Rapar Okatch Biggy: Remembering one of Kenya's musical icons Mar 22, 2019 16:12:20 GMT 3
Post by Onyango Oloo on Mar 22, 2019 16:12:20 GMT 3
Okatch Biggy stood like a colossus during his brief sojourn on planet earth.
I found out recently that I am actually related by blood to Okatch Biggy. Less than three weeks ago I knew him only as one of the most famous residents of my village along with historian Professor B.A.Ogot and Kitoyi, the late drummer for Collela Mazee. Okatch Biggy's own sister in law revealed to me that according to Luo customs and traditions, I am supposed to call Okach "father" because he was cousins with my late father, Richard Achual Oloo.
This adds an additional impetus to this tribute.
He is remebered for his benga and rhumba tunes extolling the beauty and vitues of women; for his songs denouncing rumour mongers who spread rumours about his,health and humourous tunes about his musical escapades.
It was unfortunate that one such rumour about his battle with HIV/AIDS turned out to close to the truth because the affliction that finally felled him had most of the hallmarks associated with the pandemic.
A native of Ujimbe, Luanda Dudi, Gem in western Kenya, Okatch was born in 1954, the son of Mathayo Otieno who was himself a musician. Okach came from a musical family. His nephews were also musicians. Charles "Viva Makale Ochieng himself played in Okach Biggy's Heka Heka band; his other nephews George Owuor and Hannington Ngwono were also musicians.
Before launching his band, Okatch Biggy known for his height and muscular build was a boxer in Kisumu before trying out for the South Nyanza based Kiwiro Band and also being , a drummer for the famed Tanzania born benga maestro DO Misiani. In 1985 he formed Heka Heka Band which was initially based in Kisumu before finding national fame throughout Kenya and East Africa.
Among his hits were Nyathi Nyakach which was a tribute to one of his wives Mary Anyango with whom he had two children Kennedy Ochieng Okach who got married in December 2018 and Eric Otieno Okach, born in February 1992 ahd currently in secondary school. His other wife was Ruth Adhiambo.
Musicians who played with Okach Biggy were Aluoch Jamaranda, who took over the Heka Heka band when Okatch became ill; Dola Kabarry who was to later emerge as a benga star in his own right; the guitarist for whom composed a tune; Ochieng, Owiti and Olanyo. Okach Biggy was a constant player in Kisumu joints like Junction Inn, Dona, Ofafa and an as well as Makuti and a joint somewhere in Langata in Nairobi.
Okatch fell seriously ill when his ankles and other parts of his limbs started swelling. He later developed ailments all over his body.
He breathed his last on December 28, 1997. He was buried at his Ujimbe, Luanda Dudi home on the third of January 1998 at a ceremony attended by thousands of his fans and relatives. The motorcade of those who came to pay their last respects streteched from the Dudi Shopping Centre along the Kisumu-Busia highway to the villages around AC Luanda Primary School in the neighbourhood of the first home of famed historian Professor B.A. Ogot and near the home of the late drummer for Collela Mazee, Kitoyi.
Unfortunately, today Okatch Biggy is almost forgotten. His grave in serious disrepair and there is noone beside the immediate family to take care of his children.
That is why friends, relatives, fans and fellow musicians are planning what they hope to be an annual event called the Okatch Biggy Cultural Festival with proceeds going directly to the family. THe one day event is modelled on the more well known Mutumbu but will culminate in a musical tribute to the departed benga/rhumba icon featuring hopefully such entertainers like Osito Kalle, Dola Kabarry, Aluoch Jamaranda,Emma Jalamo, Jamnazi, Jakadala and other Luo and Kenyan musicians.