The Cabinet Secretary of Sport, Culture and The Arts Dr Hassan Wario and the Principal Secretary Mr Joe Okudo have paid tribute to legendary musician Gabriel Omolo who died Wednesday night at a hospital in Busia aged 80.
Best known for his evergreen hit ‘Lunch Time' the legend was one of the last remaining of the original Benga Maestros with Juma Toto and John Nzenze still active.
"In the wake of Mzee Omolo's demise Wednesday night, a casual review of the social media has shown overwhelming appreciation and plaudits equally from young and old. This is a strong proof that his hits withstood generational fads" said Dr. Wario.
"Not unlike his contemporaries such as the lake Benga maestro Owino Misiani or Daudi Kabaka, mzee Omolo's music was more edifying; a moral compass to society.
"This stands in deep contrast to the murky tales of scandal vile language and 'get-rich-quick' schemes which seem to form the competing points for a number of today's musicians."
And in his condolence to Omolo's widow, Alice Adeya and family, Mr. Okudo said:
Gabby Omolo is a fitting reminder to Kenya of the enviable days when musicians genuinely lived-off their sweat and piracy was virtually unheard of.
"From the days when music was pressed on vinyl records, to the rolling tape-cassette and up to modern formats such as online streaming, the enduring appeal of Mzee Omolo can only mean that he sang from his heart to deliver a message that would outlive him,” he said.
He lauded Omolo and his contemporaries for engineering the concept of Creative Economics in the very early stages of independence.
“We at the Ministry are proud that Omolo helped bring home the concept of the Creative Economy way back in Year 1974 when he became the first Kenyan musician to be awarded an international gold disc for his hit single Lunch Time which sold over 250,000 copies in Eastern and Western Africa,” he recalled.
Indeed in this not-so-modest way he was a welcome foreign exchange earner for our country, he noted.
Adding that through the Film Department Services, Kenya Film Commission and the Kenya National Archives and Documentation Service, the Government shall consider immortalizing Mzee Omolo's works.
The Ministry pledged to support the family in the funeral arrangements.
“And equally, we are keen to meet the family and lend them our support in the funeral arrangements,” he offered.
Musician and liturgical guru Michael Maganzo said Kenya has lost a man who will be remembered for his authentic music and a man whose humility was immeasurable.
Kenyatta University’s Sylvester Otieno said, “RIP Le Grande Omolo Gabby. The world of music will miss you. "Lunch Time" will never fade.”
“That guy was a real hit maker. I have listened to that iconic song in a bar in Harare and done encores,” mourned veteran journalist Washington Akumu.
According to Prof Caleb Okumu in his paper in A Biography of Kenyan Musicians published by the Permanent Presidential Music Commission, Omolo was born in 1939 to Aginga Arek and Carol Osindo.
He hailed form Uholo in Siaya and was the first born son with three siblings.
By the virtue of his father working for the East African Railways Corporation, the young Omolo lived with him at Landi Mawe Muthurwa in Nairobi and later moved to Makongeni.
He schooled at St Peter’s Clavers Primary but could not complete since his father retired and went back to their rural home in Ugunja. And it is here that he learnt playing his guitar.
In his sunset days Omolo shared how he missed boogie dance that they used to perform upon hiring community halls in Eastlands. They would start at 2 pm and end at 6 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
He was last seen perform at one of the national holiday celebrations at Nyayo Stadium in the presence of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto.
As he belted out the last line, wild cheers greeted him from the audience comprising political leaders, artistes, producers and other dignitaries.
This was one of those rare occasions that Omollo has travelled from his Ugenya home to perform in a city he made a mark on eons ago as a young musician.
His contemporaries still alive and active in music include Juma Toto and John Nzenze.