By Pascal Mwandambo
When you watch Duncan Mwanyumba play his saxophone, you get the impression that he has done this all his life. The mastery is good and the voice accompanying the instrument soothing. He plays various tunes ranging from rumba and benga to blues, gospel and taarab. His round-rimmed glasses and bushy moustache give him the demeanour of a Country music singer.
He is at peace with himself and therefore reaches out to his listeners to soothe their souls. He soothes his soul too after a painstaking day in the corridors of the courts, for Mwanyumba, 56, is a lawyer.
“I am an enthusiast of cultural issues and music, especially soft music. When I play my saxophone, I feel elevated above the clouds, all my stress dissolves into a sea of joy and tranquility,” Mwanyumba told The Standard in an interview.
With a wry smile on his face Mwanyumba says there are two addictions that he has always stirred clear of, namely football and alcohol.
“Well, once in a while I enjoy watching football from a distance but I am neither a fan nor a fanatic of soccer. There are other pleasures of life to pursue,” says Mwanyumba, suddenly grabbing his saxophone and belting out a popular Daudi Kabaka tune.
A socialite, Mwanyumba plays his saxophone in church, at funerals and weddings in every event that he has been invited to in Taita-Taveta County.
He says he bought the secondhand saxophone in Arusha, Tanzania, in 2003 at Sh32,000 when he was working as Defence Attorney for the International Tribunal for Rwanda. He worked for the Tribunal for five years.
“I have always enjoyed seeing musicians playing the saxophone locally known as mdomo wa bata. While in Tanzania I met a sax player called Sylvester Budodi who taught me how to play the instrument. I learnt every trick and finally I could play various tunes. I was elated,” says Mwanyumba.
He says his love for music made him come up with the idea of the East African Orchestra. He mooted the idea while in Nairobi and brought to fruition while in Tanzania. He performed with the Orchestra while still serving under the Tribunal.
As a student at Alliance Boys, he often performed at the National Music Festival at the Kenyatta Conference Centre but the one performance he has never forgotten was in 1977.
“I competed with the late Darius Mbela who was then a Permanent Secretary. He was competing in the tenor open category and his tune was There is a boat leaving for New York.
“Of course, Mbela beat me but I was so excited to take on such a powerful figure during those days.”
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