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October 20, 2020

Iconic Kenyan writer Tony Ontita’s raw narration of the political undertones behind the greatest hit in the 2000’s – Unbwogable!

I still remember when I first heard these words like it was yesterday.

‘What the hell is you lookin’ for? Can’t a young Luo make money anymore?’

It was not yesterday, though. It was 18 years ago, enuff tyme for a child born then to be now of ‘hangable’ age. On a Friday night at the end of May, 2002, just before Madaraka Day. And I was mesmerized – as an entire nation soon would be!

‘Shake your feet baby gal, enango; Majimaji nyakwar ondijo am a Luo …’

It was almost midnight in Egesa Village in Umoja – before it became just plain ‘Egesa Villa’ (with Checkpoint Club opposite, and Next Pub next to Casada Bar) – and although I was with my college ‘baby gal’ next to me, drinking a coke n quarter, I found I could not shake a leg for ng’o, even as the lyrics of this song cascaded all around us.

‘But who are you? What are you? Who the hell do you think you are? Do I know you? Do you know me? GET THE HELL OUT OF MY FACE!!!’

The writer, Tony Mochama on travel. (File image/Facebook)
The writer, Tony Mochama on travel. (File image/Facebook)

Of course, the song was the one and only ‘Unbwogable.’ By the dynamic duo of Gidi Gidi Maji Maji (Joseph Ogidi) and Majimaji (Julius Owino), as produced by the now legendary Tedd Josiah.

At the time, a majority of Kenyans were tired of having been under the rule of one party, KANU, for almost forty years.

When then democratically retiring President Moi chose a neophyte Minister and M.P., barely forty, called Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta as his successor earlier on that year (in 2002), a lot of Kenyans saw red.

And Orange! And Yellow. And Green. And Blue. And Indigo! And Violet!

In short, they saw a Rainbow Coalition that one Raila Amolo Odinga had cobbled together out of disaffected KANU rebels like the late George Saitoti, and the very present Kalonzo Musyoka.

This being three years before ‘Tinga’ (as RAO, then leader of Liberal Democratic Party) dubbed the nickname ‘Watermelon’ on Mr. Musyoka, and in the salad days of Uhuru Kenyatta, the LDP had one damaging phrase in his arsenal – ‘Project Uhuru.’

But the one word that undid everything for the KANU campaign of 2002 was this one – ‘UNBWOGABLE.’

Like wananchi were un-afraid, un-flappable, un-touchable and un-beatable.

By a time like this in the September of 2002, Gidigidi Majimaji were the top played, top loved tune in the country with ‘Unbwogable!’

Forget Kenyanese phrases like ‘Oliskia Wapi?‘ that come and go.

‘Unbwogable’ was on every Kenyan’s lips from the time anyone heard it, to the very last day of 2002, after Mwai Kibaki got sworn in at Uhuru Park (a day of mud & madness that I’ll never ever 4get).

The former president, Arap Moi in the handover ceremony to the wheel-chair bound Mwai Kibaki, at Uhuru Park.
The former president, Arap Moi in the handover ceremony to the wheel-chair bound Mwai Kibaki, at Uhuru Park.

It represented the defiance of folks, and the desire for change, in a majority of common Kenyans; tired of the corruption, fed up of being hungry – pardon the pun – and angry at the impunity of our leaders; much as it is today, except now we have no Opposition or even a resistance anthem against the (Sino) poison in and of The System.

But where had this duo, with their lyrically deadly lyrics, emerged from?

Joseph Ogidi, Aquinas High school boy, was busy wowing Sunday afternoon audiences with his musical prowess at the mythical Florida 2000 (F Twangas, after sunset full of langas) on Moi Avenue.

That is where producer Tedd Josiah, one of the quartet of the original ‘Hart’ (the band put together by another legend, Pete Odera), but kicked out of church for reasons to be delved into in another forum, discovered young Joe Ogidi.

He quickly teamed him up with Julius Owino, who was doing his thing in Kisumu, when that city used to ‘wezana’ with Eastlands as a musical talent hub.

This was, of course, at the turn of the millennium, when mobile phones were still a novelty, and fat televisions (madiaba sets) what we watched.

The mercurial producer, Tedd Josiah.
The mercurial producer, Tedd Josiah.

Tedd Josiah apparently moved young Gidigidi to Dandora Phase II, and Majimaji to Boja; then soldered their talents together to produce the mystical ‘Ismarwa’ album in the June of 2000 – (that was also the debut of the now veteran musician, Wyre).

With this first success, as my comrade bro CEO who is an aficionado of music says – and the background source to so many of these saucy stories – the first thing Gidigidi did was buy a flat screen TV, the first of its kind in Dandoch.

And Majimaji could now afford to leave Boja to come buy burgers and bhajias for baes in Buruburu, na sio ‘mamboch’ as Alaholla would holler in his later song ‘Njaro za Mamboch.’

Those were the giddy days of a long gone start of the 2000’s era……

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