Hadjoullas Nyapanji Ochieng Ogolla , known to most as Ochieng kabaselleh or Kalle wuod Ogola, was for at least two decades, one of Kenya’s most reknown and succesful musicians. For two decades He thrilled music fans from all over the country with excellent compostions and superb arrangements mirroring those of the Late Franco Luambo Makiadi. In fact His arrangements were so excellent that one would argue that If He were a Zairean , he would have ranked among the best on the continent. . His songs are a unique version of benga with smooth guitars, ringing horns and swingining percussion, augmented by Kabaselleh’s voice which varies between baritone and bass.
He recorded his first hit at age fifteen while a secondary school student at Pumwani secondary. It was one of the pioneers of Kenyan music, Daudi Kabaka, who gave Kabasselleh his first chance. Kabaka was at one time Kabaselleh’s neighbour and was intrigued by his musical ability. He arranged for kabaselleh to record with the Equator sound band.
He later founded his own band which he named Lunna Kidi. It was then that his popularity skyrocketed as He released hit after hit. He sung about a wide variety of topics. In songs like Zainabu, Sikul Agulu and Milicento he sung about a love interest. In Sije he talks about descent Human relations that transcend hard times. Piny Dunia Mokili was a song about people of bad character including a close relative who stole all his records while he was in prison. Wuora Ogolla Adoyo was an hommage to his father while Jacky Oyundi and Owino Ger were songs in praise of other people whose good character Kabaselleh admired.
Most of his songs were in dholuo. Some of his songs covered politics. His stint in prison was as a result of the lyrics in one of his songs which did not please the powers that be. Besides his excellent command of dholuo, Kabaselleh has also sang in Kiswahili and Lingala.
Arrest and Imprisonment
He was arrested by the government and charged with subversion. Specifically he was accused of being a member of an anti-government group called Mwakenya.
His wife Joan Ochieng told the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission that Kabaselleh was arrested on October 26, 1986, by 10 Special Branch officers in a raid on their house in Kariobangi.
The officers ransacked the house and left with his passport, documents and newspaper cuttings. Two Weeks later, Kabaselleh was taken back to his house to collect some documents. He told his wife that since he left, he had not eaten anything. He was given soda and bread but he could not eat food. The officers later left with him.
The family was kept in the dark about his whereabouts. Mrs Ochieng said that people would inform the family that he was seen being taken to Ngong Hills, Naivasha Maximum Prison among other places.
On 29 October 1986, a relative called them at night and told them that he was seen at the High Court and had been sentenced to three years imprisonment.
He was detained at the Industrial Area prison and King’ong’o Prison in Nyeri before being released in October 1989. He would later reminisce about his time in prison in songs like Jela and Jacky Oyundi, where he sung about his confused feelings when he arrived in prison: “Piny ne lich na, to na mor ma lich ma ngano. Na Mor ma ngano mobwogo ji duto e jela which translates to “I was depressed about my situation yet incredibly. I was so happy that it scared everyone in the prison. Such highs and low where people exhibit two opposite sets of extremes are typical of people suffering from clinical depression.
After his release, his health deteriorated ; He had developed chest problems and had become diabetic. His condition worsened and he died in Nairobi West Hospital. Sadly , He passed away in December of 1998 due to complications resulting from diabetes
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