When a picture of Lolani Kalu emerged on Twitter early this week, netizens sympathised with a man who will always be remembered as one of the leading Swahili journalists in the country, a musician, actor, comedian and poet.
Dressed in ageing cargo pants, a checked shirt, a marvin and sandals, Lolani Kalu, now 56, is the picture of a man who has tasted the varying flavours of life without a wince on his face.
After losing his job at a local TV station in December 2017, the veteran journalist who entertained Kenyans with shows such as Malimwengu na Lolani and Gumzo Mtaani found himself back to his home town in Kilifi.
As if the devil had come to pay him a visit, Lolani found that his father was sick and for a year they would spend a lot of money trying to restore his health. In October 2019, his 89-year-old father died leaving behind an 89-year-old widow currently staying with Lolani. “I decided I should stay close to her and at least help her around with things.”
But it's through her that Lolani is who he is today. “I got all the talent from her. She was an actor back in ’47 and all the stories I have come from her. She is a storyteller and I’ve even tried printing one of her books,” says Lolani.
He now runs a community-based initiative in the village where he nurtures young talent in acting, scriptwriting and music. However, the veteran journalist has his hands tied due to a lack of equipment to actualize his dream of bringing his flooding ideas back to his audience.
“I only need two things. A good video camera and a computer. The creativity is still there and all I need is equipment to work and to help the young people here in my village,” says Lolani.
He explains that his zeal for telling stories is still alive and on fire ready to be shared with the world. “I have written 46 art and culture scripts waiting to be shot together with over 120 poems many that were even narrated on the radio.”
Speaking to Standard Digital, his voice is solid, firm and bold just as it was when airing his features on African culture. He does not curse fate for crashing him from the peak of celebrity status but accepts his situation as if he had a sitting with Buddha.
“I have normal challenges that everyone goes through and I’m satisfied with life here but I have a lot I can do.”
His career started in 1985 when the then 20-year-old Lolani finished school. He joined Sauti ya Kenya immediately and started translating and writing news at the same time sharing the stage with the likes of popular Tv actor the Late Mzee Ojwang’.
He later became a full-time actor in the national theatre performing different set books such as Animal Farm by George Orwell.
In 1999, Lolani Kalu got a job at Nation, now known as NTV and was laid off after 17 years.
Having been a musician for many years and playing both the piano and drums, Lolani Kalu is now working on the first-ever Swahili Music theory book.
He sees a bright future where he can be able to tell stories again.
“I am content with the life God has given me. I want to help people through the stories I will tell.”