By Ogova Ondego
Published January 24, 2016
Saturday, January 23, 2016. The day may have begun like any other weekend in Kenya. But it gradually grew grimmer among them that monitor website readership performance.
We at ArtMatters.Info realised something was wrong with the sort of search terms–‘Salim Junior’ and ‘Dead’–that led numerous readers from all over the world to the portal’s music section. Almost every reader appeared to have developed interest in a macabre subject. And over the first three or four hours of the day. The specific search phrases used were ‘salim junior dead’ (3008 times); ‘salim junior biography’ (4000 times); ‘is salim junior dead’ (378 times); ‘salim junior dead?’ (5663 times); ‘is salim junior dead?’ (200 times); and ‘salim junior kenya dead’ (562 times).
Even without being told, something appeared not to be sitting well with Kenya’s 40-year ‘one-man guitar’ entertainment movement; it had lost a valiant foot soldier. That is how the death of Paul Mwangi whose stage name is Salim Junior, was announced to the world on January 23, 2016.
And so we write this article; not to praise Salim Junior, but to pay tribute to the artist whose one-guitar-man performance style of both gospel and secular remixes drew music lovers to entertainment joints in droves. Indeed, no cultural celebration—birthday, wedding, fundraiser–in Nairobi and its environs is ever complete without ‘Mugithi’; this is the name of the style of music that Salim Junior practised.
Described as a hard-working musician who did not disappoint at a concert, Mwangi was born into a musical family led by a dad–‘Salim’ Kamau–who sang Christian music; it is popularly known as ‘gospel’ in Kenya. This family is credited with having been among those that pioneered the ‘Mugithi’ or one-man-guitar style of entertainment. Tha late Mwangi’s siblings—Mighty Salim, Sarafina Salim and Salim Young–are also popular ‘mugithi’ musicians.
Mwangi’s ability in remixing or recreating traditional Gikuyu secular songs and Christian choruses and hymns endeared him to many. His remix of veteran Gikuyu musician Joseph Kamaru’s hits–Ke Ngwitikirie, Wendo wa Chebe Chebe, Mutondo wa Wendo, Certificate ya Maisha, Kaba utinie kiara, Nindarega, Muti Uyu Mukuona, Kindu kia munai–was well received. This saw him entertain his fans both at home and abroad, especially in the Kikuyu Diaspora in United Kingdom (UK), United Arab Emirates (UAE) and United States of America (USA).
Salim Junior’s gospel remixes included Huria Ria Keri, Jesu Niwe Murithi Wakwa, and Menyaga Wega.
Born Paul Mwangi in Subukia within Rift Valley Province, Salim Junior was based in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
The late musician’s brother, Njuguna Salim, said the former died on January 23, 2016 at Nakuru’s War Memorial Hospital where he had just been admitted for treatment.