JUMA TOTO – Definitive Anthology (Part 3)
Updated: Aug 19, 2021
3. GOR MAHIA FC
The Gor Mahia FC song was a story of Victoria Eleison. A year before the convenor of the club had been gunned down in broad daylight. A tragedy that was sandwiched between Arwings Kodhek’s death on the one side and massacres and detentions of the Luo nation on the other. In fact, the revolution was devouring its own children, as those who were not in detention were cowed to submission. The community was hurting badly. This JT Gor Mahia FC song of triumph was just what the doctor would order for the Luo Nation. A celebration therapy to take away the hurt. JT songs were stories that contributed a lot to recorded literature. If such a movie or musical were to be made about JT, I can't think of a better title than Gor Mahia FC the Song. They are literary giants. If a song of JT was to be turned into a play, it would make an amazing task for the director, the scene locator, the wardrobe manager and the music director. Politics. The knives of betrayal in a post-independence African government. A lot could be covered or uncovered on the graves of Lumumba, Sankara, Amil Cabral, and all those forgotten heroes. The murder of a young handsome general used to help upstage the revolution leaders; diluting their powers, consolidating popular institutions like COTU (Central Organisation for Trade Unions) and post-independence movements. No sooner than he finished that he is then murdered in daylight is the story of Africa and the story of revolutions. I am not talking of a Julius Ceaser or Sankara script I am talking of a Gor Mahia FC story that forms the backdrop of this great song by JT.
The music was the exuberance of motion of celebrating fans. Some fans believe in the business genius of the hit record Gor Mahia FC. To date, nobody has come close to touching the hearts of Gor Mahia fans like this song. That Gor Mahia fans have chosen the Uganda People's Congress anthem of the 1960s as their signature tune is just a rhyming issue.
The perfect rhyme in
Kogaaalo/ Goooor, Gor Mahia; Kogaaalo/ Gor timbee duto yuakni
is from Apollo Milton Obote's Uganda People's Congress anthem
The same number/ Kenyaaaaa, Kenya...; The same number/ Kenya- Tanzania- Kenya
Deep in Gor hearts there is reverence for JT's sacred solemn song that is usually touched when they hit a Jackpot of an international trophy. Not the regular bread and butter of local trophies. In terms of sheer numbers and novelty it has to be the top JT song. It can only be compared to TP Mazembe (68); FC Dragon (69); and Morogoro FC (71) by Baba Gaston, Johnny Bokelo and Mbaraka Mwinshehe. That is the league of Gor Mahia FC by JT. That JT has kept all of them including the two Gabonese FC 105s by Tabu Ley and Franco in the back burners is the hall mark of JT's skills.
As a song it was structurally delightful in simplicity. The normal choral singing by a strong JT voice supported by muffled backup of non Dholuo speakers. Stylistically it was Benga/urban Nairobi urban retro. As a first and as a marketing strategy it was a masterpiece.
The story of Gor Mahia FC brings together TJ and JT. That is Tom Joseph Mbeya and Juma Toto to you.
4. OWITI BONNIE OWITI BONNI
A friend is someone with whom you dare to be yourself.
There is no greater joy in this world than remembering happy times. I am not sure why. I think it's because you know that a happy ending awaits you.
Personally, this is the very best of JT. This is Jagem at his supreme best.
But it was more than a song to me. It is said that the world was at its creative best between 1950 and 1980. If that is so then the 1970s was the high point. This is the period when Stevie Wonder first experimented with the moog synthesiser. It's the decade that gave us reggae, hip hop and soukous. It's the year that spawned CAVACHA in Congolese rumba. Musicians were freely experimenting with new instruments. Tabu Ley the innovator from Congo threw in everything, from stage razzmatazz, female singers, reggae music, Benga, live recording, instrumentals accordion, you name it, and Juma Toto picked on two things Tabu Ley did not do. To my knowledge JT is the only African artist to successfully combine: • Echo chamber • Hawaiian guitar. Kabaselleh Ochieng had earlier toyed around with the Hawaiian guitar in one of the follow ups to Lek hit song (3). But it was commercially a flop. It's only when he came back with it in mid 1980s in Nyar Kanyamuot that it became commercially successful.
Echo Chamber was very elusive in Africa because of its melancholy sound. It brings out a sort of loneliness. I had a friend from Gem Kodiaga who would complain whenever I played Joseph Okoth Kamuradi's Rosemary NyaBoro.
An gik ma idengo ka gik jodongo gi ok adwar
was her put down.
Internationally I know of Peter Frampton in 'Do you feel like I do (Frampton Comes Alive album of 1976), however, Juma Toto is the only artist to combine both in OWITI BONNI. The challenges of echo chamber are many. You cannot use 10 words. You end up confusing the listeners. Juma Toto had to trash the first Owiti Bonnie because even the man himself could not make out his name. The second version was lighter. And in the third version he killed both Echo Chamber and Hawaiian guitar.
I used to tease him a lot about this song that he was it was like he was story telling at a magenga or an attorney in a court scene. He would laugh to tears as I imitate the roles. I know he is not here but wherever he is he must be smiling back at me.
Owiti Bonnie: Ladies and gentlemen I present to Owiti Bonnie by JT. Letter repetitions denote echo chamber.
Then there is a pause like a story teller stoking the burning embers of magenga. Or like lawyer clearing their throat, busily shuffling papers to make you relax or maybe scare you
NNEWWACHOPPO DDALLAA ASEMBO RAMBA
KOR GI JAYADHA BONNI OWITI
Then he lets rip at the Hawaiian guitar; playing it; asking questions then resolving back and forth then finally resolving twice before resuming; like a lawyer tap dancing around you with innuendo and the judge objecting some but he keeps on coming at you. JT could razzmatazz when he chose to.
This time a shorter pause. There was no need for a longer one as the listeners are paying attention. In those courtroom scenes the jury is keen. The attorney is now ready to drag the witness through the gutter
NENE IRUAKO TOTOOOO TO WAPUOYO JABWANA NI BONNI OOH NI BER JAYADHA
Aha! Now we know where the story is going. If it's a courtroom we all know where the line of questioning is going. Guitar time attack again. This is when the lawyer razzle dazzles the witness. The witness is bamboozled and mesmerised.
YYAAWWAAAA NNEEWWAACHOPO DDAALLA
APUOYO JABUANA NI BER JAYADHA
Chorus or summary. if it's a courtroom then there is no more questions for the witness. It's just I continuous I put it to you; summarising the evidence to draw picture
OWITII BONNI/ BER JA ASEMBO
RAMBA/ IRUAKO TOTOO
BER JA ASEMBO RAMBA