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Flaming tributes as Benga star Gabriel Omollo is buried

By Olivia Odhiambo | Published Sat, January 20th 2018 at 23:38, Updated January 20th 2018 at 23:43 GMT +3
Alice Omollo, the widow of the late Gabriel Omollo, during his burial ceremony at their home in Ugunja Siaya County on January 20, 2018. [Collins Oduor| Standard]

A fallen soldier is sent off with a 21-gun-salute. Musicians too have their way of celebrating life, and they gave their departed colleague Gabriel Omollo an honourable send off. This time round gospel hymns took a backseat as the famous Lunch Time hit played at the start of late Omollo’s burial.

Two musicians carrying guitars led the Catholic priest, family and friends as they brought the body of the deceased musician to the altar yesterday.

Omollo’s remains were strategically placed facing the entrance to his home and directly opposite the priest. And as if to create a lasting musical memory six stringed lead guitars and four stringed base guitars were placed dexterously on top of the casket, sandwiching the smiling portrait of the fallen vocalist once celebrated in East Africa.

Uholo village in Ugunja, Siaya County became the meeting point for more than a hundred musicians who came to pay their last tribute to their mentor and hero. Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi also attended the burial. The song maker, who had been unwell for some time died of lung complications at the Busia County Referral Hospital on January 3.

In 1976, the musician got a golden disk award for the sale of 150,000 records of his hit song Lunch Time - a song that remains a classic, dominating airwaves in Kenya and African capitals like Harare, Lagos, Accra, Dar es Salam, Kampala and Kinshasa.

He also played and recorded for Ochieng Kabasalleh, while his first recording was Maro Oketho Ugunja in early 1969. Nyanza music copyright founder Tom Kodiyo, described the late as a humble man. “He was very talented. He was extraordinary. His songs were educative as well as entertaining,” Kodiyo eulogised his late friend.

The wife to the late,  Alice Adeya eulogised her husband as a quiet and peaceful man. “I cannot remember a day we had issues that we could not solve. He was reasonable,” she said.

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Some of the bands present at the funeral included Francis Danger Kavu, Mwalimu wa Jane and Kilima Mbogo brothers. Others came from the Coast, Western, Eastern and Nyanza regions. Musicians present were: Jim Likembe, Jerry Jalamo, Peter kombo, Olima Anditi, Hamans Dinda, Brother Chali, Francis Danger and Onyango Amollo.

Music copyright Founder Juma Toto eulogised the late as a good friend and mentor. “I joined his band in 1967 and that is where I grew as a musician and made a name,” said Toto.

The music copyright director David Amunga said he was honoured to have been featured in one Gabriel’s songs - Helena Aoko.

“We may not have enough time to eulogise our friend but we will ensure we take our time for a few days to share our good moments with the deceased as well iron out issues that have hindered musicians from living a decent life, “added Amunga. 

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