Baba the artiste: Raila to release collabo campaign anthem

ODM leader Raila Odinga during the recording of the song set to be unveiled today as his campaign anthem. It is a collaboration between him and composer Emmanuel Musindi. [Courtesy]

ODM Party Leader Raila Odinga is today set to unveil a song that will be used as his election campaign anthem. The move comes ahead of a series of political rallies that the Azimio la Umoja Movement has lined up next week when he returns from India.

The song is a rendition of the popular Lelo ni Lelo by Benga composer, instrumentalist and singer Emmanuel Musindi. 

Lelo ni Lelo translates to ‘leo ni leo’ a Swahili phrase that means to “today is the day” - which is a rallying call to action. The song was recorded in Karen and Kawangware. 

“Kenya mpya inawezekana (a new Kenya is possible),” Raila says in the refrain as the band echoes “Leo ni Leo”.

Raila then ushers the second stanza of the composition with a heavy baritone tone “Lelo leo ni lelo” to which a crowd thunderously responds with animated ululation. He then does a refrain, mirroring Koffi Olomide’s demeanour with a deep throat rendition of a one liner; “Na inawezekana”.

Aside from the politics, the song is likely to become a money-maker for Musindi; ringtone sales, endorsements and concerts are sure to follow as the country enters into the official campaign period. 

“Baba is now a singer. He is an artiste, a creative, a musician,” enthused Julius Owino better known as Maji Maji, one half of the Gidi Gidi Maji Maji duo whose Unbwogable political anthem remains the most memorable since the 2002 electioneering season. Maji Maji works for the Azimio la Umoja secretariat, the team behind Raila’s presidential campaign.

“He (Raila) asked me why I wouldn’t do another song since Unbwogable… and I thought of myself, Baba, a presidential aspirant can sing. And with that the idea to record him came about,” Maji Maji told The Standard.

The audio was recorded at FP Records in Kawangware, a makeshift studio popular with upcoming artistes. It is basically a booth inside an iron sheets structure in the sprawling neighbourhood of similar makeshift homes. 

The audio was recorded by upcoming producer Festus Papai aka Papa FP, also the studio’s sound engineer.

The video was directed by Nezzoh Montana.  

Asked how he felt working with Raila, Emmanuel Musindi said: “You can’t work on such a big project, which is the talk of town, and fail to be happy. I am delighted about this”. However, he declined to disclosed the details of the deal that led to the recording.

“This is not my first song as much as it is a big hit,” said the singer who hails from Kakamega. Lelo ni Lelo is a straight forward song.

“I mean, today has just to be today. It can’t be tomorrow. Things must happen, and happen now,” said Musindi about the song.

Lelo ni Lelo is one of four songs that Raila will be releasing ahead of the August elections. The other three are also collaborations between him and young artistes. Trio Mio, the sensational teenager of the Sipangwingwi fame (featuring Extra Taniua and Ssaru) and Cheza Kama Wewe (featuring Mejja and Exray Taniua) are expected to be part of the deal.

“This is not just a campaign song,” said Maji Maji. “The other gain we expect from this is to have a leader of that caliber exposed to the issues that affect musicians.

“Such reality check moves get those in positions of authority to know the problems artistes go through especially in matters of piracy”.

Festus Papai, the producer behind the audio, Festus Papai, said that since he started recording in 2008, he has never dreamed that he would get an opportunity to work with a person like Raila.

Festus set up his studio in Kawangware because many of his clients - mostly folk musicians from Western Kenya - record their songs there. 

“First of all it is a privilege working with someone like Emmanuel Musindi, whose song is now one the biggest in the campaign circles. I started hearing of him when I was young. When he came here, it was a big honour for me. The recording was a big deal,” said Festus. “For Baba to do (record) his first song here is a lifetime achievement for me”.

Asked to rate Raila’s singing skills, the sound engineer said his vocal range was good. 

“As a producer, you work with a good understanding of your artiste,” he said.