Gido Kibukosya: Raila Odinga’s family paid seven head of cattle and cash as per Luhya tradition
After two failed marriages, big bands, multiple records and awards, Gido Kibukosya has found love yet again, at 60. This, he says, has brought him inner peace, having traded the hustle and bustle of the city for the serenity of the countryside in western Kenya.
Behind the mixer, Gido taps his feet and nods his clean-shaven head as he adjusts the sound levels of the musical beat he is working on. He infuses the rhythm and baseline to create a melodious harmony, as he welcomes us into his village studio. This was his life for over 40 years in Nairobi and now he recreates it in Kakamega.
Four years ago, Gido quit city life to relocate to the quiet rural life in Mukumu village, with his new love, Linda Onyimbo. For a man who schooled at St George’s and St. Mary’s with President Kenyatta’s brother Muhoho, Jimmy Wanjigi and David Kibaki to leave the concrete jungle and settle in shags with a new wife at 60, was startling. But the lovebirds, married six years ago, were determined to succeed as they embarked on farming sugarcane, avocados, sweet potatoes and a variety of vegetables.
“Linda was godsend and I love her dearly. We agreed after meeting to relocate to the village. Linda was the first to settle in Mukumu and I joined her after a year,” explains Gido.
Linda heaps praises on her husband for remaining focused despite having gone through a lot in life, and overcoming challenges to usher a new dawn in his life. She says that Gido is as good with his guitar as he is with their marriage and farming venture.
“We have a beautiful relationship and we understand each other’s feelings. Gido has found a new passion in farming; he is very good at it too,” she adds.
The move to shags has worked out well for Gido. He looks relaxed and has put on some weight, a far cry from his earlier skinny look. Even the earring that once hanged loosely on the left ear now seems to fit. On Mashujaa Day, President Kenyatta awarded him a State Commendation for his role in music. Gido takes us around his rural home, which has a modern music production studio and an extension under construction to cater for music production for large choirs.
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Inside the sound-proofed studio, we settle down on a luxurious couch for the interview.
“I found inner peace in the village. It has opened my eyes to the other side of life, that is farming. As a born-tao, I never thought I could farm and produce music at the same time. I go to the farm at 6am then settle in my studio for production in the mid-morning,” explains Gido as he points at his cattle grazing in the large compound. “Those are part of the bride price I received for my daughter Yvonne, who is married to Raila’s son,” he continues.
Gido adds that Raila Odinga’s family paid seven head of cattle and cash as per the Luhya tradition.
The groom’s party was led by Oburu Odinga and a host of political bigwigs from Western and Nyanza regions. He explains that Raila Junior is a humble son-in-law and his parents are good in-laws.
“Agwambo (Raila) is the king of politics and I am the king of music. When he says nobody can stop reggae, then I want to assure him that I will use my music prowess to ensure reggae does not stop,” quips Gido.
“Yvonne is my daughter with Anne Gathira, though our relationship ended. Her parents were opposed to the union,” claims Gido, who has three children with Anne - two girls and a boy (Yvonne, Crystal and Peter). “They felt that a musician was not good enough for their daughter,” he claims.
After the breakup with Anne, says he met the now ex-wife Suzanne Gachukia and fell head over heels. Back then, Gido was a bassist with Gordon Ominde’s Black Savage band. He decamped and joined Suzzane Gachukia, Joy Mboya and Susan Matiba in Musikally Speaking.
“It was the best match because we had the same interests. We were always together in the studio and at home, which made life exciting,” he adds.
As a couple, they put their egos aside and focused on family building and production under their label Samawati.
“It was the perfect match and reaching a decision on any particular production was easy. In the studio, I would outline her job and after she was done, she would go back home and take up her role as a mother,” he recalls.
They had two sons - Marcus and Miles - who are both members of the Camp Mulla band.
“Marcus was the producer for Camp Mulla until they broke up. He also studied music abroad, while Miles plays the saxophone and is a footballer,” he explains.
But the marriage to Suzzane did not last. After many years together, there was trouble in paradise. The fallout was aggravated by the advent of FM stations that took up all advertising from record labels, leading to a financial crunch.
“I almost got into depression. With zero adverts and my wife leaving home, I resorted to heavy drinking,” he admits.
But Gido eventually managed to quit the bottle.
“I stopped drinking alcohol. I’m now a teetotaller,” he adds.
That sobriety triggered him to leave the city for the village, where he found peace. After 50 years chasing fame and fortune, Gido has found love too.
With a music career spanning over 50 years, the Kibukosya family is renowned in the entertainment industry. His has been a household name from the early 60s when the patriarch of the family, Peter Kibukosya, then the chairman of the Kenya Music Festival, took part in composing of the national anthem for soon-to-be-independent Kenya. Peter’s only son, Gido, and his children took the baton passed on by the renowned composer.
“I was involved in music as a child. I carried my father’s tape recorder wherever he went to music festivals,” he explains.
Growing up in Mariakani, South B and attending St Mary’s Secondary School in the early 1970s, his father gifted him a guitar in Form Three, which marked the beginning of his music career. Gido recalls his father was more into classical music and choirs, but he cherishes traditional music fusion of modern music and a lot of jazz.
“Listening to folk songs and traditional music when I moved around with my father informed my decision to advise Kayamba Africa to take on the traditional music and infuse modern style. It made them tick,” he recalls.
After high school (Form Six), he enrolled for computer studies that led him to establishing the first digital production studio.
“The music industry the world over was changing and I had a lot of interest in digital music. In 1994, Lady Luck smiled on me when I was sponsored by USAID to go to America to study the American music industry,” he reminiscences.
That gave him an opportunity to interact with top American producers such as Quincy Jones and Baby Face. The highlight of the study was the making of Michael Jackson’s first album. They were taken through it by a professor known as Glen Ballard, the composer of Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror song.
On returning home, Gido started Samawati Production, which was the first digital studio in Kenya.
“I worked with talented artistes, including Samba Mapangala, Mercy Myra, Juma Odemba of Kayamba Africa, Ian Mbugua, Tedd Josiah and Five Alive, Eric Wainaina and Sauti Sol,” he recalls.
Explosion of music happened at Samawati where Gido helped artistes actualise their dreams.
“It was not about the money. We were the first people to start distribution of music in supermarkets. It really helped in marketing of the music,” he adds.
Challenges were plenty when he set up the digital studio as a majority of the old genre of musicians such us Daudi Kabaka, who operated in studios along River Road, were reluctant to embrace change. They only warmed up to the idea after seeing the results.
“It was not easy to convince the old artistes to embrace the digital revolution. But I convinced benga maestro Joseph Kamaru and many others followed suit. This was a big break,” he explains.
His parting shot to the young aspiring and practising artistes is that they should learn to play at least one musical instrument, otherwise they will fade away after a very short stint in music, or all of them will end up being rappers and singers.