobi and other parts of Kenya," he said.
It wasn’t easy for the trio from Bunyore during their early stages, especially in the 1960s when they started the group in Nairobi. They mainly performed in bars in Eastlands and within the CBD.
Some of the popular songs they released in the Lunyore dialect of Luhya include Khwakosa Sina, Khwesimba Murwe and Esimiti Khusilenje.
They also released several Kiswahili songs including Joyce, Maombi ya Mummy, Mary Ondiso, Grace Mpenzi and Hadija Mrembo.
Speaking to the Saturday Nation earlier this week, African-American music archivist Douglas Paterson eulogised Tube as an outstanding musician from western Kenya.
Douglas, who hosts the online African Airwaves radio show from Seattle, US, earlier this week dedicated a special segment on show to Tube’s music.
Douglas has not only lived in Kenya, but has also visited Tube on a number of occasions.
“Shem was not only easy to work with, but had his music style appealing to others,” Douglas said.
One of the most remarkable foreign tours by Tube and his Bana ba Nassery band was in 1991, when they recorded their CD Nursery Boys Go Ahead.
The UK tour was in July and August 1991.
They again toured Europe in 1992, where they performed at the WOMAD Festival and in other European cities, courtesy of David Flower of Sasa Music.
As Enos Kola recalled, this tour was an eye-opener to the European market.
From Europe, they toured the US in May and June 1992, courtesy of Douglas Paterson. It was during this tour that they performed in Seattle, Washington at Northwest Folklife Festival.
According to Paterson, they later performed at Mt Vernon, Washington, Vancouver and Victoria in Canada, and Portland, Oregon.
Other earlier musicians from western Kenya who worked with Tube include veteran gospel singer Reuben Kigame (on a duet, Yesu Khuyanza), Fanuel Amimo, John Nzenze, who died last year, Jimmy Lasco, Anthony Susu and Man Kale.
Amimo is remembered for the hit song, Rosa Nokhwebwe, while Nzenze had a string of hits, including Angelike Twist, Twist ni Nzuri, Rebecca Wanisumbua, and Ninamlia Susanna.
With the Tube now gone, the only surviving veteran musicians from western Kenya include Sukuma Bin Ongaro, now gospel artiste, and Peter Kombo of the Omwana Wondiebo song fame.