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  • Writer's pictureStephen Osieyo

but you didn't.............

Updated: Jul 11, 2020

100 years ago as Nam Lolwe basin was still recovering from heavy First World War casualties at the hands of Von Lettow Vorbeck, Nyanza was hit by three successive disasters in succession. The famine baptized locally as Kanga was followed by locusts invasion and Spanish Influenza all in succession in almost the same formation to the disaster now engulfing the region in 2020.

I have adopted a Benga theme to this  death poem to lead us into the coming dark period as some of us may not even get a chance to bury each other, let alone see one another.



We had a first date to meet at my grandma’s place in Imbo Usenge because Awino Lawi had a gig at Nelson's pub.

I failed to come because it rained just like you had warned me. You were rained on and even lost your bike. I thought you would forget about me.

But you didn’t.

I saw you miming George Ramogi song to Cuz Madonna Achienge. I thought the words 'Switi for ever and ever' was a message to Madonna Achienge. I was furious and I confronted her. I thought you will leave me at the club.

But you didn't.

I insisted that we stay the night at Ugunja St Michael Bar & Lodging. You opposed that it's blasphemy to drink at short time brothel named after a saint and that Ugenya people have randy mother in laws prowling Ugunja.

When you woke and found me reading your messages, I thought you would leave me.

But you didn't.

I lied to you that I was visiting my sick grandmother. Then information reached you of me causing a brawl at Owino Misiani gig and having black out at Okatch Biggy's Junction pub. When I came home you sulked and played one record for one week- Ukimwi mbaya of Princess July. I thought you would throw me out.

But you didn't.

I hid the dress you bought for your mom. Instead I sent it to my mom. Nene ineno wichkuot adier gi wadeni. When you saw my mom wearing it, I was very embarrassed and you were seething. I did not know what to say. I thought you would stop seeing me because you kept whistling to 'Rikni Nyombo' by Musa Juma.

I went to dance to Kabaselleh band at Beograda, Kisumu. I knew you were waiting for me at Jim Likembe grooveathon where guitarist Kepher Odhiambo was sharing the stage.

You had told me to keep off the company of Aura Zippy because she caused the tragic stabbing of the young and promising soloist. I thought you would come and drag me from there.

We agreed that we line up the  house mortgage before we start having babies. I lied to you that I was taking my pills. When I got pregnant I thought you would ask me to terminate the pregnancy.

Your absence has made me reflect a lot on my life. I am not getting any younger but behaving like a high school girl. I am grateful to Aor , Oloo for helping me straighten my life.

I was really waiting for you to come home after the 3 month lockdown because of  Covid 19 epidemic. I now relate to your last letter with the lyrics "Dag I ngima ma ihero". I am trying to live the right way. God knows Iam really trying.

The only memory I have of my efforts are the Benga songs such as Nyar Kanyamuot, Nyathi Nyakach, Born Smart, Best Wishes to Connie etc. All those benga songs we used to dance to seem to be just telling the story of our lives. Awinjo malit to makmana ni chano nyasaye ok dwa kethi. I now listen to them with fresh sad meaning to Benga music.

I really waited for you to make up for all my mischief when you come home after the lock down and quarrantine.



{Adopted, adapted and localized from a death poem by Merryl Glass titled But You didn’t. I read it once over 40 years ago and and it stuck in my brain. Its only today I decided to look for it after adopting it several times for Benga music. Needless to say I don't own the music either.}


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