Few individuals have had the privilege of having a successful career switch, impacting their village, gaining national prominence, and remaining immortalized after their deaths.
The late John Ariisi O’sababu, who passed away in 1996, attained success in his career as a musician from being a teacher.
His name remains fresh in the minds of his Gusii community as they refer to him as the King of Benga.
He hailed from a small hilly village known as Kirwanda, where his vocals in singing and creativity in songwriting enticed not only his community but Kenyans in general.
While growing up, O’sababu was a showy person who would sing in school choirs and continued with this practice even as he started his career in 1978.
“He would be a showy person singing in school choirs, and he would use our father’s traditional instrument. He got the talent from our father,” O’sababu’s sister narrated.
When the former president Daniel Moi came to Nyamira, Kisii, O’sababu courageously sang a song that communicated the community’s needs. The message was that the region needed to have an infrastructure for it to be developed.
However, his death came as a blow to the country, gripping it with sadness. Most could not comprehend how his death came to be.
What shocked people the most came during his burial when the small, hilly village flocked with prominent individuals drawn from across the country.
“I have never seen a burial like that since I was born. Prominent people such as the Members of Parliament and Ministers (today’s cabinet secretaries) thronged the place. You know his homestead was on a hill, you would see people coming from all four corners in large numbers,” narrated his business ally.
His band members made several attempts to replace him after his passing, but they still could not find someone that matched the pace he had set.
“He was a strict and straightforward person. If he told you to play solo, you had to do so than go contrary and play rhythm because you would be in hot soup.
“After his passing, we met as a group to discuss who would take the mantle. We made several attempts to get a new lead singer but to no avail,” recalled one of his bandmates.
O’sababu left a mark that his wife, together with the community, will never forget. His producer still holds onto the original scripts of his songs.