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Eulogy: In memory of the Papa Dennis I knew and grew up with

In August 2002 I moved to Matunda along the Kitale-Eldoret highway with my family. My mum, Rita Lubanga, then an education officer, had just been transferred from Butere to Likuyani Constituency in the same position.

It’s in Matunda that I met one Dennis Mwangi better known as Papa Dennis. He was a pupil at Mtoni Primary School. Since he was my neighbour, we became close friends and in the days that followed, I discovered that he had an interest in music.

MYSTERIOUS DEATH

After completing my secondary school education, I moved to Nairobi to pursue my journalism career. In Nairobi I reconnected with him alongside Ero Mtu both under the Maliza Umasikini stable.

He was doing well with his music and we could keep the conversation going for long.

Then on Saturday morning news broke that the award-winning gospel musician had passed on under unclear circumstances.

Initial reports indicated that Papa Dennis’ body had been found near the Jubilee Party headquarters building in Pangani.

Reports had it that Papa Dennis had fallen to his death from a building where he has been recording music in a studio.

There were also claims that he had been seen ‘storming out’ of the studio before the incident.

Coming less than a year after the artiste lost his younger sister, the death of Papa Dennis has shocked his fans, fellow musicians and the Kenyan gospel music industry.

“Manzee pages hii January zinakaa Orbituaries. Rest In Peace Papa Dennis. Tutaonana Baadaye,” tweeted rapper Kennedy Ombima aka King Kaka.

PASSION FOR MUSIC

However, the most affected must be his immediate family and his childhood friends.

Dennis was born and grew up in the small town of Matunda, along the Eldoret-Kitale highway.

His passion for music is said to have been visible as a young pupil at Mtoni Primary School in Matunda.

“For the three years I studied in Mtoni I remember Denno with his bro Simoh entertaining us. Those guys were pure talent, the songs they had, the covers they performed…” one of his fans nicknamed Vique recalls.

He later joined a dance crew in his home church KAG Matunda, where it is believed his talent with many other artistes, including comedian Sleepy David, were nurtured.

“Alikua analipisha video ya Nameless back then… First record with ‘AC records’ pale karibu na mnada way back…” Steve Mbugua, who went to the same church, reminisces.

A close friend of the artiste, who recalls speaking to him a day before he was found dead, says Papa Dennis told him that he was going to attend a studio recording session that night.

LAST CONVERSATION

“Papa was planning to do a project on campaign against cancer together with DJ Bunduki,” the friend said.

Another old friend of the artiste by the name Joseph Msanii aka Dr Msanii also has fond memories his childhood with Papa Dennis.

“I grew up with Papa Dennis in the same neighbourhood in Line Moja, Matunda, Moi’s Bridge in kakamega county. We became friends due to our talent. He recorded his first songs in my studio Mollywood Production in 2010 before he was signed to Maliza Unaskini,” Dr Msanii told Nairobi News,

“When I became his official manager in 2017, he surprised me when he took me to Nyayo House and processed a passport for me then made my dream come true by offering me an air ticket from Nairobi back home to Eldoret before my first international trip to Johannesburg, South Africa, indeed my boss was a goodhearted man, ” Dr Msanii went on.

Dr Msanii says that they were planning to do a cancer awareness concerts across the country this year as one way of giving back to society after Papa Dennis bagged the AFRIMMA Awards alongside fellow artistes Lal Daggy and DJ Bunduki.

“The last time I talked to him was yesterday (Friday) at 3:45pm when he told me he that he will be heading to the studio that evening. He wanted to know when I would be traveling back to the city since I was in my home village of Kimilili in Bungoma county at the time. At midnight I started receiving calls from friends and the media seeking to know what had happened to him,” Dr Msanii said.

Go well brother. You have left a huge mark in the Kenyan music industry.

Additional reporting by John Macharia