MUSA JAKADALLA: FIDELITY TO MIN-OKINYO
Updated: Feb 8, 2021
MUSA JAKADALLA: WHEN FIDELITY TO MOTHER CONQUERS ALL
“Let us call your mother to listen to this song and if she approves the words then you are a free man”. Those were the words of the Zairean Attorney General to Franco Luambo Makiadi the Congo Colossus of Rumba who was facing a prison sentence for releasing indecent lyrics to the public. In itself the lyrics was a criminal offence. However, the government wanted to humiliate Franco because the lyrics were double edged sword on Life President Mobutu Sese Seko himself.
The Indomitable King of Rumba himself declined the offer of letting his mother hear those words that were in themselves a violation of woman hood the way hip hop violates women, even if women are ardent followers of salacious words in hip hop. And the opposite is exactly the ethical image that Musa Jakadalla radiates in his looks, songs, and live shows. So much that should his mother whom he adores or any family member listen to or watch any video of his, they will be so at ease because every aspect of the product is descent. It is an image sought by all Luos because all Luos are related whether by clan or in-law or even by age group. A potential mother in law could be listening on the other side of the Luo land. So Musa Jakadalla package is the sort of dull pale image that does not earn you mileage in this sexualised modern music industry of popular music. Yet not only Musa Jakadalla has risen to the top but he has actually body checked and bumped off big name explicit raw sex Ohangla and Benga artists who sell nothing but sex.
How does Musa Jakadalla do it? How does he drive attendance and viewership without sex? Where is his niche in this industry and mostly how does he package himself? And who is Musa Jakadalla anyway?
Musa Jakadalla formative years
At first I thought he was a son or descendant of a Mr Adala of Ugenya or Gem. But that is not the case. Musa Jakadalla was born in 1991 in a family of 8 siblings and he is somewhere near the very bottom unlike all spoilt chogo (last born) he is not spoilt. He was born Moses Odhiambo Obok of East Ugenya. He is of the Kager Clan but no further relationship to me. By clan lines he is my grandson.
He comes from the Obok Dala family hence the name jakadalla (Ja ka Dala). He was just combining his ancestral name (juogi) in his name because he wanted them to follow him everywhere he goes and maybe to underscore Dho ot (Not steel door please!)
Musa Jakadalla early years was not pretty. His father died when he was very young. The mother single handed during Nyayo economic difficulties raised ALL of them in Sira Village, which is now Uholo West of Ugenya. They are all modestly comfortably now and their mum is living a proud and modest life of having sought light at the end of the tunnel. You can only imagine that first dawn as the burial festivities died down after the burial of the father to Musa.
A school mate remembers him as a small framed but disciplined boy in lower primary. And he had to be disciplined. The advantage of coming from a big family is that you are always living with several compasses or red light indicators. And when you are almost the last born, the reds are exceedingly bright with mild green and almost no amber. Without being pious “you cannot get lost in a straight wide road”. You would really have to try to even slow down the family pace. And mothers left with such a large family have to set a steady pace not too fast to leave others behind and not too slow to inhibit the fast paced kids. Something in between to accommodate all the siblings. Besides the roads stay straight because mothers unlike fathers don’t reset a new course or turn of the lives of the orphaned children with a new entrant in the family. They just keep at it slow but sure in that same trodden path with greater intensity.
Chinua Achebe quotes of a Nigerian proverb that “A chicken that grows into a cock is known the very day it hatches”. And so was Musa’s eventual musical prowess. Musa played eight drums to highest levels in school drama festival competitions. Not three, not five but eight drums. Note the number eight appearance again. I am not sure whether each drum was for each sibling. I wonder which sibling got the foot drum. Drummers are time keepers and it demands a sense of high discipline to be able to dictate pace and I will come to how that has conspired to great audiences in his chosen career.
And discipline of Ulwan primary School, Uholo West features prominently in his adult way of life. That's where the making of this Ohangla star began and it cannot be emphasized enough that everything right was set in the many school hours of primary school. The head teacher then was late Mr. John Odipo from Asembo Kokise, Siaya. He was married to local Nyasaga. I mention this because it meant that the head teacher had to completely be above board in the eyes of his in-laws and raise proper and upright pupils.
The music teacher was madam Julie Oduor (retired and is currently running her own academy). The common thread is that Musa Jakadalla had two strong women (in school and out of school) shaping his life. It is like instead of having a father and god father, Musa had a mother at home and a school mother in school. Is it any wonder that when composing lyrics or dancing in wee hours he is very respectful of women! And then there is another teacher, Madam Mary Owino, George Okuku, Okoth Nyawir- (the late) and veteran educationist Charles Ouma Odhiambo. The road was always straight and you cannot get lost in a straight road.
Musa Jakadalla is from the Roho Fweny denomination of Christians (Quakers Church). I mention this because all members of Ugenya Kager Clan of the Luo community have never forgotten the martyrdom of prelate Alphayo Odongo Mango at Musanda near Gem. It always brings martial insticts and siege mentality in them and maybe that has shaped his comradeship from his village through the dressing room up to the stage and I will come back to the stage. And out of the Quakers Christian charity Musa Jakadalla developed to be very humble.
The Quakers values has also cemented anti-slavery values and this is evidenced in his fight against modern slavery by creating employment for boys from his home area like his manager, Michael Omenjo. Back at home the siege mentality of Alphayo Odongo Mango’s Quakers has ensured that you’ll always find him with his age mates when he is home. He used to worship in Roho Fweny where singing, beating drums and dancing was the order of the day. He was a drummer in church too, could be that is where he honed his musical skills. The closeness with his hood is evidenced by the fact that in between work these days, the boys always like hanging around Yath Rateng' shopping centre at Ouru (that is Uhuru in Upper river Ndhoya dialect) where they are easily identified as a gold fish and can therefore not be up to no good. As they say, a gold fish has no hiding place.
What is Musa Jakadalla Package?
I am not saying this as a fellow clansman, but the fairer sex say that Musa has too much of ‘good looks than he needs to get around’. It appears men should just have some quota of good looks to get around with. But Musa is roaming around with too much more. I will however say this about Musa Jakadalla. You look at him and wonder what diet he is on. How come his body is finely sprinkled with flesh with no part of his body obtuse and the skin tone just fair and balanced as if he sleeps in some oxygen cage.
Then there is the man made appearance. Musa does not spot some strange lugubrious haircut, jingling ear ring or scraggy looks. No No No. In Musa world, probably driven by his Quakers faith, chains and anklets are for slaves and that is what Quakers do not want to be reminded of and you can check that with Anti-Slavery International in London. And his body is not defiled at all. Did I hear you mutter something like, “My body is a temple of God?”. You only whisper such beliefs if you are also from a church back ground like Musa Jakadalla and believe that tattoos and graffiti on a temple of God is sacrilegious.
In other words, if you met Musa Jakadalla, walking past London stock exchange, then he could just be another account manager taking a break from juggling Russian, Chinese or Arab billionaires’ wealth between different stock portfolios.
If you met Musa Jakadalla near Capitol Hill Washington, USA, then that would be just another young democrat rushing to filibuster some legislation. And if you met Jakadalla in the lift of Rockefeller towers, New York then this would be an agent tracking his star on the 65th Floor. And if you met Jakadalla in that tweed coat and shaded trousers in Cambridge then he would just be a visiting professor or INGO technocrat.
Musa Jakadalla is that plain in his dressing both on stage and off stage but extremely immaculate. If I was young and I lost to him, I would congratulate my ex for a real upgrade over me. And you know that everybody loves a lover. You love yourself, then people love you more. And this anybody watching his shows is disarmed as he is easy on the eye because they love him too.
I agree that his shows are razzmatazz and he does better with small crowds where he can take the revellers in his back pocket and whirl the night away. But his dancing are as decent as they get. In fact, Musa Jakadalla shows are more decent than church music today. Everybody attending his shows is at ease, be it single middle aged ladies or couples who just want to break away. His music clearly says where people would be of the best behaviour.
I once asked a Congolese musician why vocalist like Tabu ley, Pay Tex, walk away when female revellers dance up on them provocatively. He told me that vocalist body is like a violin. It must be finely tuned all the time. One cannot sing well if a woman’s body is touching their body gets the heart racing and therefore scrambles the paced breathing. And this is true of Musa Jakadalla. He evades sexually provocative dancers like plague. And this rubs on to his fans. Some of the fans, female or otherwise just goes there for a good show. Everybody is at ease. And even the female crowd who go to shower him are very descent are carry on the showers dutifully. In other words, Musa Jakadalla shows are a family show without sex. Musa Jakadalla does not sell sex in his shows.
Musa Jakadalla lyrics are not sexualised either. He does not sell meat on or off stage. That is given. But there is more to his lyrics. The lyrics are stories of good public policy and good naturalness.
His song Omondi JaBondo was not just a thank you but a testimony of a musician giving back. Where did you hear of a musician giving back to help a cause unless they want something back? Here he took up the burial of fan when all had deserted. Such community social responsibility stories have a pulling power on the fans.
Then there is the hit Hera Remo song that was excellent in every way. If you listen to the lyrics, you hear very ethical words that teen romance need not be one track mind on pure delinquency. That there is homework assignment, there is sharing of provision for the less fortunate. There is the helping with manly chores and protection. That is a story line that we all want to identify with. It’s a story line that will make anybody listen to the song again and again and again. And so is the Pingo Maka police arrest song. A good story with a good ending.
I have never spoken to Musa Jakadalla myself and could not say anything about the composition shrouded in Hera Remo. But the three songs are different in lyrics and should not leave Musa Jakadalla himself tainted for copyright infringement. If any thing this is exactly why copyright law was enacted, to protect irritant litigation. Otherwise Luos would be claiming all the rights to lipstick, irrigation etc that was invented on the river Nile. Even excessive sampling like in Stevie Wonders Pastime Paradise hit and Gangsters paradise hits do not quite infringe the laws even if in bad taste.
Its fair that somebody from Ugenya should benefit from Ohangla. It was for a long time a sign of backwardness. What Kenyans do not know that while we were condemning Ohangla, Zaire was seeking authentic african music including Ohangla. Congolese Tabu ley first experimented with Ohangla in 1972 as a consequence of this mission.
The story is that in early 1970s and for the next 5 years President Mobutu of Zaire declared a cultural revolution. No foreign music was to be played in the country. He then instituted a State Research Bureau to come up with authentic African Music from the 450 Congo Basin tribe of which the first inhabitants in the 4th AD came from the River Nile and much later on the bantus arrived in the 11th century.
What the Research Bureau under Ray Lema found out is that the progressive way of playing the piano is not African. And that is how many Congolese groups like Zaiko, Wenge Musica and later day Koffi Olomide, Papa Wemba, etc dropped the big orchestras and excess sounds to play with simple bands with more vocals. And you can see the percussive way of playing the keyboards in African music. Why am I telling you all this? I am telling you this because this is the star pull power of Ohangla music in general. And you can deny until Kingdom come but Ohangla naturally provokes the African psyche and rhythmic abilities. And it is the very reason why Musa Jakadalla can do a long session without tiring and the crowd can go on a groove-a-thon at every show. And he can change gears between songs without you noticing. If you are wearing a watch with heart odometer (say apple wrist watch), just watch how your heart beat plays up without you getting off your seat while watching Musa Jakadalla live shows. It is the other pull of Musa Jakadalla without the provocative sex.
Then there is the synergy on stage. Musa Jakadalla has surrounded himself with people who know him. Despite having a 25-member band, they are a very close unit. In one particular show in along the Indian Ocean coast, I noticed the Camera man and the drummer goofing around as is normal of agemates. The drummer momentarily forgot that he was the time keeper who watches over everything. The Camera man further made a mess of it showing the drummer teasing with a grotesque and unpalatable chewing gum. The manager just cut in and told them off and that was the end of the matter. A simple one ness in the band.
Then there is the tag team between the frontmen men of Musa and his two tambourine men when they want to evade an over-enthusiastic female reveller. The way they work the stage act to completely leave the reveller can only come from a group of people with complete oneness. And this is reflected in their clean dressing. They are almost all plain with little room for variety. Everybody loves a winning team and this is a Dream team.
The dream team just to mention a few includes, Michael Omenjo (Manager) Omondi Ja Uriri, Awicko Jakabunde, JP wuod Maseno, Ken (Kenato Simba), Jeff Dolphine (Obuolo), Selly Wuod Abandu, Ayano Nyamisungu, Oluoch Digital, Jagedo
I caught wind of the tour being planned for last summer before the world came tumbling down. The Texas based host was putting up a package tour with a possible stopover in London, Birmingham and Manchester like he has done. I was just advising how the “Latin” name in the band should be dropped once they are out of Kenya, because even though the ancient meaning is simply ‘poetic’, the day to day meaning especially Latino based south of the USA will deny the group the African identity. In this age of ant-colonialism and anti-slavery it will not be very wise.
However, the investor a very good protégé of yours truly will not give up and Musa Jakadalla will take the tour as planned. The Texas based young Kenyan is a meticulous planner and did not pre-empt the promotion before all the dots and I’s crossed. That rushing of things can only be bad for the emerging artist because as experience has shown a failed tour in the west even for the great Luambo Makiadi has consequences to the artist because of the clockwork and inflexible demands on the African Diaspora. And Dallas, Texas based Agrippa Nyanje will not allow that to happen to any artist. He was never handheld that way.
On my part I can just wish Jakager, Jakadalla and his well-knit team the best of the tour. Like in any industry you need periodic product refreshing either by advertising or product packaging. Tabu Ley of Congo Rumba did it by roping female starlets, Franco did it by poaching rivals musicians. Musa Jakadalla's 10-months transatlantic blitz will not only build a base but will give Ohangla a new horizon. I know that with his ethically superior shows in community type of crowds where he operates best, It will be walk over for him. Then there is virtuoso performance, the exuberance of Jeff Dolphine (Obuolo), the Ajaw man and the sheer will to walk with his audience throughout the show with respect to the attending couples. It’s a shoe in success for Musa Jakadalla in USA and UK once we get over this Corona.
Despite the odds stuck against Musa Jakadalla as jathum jadhum, the Kager clan man has used his his 'high fidelity' to culture to surmount the insurmountable. May his incomparable adoration of his mom, Min- Okinyo continue to light the path ahead of Wuod-Min-Okinyo.
Ist Album- Nyiri gi Dwaro ang’o?
2nd Album- Nyar Siaya
3Rd Album- Hera Remo
4th Album- Chuny Dhano
5th Album (Pressing) Dhahabu