When we meet him on a Saturday afternoon, Abdulkarim Makasi Mohammed is attending to clients at his retail shop in Bamburi, Nyali.
This has been his daily routine for years. Besides running the business to fend for his family, this is also his way of keeping himself occupied, away from the hustle and bustle of the coastal city.
Age is catching up with him. He is not the same energetic man he was in 2006 when his son, Abdulkarim Mohammed (better known by his stage name C’zars), disappeared without a trace.
Makasi was his son’s manager and mentor. Today, the old man recalls it all as if it was yesterday.
He has been living in agony over the disappearance of the musician, who had captured the hearts of fans.
The 17-year-old star was only a week away from sitting his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exam.
On the Friday of October 13, 2006, C’zars told his family he was going to meet a friend.
His father had just returned to their Bamburi home from lunchtime prayers at the mosque. He says C’zars never came back home.
Makasi apologises for the interruptions during the interview. “Customers keep on trickling in and that might not give us room to discuss this sensitive matter that would rather be done in an isolated setting. But it’s well. We can talk it over. You know the story pretty well.”
My forgotten son
“Apart from the media and my family, everyone seems to have forgotten that my son disappeared 15 years ago. That is a long time. I have never received a single report from the government, neither have I been asked to provide details since I reported the matter back then. I am puzzled. Why does it have to be this way?
“This kid was my son and my friend. I usually sit down and wonder ‘why, why, why me?’ Sometimes I cry to the creator and ask him to do good to me and the family, to ensure our son returns. I have never given up. I believe that one day my son will walk back home,” Makasi says.
C’zars was my friend and like anyone else who knew his relationship with the family, especially his father, I see the affection Makasi had for his son, whose music talent he managed since the boy was 12.
C’zars debut single Wika Wika was recorded at Ogopa Deejays and it propelled him to the national limelight.
In 2003, his short music career blossomed when he won the Pure Oxygen Jam music competition, the most prestigious national music talent show then.
El-Tezzy had won the competition the previous year.
C’zars’ sophomore hit track Amka Ukatike, a club banger, become a national anthem.
In 2004, he bagged two awards at the Chaguo La Teeniez Awards. Then another one in 2005.
The same year, all eyes were on him during the Kisima Awards held at Carnivore.
The Calif records single Amka Ukatike did not win. C’zars was in tears. His father consoled him, promising him that better days were ahead.
Ball of energy
The baby-faced artiste was a ball of energy. Thousands flocked to his concerts. Millions listened to his music.
Then the fame started getting to him. In 2006, C’zars was locked up at a Mombasa Police Station. He had refused to attend school.
His father insisted that education was more important, that music and stardom should not go to his head.
Later that year, he simply fell off the face of the earth, leaving behind heartbreak and unanswered questions.
Did he run away from home? Is he dead or alive?
Together with his father, C’zars had travelled to Nairobi to meet a top international NGO that was seeking a young Kenyan musician to represent the country in South Korea.
He was rejected and instead two twins were selected.
This reportedly pricked his pride, as he thought himself better placed to represent the country.
This was the same reaction he had at the Pure Oxygen Jam music competition where he had expected to be awarded Sh100,000 like El-Tezzy, the previous winner.
C’zars only got Sh10,000 and did not get a trip to South Africa as was expected.
He is reported to have been heartbroken.
“He was a role model for many youth. He was a national star. We always wonder why the office of the Criminal Investigations Department never gave us any report on their search. We always wonder why human rights bodies have never followed up on the issue. This is a teenager, a Kenyan, who disappeared. The mother is sick in the heart. Every day, she prays for a miracle that her son returns,” Makasi said.
He recalls how the ambitious C’zars met his role model, Jamaican music icon Sean Paul, whom he curtain-raised for in 2004 during his Kenyan visit.
“Back then, he was becoming as great as the late E-Sir. They used to be friends and this was the team of young artists who were pushing for a revolution with a new Kenyan sound. These were pure natural talents. They were good, humble songwriters and great lyricists,” said Makasi.
The father believes that if E-Sir and C’zars were here today, the local music scene would be very different.
“They would be greater than the likes of Diamond Platnumz,” he said, revealing how C’zars had dreamed of starting a music stable and a music school to nurture young talents.
C’zars had released five singles. Besides Wika Wika and Amka Ukatike, Jump Around and Salma Babe were the other popular ones. His father says the young sensation had more unreleased singles.
Some of them are still in the hands of producers he had been working with.
“It breaks my heart seeing that people and corporates are taking advantage of my son’s music. There are individuals who have put his work on YouTube without seeking my permission. They are earning from his intellectual property. We have his songs being used as ringback tones and it makes me wonder, who is benefiting from all this.
“I have almost gone bankrupt searching for my son. People are out there playing C’zars’ songs as we struggle. It is a shame. I have left it all to my maker. The truth is that he was never signed with any record label and nobody can claim to own his work.
“But that is not my main focus. My greatest desire is to see C’zars return to our joy and that of his fans. Let whoever has a lead help. And if he is somewhere out there listening, let him find forgiveness in his heart for whoever wronged him or whatever happened and return home,” Makasi said.