Huge loss for rumba fans as Limpopo star takes final bow

Musa Juma entertains fans at a past concert. Photo/JACOB OWITI

What you need to know:

  • Musa Juma died in Mombasa a few weeks after returning from the US

Musician Musa Juma made a name for himself with his smooth flowing rumba style of music. Teaming up with his younger brother, Omondi Tonny, they formed the formidable Orchestre Limpopo International, gathering a horde of fans over the years.

Sadly, Musa Juma is no more. He passed on last Tuesday in Mombasa. His brother Omondi Tonny (Anthony Omondi Mumbo) died three years ago, coincidentally also in Mombasa.

Juma died of chest complications on Tuesday evening just a couple of weeks after returning from an extended tour of the United States.

Soon after the news of his death, Musa’s Facebook page was flooded with condolences from his fans across the globe. Ms Millicent Ogenga, a fan living in Atlanta, Georgia in USA, said she could not hold back her tears, particularly remembering it was only last month that Musa visited her city.

In an emotional update on his Facebook fan page in January, Musa (also known to his fans as MJ-Ja Usonga) had talked of the difficult “ups and downs in music.”

Speaking to Review moments after the sad news, Musa’s widow, Winnie Juma, said the sudden turn of events leading to her husband’s death was shocking. She lauded the frantic efforts by doctors at Mombasa Hospital, who unsuccessfully tried to save his life.

She also clarified that Musa was born on December 6, 1968.

“We are making arrangements to transport the body to Nairobi tomorrow. Thereafter, we will give details of the funeral and burial arrangements at our home in Siaya county,” she said.

Musa’s close friend and fellow musician, Igwe Prezda Bandasonn, recalled that his last days had been trying as he often complained of the chest pains that forced him to take a back seat during live performances.

“I was regularly in contact with him during his stay in America and after his return,” Bandasonn said, adding that fellow musicians and fans in Mombasa, Nairobi and Kisumu will organise a series of concerts in tribute to Musa, with the proceeds going towards offsetting medical bills.

Ms Bettie Okeyo, speaking to Review from New Jersey, USA, on Tuesday evening, expressed her shock at Musa’s untimely death.

“I missed his last shows in USA and was hoping to watch him next time,” she said.

Before he became band leader, composer and solo guitarist of Orchestra Limpopo, Musa and Toni had started out small, playing to rumba and benga fans in Nairobi’s Eastlands and in Kisumu. But it was not long before his guitar wizardry and great vocals in songs such as Mercelina, Hera Mudho, Ufisadi and Freddy made him popular across the country.

Unlike other artistes from Nyanza region who played the benga beat, Musa chose the slower rumba beat. He was following in the footsteps of another fine proponent of rumba, Ochieng Kabasselleh, who excelled for years at the helm of his Luna Kidi band.

Musa extended his fan base through music videos, which found their way into popular sites such as YouTube.

He sang mainly in Dholuo, composing many love ballads.

Musa, was a committed and disciplined musician, who took this as a full-time job, putting in a lot of time to come up with fascinating songs. He was often at his best with his lead guitar and a microphone to wow audiences on the dance floor for hours.

In the last days of his career, he had been performing in USA, proof that his stature had outgrown the small clubs in Nairobi’s Eastlands, Kisumu and Mombasa where he had been based for a long time. He had also planned to perform in Kampala.


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