Nairobi News


‘His music touched my soul,’ Raila Odinga mourns Harry Belafonte

Opposition leader Raila Odinga on Tuesday joined heads of state, civil-rights leaders and the entertainment world in mourning Jamaican-American singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte who died at the age of 96.

The death of the charismatic singer was felt across the globe.

Mr Odinga, in his social media accounts, prayed to God to comfort Belafonte’s family, friends and fans.

“Harry Belafonte’s music touched my soul as it did many globally. As fans we’ll forever treasure his music and the profound influence he had on society through his activism. My condolences go out to his family, friends, and fans. Rest in Eternal Peace, Harry Belafonte,” Mr Odinga said

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In 2017, during an interview with KTN, Mr Odina said his favourite song by Belafonte is Jamaica Farewell which the veteran politician went on to sing on live TV.

Mr Odinga also revealed that when he married Mrs Ida Odinga, they had planned to go for their honeymoon in Jamaica but did not have sufficient funds.

“Ida is a geographer and she came to love the Caribbean while I loved Belafonte who is my favourite musician,” Mr Odinga said then.

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Belafonte has also been mourned by former US President Barack Obama, who remembered him for transforming the arts as well as standing up for civil rights.

“Harry Belafonte was a barrier-breaking legend who used his platform to lift others up. He lived a good life – transforming the arts while also standing up for civil rights. And he did it all with his signature smile and style. Michelle and I send our love to his wife, kids and fans,” Obama tweeted.

“Another ‘GREAT TREE’ has fallen,” Oprah wrote on Instagram posting photos from an interview they had together. “Harry Belafonte, a Trailblazer and Hero to us all. Thank you for your music, your artistry, your activism, your fight for civil rights and justice—especially risking your life back in the day to get money to the movement. Your being here on Earth has Blessed us all.”

“May God Have My Dear Friend Harry Belafonte At A Peaceful Rest. We Are Losing Our Giants Left And Right. We Have To Celebrate Our Elders While They Are With Us.” — Spike Lee, who directed Belafonte’s final film, 2018′s BlacKkKlansman.”

Kamukunji MP Yusuf Hassan also joined other leaders in mourning the musician saying his talent and unwavering activism will be missed.

“Devastated to learn of the passing of the indomitable singer, writer, actor and civil rights hero Harry Belafonte. His incredible talent, unwavering activism and powerful voice will be sorely missed. Rest in peace Mr. Belafont,” he said.

Belafonte died of congestive heart failure at his home in New York, representative Paula Witt said in a statement.

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The “King of Calypso” will be remembered as one of the most popular entertainers of the 20th century. He will also be remembered for his campaign against poverty, apartheid and Aids in Africa; and became an ambassador for Unicef, the United Nations children’s fund.

In 1985, he organised the charity single We Are the World, an all-star musical collaboration that raised money for famine relief in Ethiopia. After seeing a grim news report on the famine, he decided that American artists needed to raise money.

Featuring superstars like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles and Diana Ross, the song – written by Jackson and Lionel Richie – raised millions of dollars.

Among his many awards, Belafonte was bestowed with a Kennedy Center Honor in 1989 and the National Medal of Arts in 1994. He was an EGOT – one of a rare group of people who have received all four of entertainment’s biggest awards, an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony.

Belafonte was married three times. He and his first wife Marguerite Byrd had two children, including actress-model Shari Belafonte. He also had two children with second wife Julia Robinson, a former dancer.

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