With guitars and lyrics fans pay last respects to Mugithi artiste

Thousands of fans paid tribute to popular Mugithi artiste Paul Mwangi alias Salim Junior in Subukia yesterday.

Politicians, artistes and fans graced the burial ceremony for the musician considered to have revolutionised Kikuyu music through his renditions of both secular and gospel tunes.

The sleepy Subukia trading centre came to life as the convoy made its way into Subukia market park for the funeral service.

Musicians gather around the casket bearing the remains of Paul Mwangi aka Salim Junior during his burial at Subukia trading centre in Nakuru, yesterday. (PHOTO: BONIFACE THUKU/ STANDARD)

Four guitars were placed around the 40-year-old’s coffin as thousands of music fans braved the scorching sun to pay last respects to Salim.

Kikuyu gospel singer Muigai wa Njoroge said Salim had managed to bring to life memories of past Kikuyu musicians, including the late Francis Rugwiti, after redoing their songs with captivating beats. “It was through this man’s guitar that songs from past musicians acquired new popularity and that is why we are celebrating his life,” Njoroge said.

Salim’s versions of old Kikuyu songs such as those of Joseph Kamaru and the late John Ndichu of the Cucu Wa Gakunga fame endeared him to the youthful audience which found his one-man guitar style of singing catchy.

The celebrated musician started honing his music skills at the tender age of four which he said never impressed his mother Eunice Wangari.

His performances in Nakuru, Elburgon, Molo and the surrounding towns caught the attention of the late Sammy Muraya and afterwards Salim found his way to Nairobi without the his parents’ knowledge.

Under the mentorship of the late Kikuyu songbird Queen Jane he sharpened his skills which saw him leave for Mombasa where he performed at Carlos Restaurant.

Salim came from a family of musicians who included his father Joe Salim Mwangi and his brother Anthony Njuguna aka Mighty Salim who are household names in the Mugithi circles.

His father recalled how young Salim would hide his favourite music cassettes to prevent him (the father) from selling the tapes at his studio in Molo which was later burnt down during the infamous tribal clashes.

Curtains fell on the Mugithi star on January 23 after he was rushed to Nakuru War Memorial Hospital after developing chest complications.

Speeches on piracy and exploitation of musicians by politicians and corporate bodies dominated the funeral as tens of artistes vowed to unite and fight for their rights.

Some of the musicians who attended the burial included John Demathew, Simon Kihara alias Musaimo, Epha Maina, Gachathi wa Thuo, Wakabura Joseph, Peter Kigia, Muraya Junior, Muraya wa Tutu and Simon Ben.

Talented musician

President Uhuru Kenyatta eulogised Salim as a talented musician who entertained thousands, in his message read by Subukia MP Nelson Gaichuhie. Uhuru also sent a donation of Sh500,000 to help his widow and three children.

Kieni MP Kanini Kega said Salim was one of his favourite artistes and he could not resist the temptation to dance to his tunes especially while he was a university student. “He composed the first campaign song for me and at university I would always dance to his music like his many other fans,” said the MP.

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria also said he was a big fan of the late musician and would rarely miss any of his shows due to his unique way of belting out the songs.

Local musicians, who addressed the mourners, said his death would serve as a wake-up call to musicians on why they should join hands to fight piracy and exploitation by some communication companies.

Officials of the Music Copyright Society of Kenya, led by their chairman Benard Mukhaisi, had a hard time addressing the crowd as the society was accused of doing little to save local artistes from exploitation.