Veteran Kalenjin Gospel artist Willy Korir popularly known as Wilko who passed on after a short illness. (Gilbert Kimutai/standard)

At Chepkureret Village in Trans Mara West it is hard to come across a person who does not know how to play a guitar.

Every homestead in the village owns the musical instrument thanks to veteran Kalenjin Gospel Artist Willy Korir. Every child born in the village grows up learning how to play the instrument.

The Musician’s love for instrumentals and his mastery in playing bass and rhythm has inspired many to fall in love with playing Guitar and listening to Gospel Music at the village.

“You may miss farm tools at one or two homesteads in this village but you will not miss a guitar. Children as young as 10 years old already know how to play the musical instrument,” said Joseph Langat.

The village has, however, been thrown into mourning following the death of the musician credited with pioneering the Kalenjin Sabbath song.

The 57-year-old succumbed to cardiac arrest at Abosi Mission Hospital in Trans Mara West Ololmasani ward.

According to his wife Hellen Korir, the musician was admitted at the facility with Pneumonia on Tuesday last week and experienced cardiac arrest while undergoing treatment.

“He was being treated of Pneumonia but sadly suffered cardiac arrest and succumbed,” said Mrs Korir.

She said before his admission, Korir had spent days recording his latest album Tulwetab Abosi at a music studio in Dikirr which was due for release later this month.

“He has been shuttling between home and Dikirr trading center where he was working on the Album and on Tuesday he was caught in a heavy rain on his way back and complained of chest pain where he was diagnosed with Pneumonia,” she added.

While mourning his husband, Mrs Korir said death had robbed him of a friend and mentor who turned her into a music dancer.

“I am one of the people his music touched and changed. When we got married in 1988 I had no interest in music but influenced me and I became one his dancers in all his videos,” she said.

Speaking to the standard at their home in Chepkureret village in Ololmasani, the widow said Korir’s passion for music could easily turn anyone into a music lover.

Kataret Zion band leader Augustine Cheruiyot remembered how Korir helped him to produce his music.

Describing Korir as an instrumental and vocal fanatic, Cheruiyot said in 1984 after clearing high school, Korir loaned a Guitar from a local church member and came up with beats that are currently in line with the Church of God music.

The 60-year-old musician said after winning the trust and becoming the Guitar custodian he started off his music career by producing the first song in 1986 which became an instant hit.

Cheruiyot said Korir later acquired his own guitars and went fully into music producing hits after hits including Awale Anee Messiah, Talenta, Tun Irire and Maoinotet.

He said the late music icon had a total of 17 albums under his belt with more than 238 singles that all became hits.

“He became a household name in the entire Kalenjin where he started ministering using music,” said Cheruiyot.

He said Korir went as far as Nakuru, Kiambu and Nairobi ministering using music.

“He helped set up a Church of God altar at Kibera in the 1990s and the church has grown and has lately been monitoring and advising leaders running it,” he said.

Cheruiyot also remembered how through music influenced the Kenya Postal Director Kipngeno Ngeny to open a postal branch in Chyebunyo trading center in chepalungu.

“Postal communication was unheard of in Chepalungu and after a music performance in Nairobi by Willy Korir, Director Ngeny made available the postal office and a Telephone booth which transformed the region,” he said.

Cheruiyot adds: “During the launch of the office, Korir became one of the first people to own a postal address which he has held until today and usual brags that he had made an impact in opening up the dry lands of Chepalungu and trans mara,”

His eldest Son Kibet Koech said the death of his father had left a huge voi in their family and the church.

Koech however hailed his father for sticking to his passion to the last minute.

“A guitar was always by his side and when producing music, he plays bass and rhythm very well,” he said.

Koech said as a family they will miss him but his music will continue through his two daughters who have followed in his footsteps.

“His love for music will never die. My sisters are already following in his footsteps and have already produced their songs beside helping our dad as vocalist on their music,” added Koech.