Musa Juma Top 10 Songs Demystified


Musa Juma Picture


Musa Juma or MJ, leader of Limpopo International Band, towered the musical landscape with authority, love, consistency, and discipline that when his last struggle with existence came, fans were appalled and irate with Death. Why did MJ have to die? Could he have lived just a little longer? Those are not questions easy to answer. It is like asking: who brought us here on Earth? Is there a Supreme Being that gives and takes away life? Musa Juma strived to address some of these themes in his songs that we shall look at. Here, I shall list my best ten though in no particular order.

1. Rapar Owino
Rapar Owino literally means ‘Owino’s remembrance.’ In most African communities such as the Luo of Kenya, a dead person is still considered a part of the living. The dead is constantly celebrated in order to keep his memory alive within the relations he left behind. And that is what preoccupies Musa Juma in the song Rapar Owino. Off the album Hera Mwandu, Musa rebukes death and bitterly curses how it leaves families in grief, helplessness, and despair. He equates the occurrence of death to some form of endless darkness full of pain.

2. Safari
Safari continues with theme of the vainness of existence and how fleeting life is. Meshack and I voted for this song because here Musa reminds us we are not in this world forever. Friends we cherish the most die. We shall also die. Life is all but luck. Coming from his album Maselina, MJ is troubled with Life-Death issues though in an entertaining way supported by vocalists that include Sande Asweda, Ken Watenya, John Junior (now a successful band leader), Jose Mzungu, Omondi Tony (Musa’s younger brother) and Vasco da Gama. Owacha Willy and Professor Azile compliment with the guitar.

3. Siaya Kababa
Almost every woman loves this song. My mother included. A woman I once dated always confessed her enduring obsession with Siaya Kababa because of the soulful and romantic manner in which Musa celebrates a woman called ‘Achieng.’ MJ fondly calls her ‘baibe.’ Show me a woman who does not like to be called ‘baibe’ and I also tell you an MP who does not take bribes. In fact, he consoles the girl: Kata isenyuol adwari ngimana (Even if you have a kid, I still need you in my life). How redeeming and assuring in a world where men fear to enter into relationships with single mothers.

4. Raila
Hear Musa as he begins his first verse: Kenya still in trouble, if we go to elections. Is it not true even today? As we approach 2017 elections against the backdrop of IEBC officials who ‘ate’ chicken and are yet to face the law; can we safely say the artiste is forewarning us in this song? Actually, the song is a celebration of Raila Amolo Odinga and his gallant role in the fight for Second Liberation. Like other Luo legends before him such as Gor Mahia, Luanda Magere, and Oginga Odinga (his father); Musa believes Raila has the power to save the country. The artistic celebration should be viewed from a traditional context where community warriors were seen as the saviours of those communities from both internal and external threats as mythologized in the tale of Luanda Magere.

5. Hera Mudho
But love could also be darkness especially when materialism suppresses the seeds of romance. Musa sings: Hera gima rumo ki hero pesa to hero jachien (Love is pointless if money is the only denominator). The artiste says it is like shaking hands with the devil. Another track from the Maselina album, he cautions ladies against falling for men because of their material possessions such as fancy clothes, cars, and lifestyle. I partly agree. Even though man and woman cannot subsist on romance alone, money is essential; still, it should not define the relationship. It transforms the affair into some superficial nonsense of give-and-take.

6. Osiepe
‘Osiepe’ literally means ‘Friends’ in Dholuo.
· Osiepna/Osiepa – my friend.
· Osiep – friendship
But Musa here sings about Osiepe. They include Aringo Tommy. Abura Jacky. Headmaster Abayo. Let me tell you something small about the latter. He taught my boy Michael Ogolla in primary school later propelling him to Maseno School and Kenyatta University (It is another reason why I love this song). From Ahero, he hails Odero Sherdy. And from Uyoma, Ongolo Georgie gets the props. Musa expresses his credit to those who have helped him in one way or another. Who forgets ‘friends in deed?’ Those friends who evacuate you from a financial storm especially when you imagine you have reached your wits end. Friends who rarely disappoint you. In hard times, you know the true friends. Whether they are blood relations or non-relations.

7. Hera Mwandu
The song features among other vocalists Prince Kassam (now deceased) and Salawowo Salapata among other band members. MJ continues on the path of love and its challenges of infidelity. The lyrics go:
Sami inena timiya luor baibe
Sami aneni tamiyi luor baibe.
Kaponi ibayo tichido chunya aa mama…
[My presence should make you respect me
And your presence should make me respect you
Because if you are unfaithful, then you corrode my heart dear]
Hera Mwandu plainly translates to ‘Love is Wealth.’ Connotatively, love is a form of investment between two mutual partners. That’s why Musa Juma throws more shots at gold-diggers.

8. Freddy
So much for singing about a youthful and ‘cool’ Ja-Luo original and senior Royal Media Services official. Grapevine has it that Freddy Afune was a close friend of MJ and the Limpopo International Band. In fact, in Hera Mwandu, together with Gor Sungu (former MP of Kisumu Town East Constituency during my school years at Manyatta Primary), Musa profusely credits them as the ‘marafiki wa kweli’.

9. Ratego Baba
We are frequently reminded to respect and love and appreciate our parents when they are alive with utmost devotion and dedication. And unconditionally. Because once they go to that other world where people don’t come back, it never becomes the same again. Ask those who have lost a parent or both. It is a devastating hollowness that nothing shall ever fill. Musa Juma pays tribute to his parents, but mainly his father. He recalls the journey they have travelled together as a family; a journey characterized by poverty, agony, and misery. In Ratego Baba Musa also extends the courtesy to introduce his three mamas (he came from a polygamous family) – Ojiko, Maria, and Awuor.

10. Fiance
Love often dominated most of the material that was produced by the Limpopo International Band under the diligent stewardship of Musa Juma. It is a recurrent theme that echoes in other songs such as Maselina, Auma, Betty, and Moreen. In Fiancé, Musa says of his lover: Siboeki nikiwa na wewe karibu nami mama. Which lady out there does not like to hear such flattery?

Musa Juma is dead. He shall never come back. Those are facts. His brother Omondi Tony died, too. So prematurely. In a road accident. Just like the Benga maestro, D.O. Misiani. Other fine Luo artistes had gone before them. Okatch Biggy. Awino Lawi. Ochieng’ Kabeselle. George Ramogi. Collella Mazee. Adwera Okello. But their songs remain. Art outlives the individual, they say. So we shall continue to celebrate MJ every day. Of course the tinge of regret that I never met the Rhumba god while alive persist.REST IN PEACE.

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