By GEORGE ORIDO
Last week, Prof Caleb Chrispo Okumu was supposed to be on his way back from Meru with the rest of the Kenya National Music Festival (KMF) Committee after inspecting arrangements to host the fete in August.
But that was not to be. He was taken ill at 6.40am, breathing his last at the Nairobi Hospital. As fate would have it, Okumu would die of cardiac arrest that had stuck a few days earlier.
Death has robbed this nation of a valiant, dedicated and selfless individual. As the cruel hand of death snatches Okumu from us, many will recall his ever-encouraging smiles even during difficult times when at the helm of KMF as chairman.
KMF Executive Director Benson Abwao praised the fallen musician: “He inspired us and we are going to miss his sense of humour and easy demeanour.” And with his table full after landing a job as executive Dean Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the Kenya Polytechnic University, Okumu could still find time to perform with the Kenya Polytechnic University Band as a guitarist and lead singer.
Prof Okumu made headlines when as a professor of Music at Maseno University, he formed and played with the Maseno University Band. The band members were his students and staff. They performed in clubs, weddings, and other corporate events.
|Prof Caleb Okumu at a past event. [PHOTSO: GEORGE ORIDO/STANDARD]|
“When you practice what you teach then it becomes a source of relaxation and inspiration: It doesn’t come out like work,” said Okumu, who was deft in the lead, rhythm and bass guitar as well as tumbas.
It is his passion for music that defined Okumu wherever he went. He was a true example of leadership that led from the front when he shed off his title for a few delicious moments, left the high table and joined live bands wherever he went.
Surprised but delighted band members would savour their moment of fame, as they played alongside the professor. I recall in 2010 when the music festivals moved to Kakamega.
And on the last day of the festival when all were exhausted and packing to leave, Okumu still had time to assemble his band and entertain teachers and ministry staff who were having a farewell ball at the Golf Hotel, Kakamega.
And at 8pm, he belted the popular tune of Karibu festival, an adaptation of their popular number Karibu Maseno, with a lead guitar in his hands.
After a few more numbers the floor on the poolside was active. Delighted participants could be seen dancing to the rumba and benga tunes that informed his rather unique style.
A founding member of the Muungano choir, Okumu has travelled the depth and breadth of the world, promoting Kenya’s authentic music.
The music lover insisted that, while the West may have the glamour and better quality of life, at the end of the day home is best. It is no wonder that it is here that he breathed his last.