Obituary

Mighty Salim: Friends, fans dropped me like a bad habit!

Musician had long suspected family deaths could be linked to sidestepping Kikuyu traditions

Straight Outta Subukia: The late musician Mighty Salim holds the portrait of his elder brother Salim Junior during his burial in 2016. ‘The moment you’re in distress, you are alone,’ said Mighty Salim in 2018 when he learnt the old lesson afresh: fame is fleeting, friends are fickle.

Weighed down by earning Sh10 ferrying sacks of maize in rural Subukia, Mugithi One-Man guitarist Mighty Salim, borrowed Sh300 from the sister of a friend to seek fortunes in Nairobi. That was in 1999 when the class eight graduate came looking or his elder brother, Mugithi maestro Salim Junior.

Both are now gone-in a string of deaths in a single family of renowned Kikuyu musicians which has left elders seeking answers from the gods.

Mighty Salim (Timothy Njuguna Salim) died a day after marking the fifth memorial of Salim Junior (Paul Mwangi Salim) on January 24.  Both died at 43.

Mighty Salim, fourth in a family of eight succumbed to diabetes and kidney failure. He once required Sh2.5 million for dialysis. An MP gave him a fake Sh50K check, cut him off. Friends fled. “The moment you’re in distress, you are alone,” said Mighty Salim in 2018 when he learnt the old lesson afresh: fame is fleeting, friends are fickle.

Mugithi musicians belt out copyright versions of popular music. They neither sell albums nor have royalties

Mic one, testing: Mighty Salim explained how ‘I was urged by some Kikuyu elders to go back home and see if there was something we failed to adhere to in accordance with our Kikuyu traditions.’

 “Close friends, especially musicians I sang with in  events and rallies, business people whose ventures I marketed, cut links with me. They left WhatsApp group I opened and others are just dormant,” he lamented after being dropped by former admirers like a bad habit.

The ‘Miss Rona’ pandemic shut entertainment spots, political rallies. Mighty Salim was without an income, his music studio in Kahawa West was also in the doldrums. Mugithi musicians belt out copyright versions of popular music. They neither sell albums nor have royalties.

Without a cellphone, call booths came in handy. Salim Junior had neither

Mute button: The death of his brother Salim Junior (above) weighed down heavily on Mighty Salim, often breaking down on stage many times while paying tribute to him and other fallen musicians. “He was much better than me,” the father of three said of Salim Junior. “And though I might not fit in his shoes I will keep his legacy.”

They are paid per gig. The pandemic stopped all gigs including reggae. That some like Mighty Salim never went beyond primary school means they have fewer marketable skills beside dexterity as One-Man guitarists entertaining inebriated revelers.  

See Also:  Kenya Air Force Commander who married house help dies on his birthday!

Salim Junior died of chest complications in January 23, 2016. Their sister Dorcas Muthoni Salim died of cancer in 2018. The ensuing burials at their Arash village, Nakuru County had elders scratching their collective graying heads for answers.

The Salims started as backup guitarists of other popular musicians when not backing their siblings

It runs in the family: Mighty Salim, his mother Eunice Salim, wife Judy (whom he met during a gig in Mombasa) and daughter Wingskid Wangari. It all started with their father, Joe Mwangi Salim Senior, a music teacher and gospel musician migrated from Murang’a to Subukia in the 1970s. But his children gradually gravitated towards secular bar music in the 1990s to escape the blighting poverty of godforsaken Subukia.

Mighty Salim had long suspected the illnesses and deaths could be linked to sidestepping certain Kikuyu traditions. “I was urged by some Kikuyu elders to go back home and see if there was something we failed to adhere to in accordance with our Kikuyu traditions.  I respect our traditions and I did exactly that and found no gaps,” he explained two years ago. “What I am going through has nothing to do with our cultures. It is just sickness like any other and thanks God I am on recovery path and I will be back on my feet once the kidney transplant is successful.”

Cell phones then cost Sh150, 000. A line was Sh2, 500, so were airtime scratch cards

The Salims started as backup guitarists of other popular musicians when not backing their siblings. Salim Junior was backing late Queen Jane when Mighty Salim came looking for him in 1999. Salim Junior then lived in Githurai, but had left for a gig in Mombasa when his younger brother arrived. Cell phones then cost Sh150, 000. A line was Sh2, 500, so were airtime scratch cards. Without a cellphone, call booths came in handy. Salim Junior had neither. ‘

Mighty Salim had no change of his threadbare clothes. Shoes were getting angled

Carry on, bro: His legacy will also be carried by siblings Salim Young (above) Naomi Salim, Sarafina Salim and nephew Kajei Salim.

Mighty Salim had no change of his threadbare clothes. Shoes were getting angled. He holed up with friends, ate from their generosity until one day a club in Zimmerman was without its regular crooner. All One-Man guitarists were competing and the resident drummer suggested Mighty Salim could rework some magic.

See Also:  Duncan Wachira: When criminals gifted slay queens AK-47 rifles for Valentine!

Mighty Salim’s first gig earned him Sh500 as he curved out a name for himself using the same mix of remixing popular Kikuyu secular and gospel songs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.