The Ladies Choice, passes on


Mighty King Kong, the renowned Kenyan musician, is dead.

King Kong passed on Tuesday 25th December 2007 at 5.50pm while undergoing treatment at Kenyatta National Hospital, Nairobi.

His brother-in-law, Mr Alfred Otieno, told The Standard at the hospital that the musician was pronounced dead as doctors tried to save his life.

He said the musician did not appear sick but developed complications while attending an ODM rally on Monday at Nyayo National Stadium.

Initial reports indicate that he might have been poisoned.

"King Kong had two visitors from Sweden whom he took to attend the rally with him." said Otieno.

"He told us to take his visitors to the stadium to listen to the speakers. We left him at Kengeles taking a soda," he added.

"When we returned, we found him leaning on a table and could not speak. When we realised his condition was getting worse, we took a cab to his house," he said.

Otieno said the musician did not speak, neither had he eaten anything since Monday.

"When we realised that his condition was not improving, we decided to bring him to hospital where he was pronounced dead while undergoing treatment," he said.

He said the musician had said he wanted to be nominated to Parliament to represent the disabled.

King Kong will be remembered with his hit songs Ladies Night and Cinderella. In total, he composed close to 20 songs.

He leaves a widow and a child.

(Brian Adero, The Standard, Nairobi, Kenya)


Life of King Kong: Kenyans mourn Mighty King Kong

At 5.50pm on Tuesday, Paul Otieno Imbaya, the popular dance hall singer Kenyans know as Mighty King Kong, lost the battle for his life. He succumbed to a short illness that the doctors at Kenyatta National Hospital, Nairobi, called a complication resulting from breathing problems.

In his dying moments, there was no doubt that Mighty King Kong struggled to keep alive, something reminiscent of his entire life. A lifetime of struggles that saw him rise from a streetboy sleeping on the verandahs of a nightclub in Kisumu to the top league of Kenyan music. Mighty King Kong’s latest struggle was to represent the plight of the people of Kasarani constituency in the city, which he called home since he moved to Nairobi.

Just two months ago, the 33-year-old hinted to Review that he would be joining the list of entertainment celebrities throwing their hats into the ring for leadership positions. I know the struggle that the normal people in Kasarani face, and I should be better suited to represent them,” he said at the time. True to the self-belief and determination, King Kong raised the funds for his ODM nomination bid. With the help of friends and well-wishers, he hit the campaign trail, criss-crossing the densely populated constituency to popularise himself. He was an energetic campaigner for the rights of the disabled such as himself.

He was a key member of a section of the ODM campaign trail and was even seen among party officials who accompanied their presidential candidate Raila Odinga when he went to present his papers to the Electoral Commission. Even after he lost in the chaotic nomination, King Kong backed the winner and even attended ODM’s final rally at Nyayo National Stadium in Narobi on Monday. I was with him at the ODM rally and he appeared very okay to me,” recalls fellow musician Maji Maji, also the first at the hospital when he heard King Kong had been admitted.

In February, King Kong released a compilation titled The Best of King Kong and, according to industry sources, it is doing considerably well. The album’s release came after his music got a new lease of life following the running controversy that dogged his career for the past seven years.

Even though his music was selling and he had shows all over the country, behind the scenes he was suffering. He had said before that he had signed what he initially thought was a good contract but which turned out to be very oppressive. Although he received good start-up payments, the seven-year contract with a city promoter is said to have taken full advantage of the artiste and to rip him off.

Under the contract, King Kong said he was to be paid 10 per cent of the total sales and distribution of his music, but up until February, this year, he had not received a cent. The promoter also highjacked his earnings from shows because they would negotiate for him lucrative performance deals but give him very little.

There was nothing I could do because the contract had my signature on it, Mighty King Kong told Review in an interview in June, four months after the contract expired. I just had to wait for the contract to expire. The tune that actually catapulted King Kong to national fame is Ladies’ Choice, which is also the name of the album. It was produced by Maurice Oyando of Next Level Studios and released in 1999.

The title song is one of his biggest hits to date. He said at the time that it was a special album to him because of the number of years he had saved to raise the studio fee. The fund-raising journey took him to Mombasa where he performed with the Them Mushrooms (now Uyoga) and the Pressmen groups. It took him also to Kampala in Uganda where he performed with the Simba Ngoma band. The success of Ladies’ Choice saw him go back to the studio two years later to record another album, Cinderella, which was released in 2001, again by Next Level studio.

King Kong was born in Ugenya in Siaya district in 1973. As a young child he suffered a severe polio attack and was disabled from the waist down. He went to Ambira primary school, but dropped out in Standard Six following his father’s death. He moved to Kisumu town where he became a streetboy and beggar. Many Kenyans will remember King Kong as an established MC as he hosted most of the talent search competitions at reggae sessions at clubs such as Florida 2000 in Nairobi after moving to Nairobi with the help of Stone, a DJ whom he had met in Kisumu.

Inspiring person
He was a very inspiring person,” says US-based Kenyan dance hall artiste Daddy V. “I remember him as an MC when I was a participant at the Florida talent search. The industry will greatly miss the King. King Kong will be remembered by many not only as a great dance hall artiste, but also as one who struggled to make the industry meaningful. He struggled through the oppressive contract and shared his experience with fellow artistes with a view to helping them. He was also in the forefront of the fight against piracy and the issue of royalties. He was always a jolly guy, but very determined. He is one guy who would do anything to ensure that things were comfortable for those around him.” These are the words John Katana of Uyoga, who worked with King Kong for many years.

The Mighty King Kong is survived by wife Jackline Ouma and a child.

Story by Tim Kamuzu Banda
Publication Date in Daily Nation 12/29/2007

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