JUMA TOTO – Definitive Anthology (Part 2)
Updated: Jul 9, 2020
2. LUO UNION
"Erokamano, Owiti Hatari/Erokamano Luo Union/Erokamano Agonda Lukio/Erokamano Luo Union"
It was a song of gratitude. And behind the music a story of retribution. Just a simple Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. Typical of JT’s very simple short well-timed lyrics. But he underscored the gratitude that you get a feeling it was a very personal thank you. To an ordinary person, he was just thanking Luo Union with all his breadth. I have been told that when the deal is too good to think twice. When the story is too easy to think again. There was more than meets the eye in JT’s lyrics of gratitude.
As far as the creativity goes it was up there with the genius of Tabu Ley. It opens with record taped speeches at a Luo Union FC function before JT leads the singing in that easy but delicately sung chant typical of piano players. In all my life I have never heard a music recording open by live speeches. Never. Never. And I would like to be pointed to one. Just how JT thought out these things amaze. That he elected to tape a function speech with challenging acoustic issues points to a young man fully consumed by what was the perfection of his trade and at the prime of his youth.
Structurally it's light and he plays the guitar this time; he does not attack the chords until the sebene. Stylistically it is absorbed by the percussive CAVACHA of thr Congo Basin, which was the fashionable style by then tearing this region and threatening to obliterate all styles. The CAVACHA of Lipua Lipua, Kamales, etc., was so domineering that if you did not give way they would crash you. Even the bass was played in a percussive way.
To avoid being obliterated smart artists as JT accommodated it to stem the tide. Just to go with the flow until an opportune time comes to disembark.
BEHIND THE MUSIC
The subplot in this JT hit record was personal and could go back over 1000 years before the Luo migration from the Nile Valley.
A Luo Union FC ace and undoubtedly the greatest football player that Kenya has seen had been incarcerated for trumped-up charges. A Nairobi businessman who a year or so tried to kill JT owned an eatery in Nairobi. The Luo Union ace had passed there sometime in 1974 after a midnight revel like any young person would. A disagreement ensued over a packet of chips by then 60 cents (90 cents in the pricey eatery next to Tender Touch). Police were called and the football ace was locked in. The next day the same fearful businessman pressed charges for 60 cents like Shylock in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. He wanted nothing but jail term for a 'thief' in his view. Everyone pleaded with the businessman for leniency including all officials of Luo Union FC. But the businessman and owner of the eatery could have none of it.
But if the Kenyan judges could not be prevailed upon, a mighty power was something else. As the Luo ace was being sentenced to custodial sentence the business man's wife who was in Labour Ward also failed to make it. Wah!
Fast forward as the football tournament kicked off in 1976, Arudhi who had just served his 24 months sentence for a packet of chips was still evidently weak but was too good to be excluded in the squad that played the opening game against KCC Uganda. When Luo Union eventually emerged victorious in the two-week tournament that no Kenyan club had previously sniffed, JT must have felt a personal victory over the business owner of the eatery who had tried to kill him on such a mundane matter as suspected infidelity.
Your enemy's enemy is your friend. And this Luo Union aced triumph over jail term was JT’s triumph. So JT felt. Hence the hearty and soulful 'Erokamano' with abandon.
Remember the Luo legend of the beads between Arua and Podho in South Sudan 1200 years ago? Remember the Shylock in the merchant of Venice who wanted a pound of flesh? It appears this businessman and later day politician was too petty with useless vendetta. He wanted JT’s life for infidelity and jailed the Luo ace footballer for a packet of chips. Sure he got his jailing of the Luo Union ace but lost his wife. Sometimes it's not worth it to be over fussy about things. The legend of Aura and the beads reminds us. Maybe that is why JT was laid back about mundane worldly pleasures. Maybe. Just Maybe. But certainly, he felt a personal victory for Luo Union FC. A club that had been founded in Mwanza, Tanganyika from the smithereens of 1919’s First World War casualties of German Von Lettow Vorbeck, lived to be the first Kenyan club to conquer East Africa. That its soul was ripped at the dizzy heights of its achievements is itself a community tragedy that spells all that is ailing this community "Erokamano Luo Union" of needless fights over petty quarrels.