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Inside Njambi Koikai’s last plans: A ‘Jahmby at 20’ nationwide concert

Some 12,692 km away from Kenya, three-time Grammy Award-winning reggae star Gramps Morgan found himself mourning yet again when news of Fyah Mummah Jahmby Koikai’s death broke out on Tuesday, June 4.

Just four months ago Gramps had to announce to the world the demise of his brother Peetah Morgan who until his transition was the lead vocalist of their acclaimed reggae band Morgan Heritage.

“Fly high butterfly we will not forget. Thanks for everything you have done for reggae music, the culture and beautiful Kenyans. Rest in Peace Mummah Fyaah,” Gramps wrote on X.

If there was ever any doubt left of Njambi Koikai alias Jahmby Fyah Mummah’s contribution to the Kenyan reggae scene, Gramps tribute and appreciation of her life, all the way from Jamaica, leaves a strong mental note.

During their several visits to the country and even residency, both Peetah and Gramps had the opportunity to interact and collaborate with Fyah Mummah on many occasions and reggae events.

Kenyans posted moving homage to the fallen, bubbly reggae soldier who breathed her last on Monday, June 3, at The Nairobi Hospital.

Using reggae songs in their tributes, others noted how Jahmby was the reason they fell in love with the music genre in the first place. Jahmby died before her anniversary mega concert. If only fate had waited a little while longer, Jahmby and Kenyan reggae fans would have been treated to a one-of-a-kind series of show events that would have marked her 20th anniversary in the reggae entertainment business.

“She wanted to do a ‘Jahmby at 20’ kind of thing. So, she asked me for ideas. She wanted to do it countrywide, starting with Kisumu, Kakamega, Mombasa then probably the last show in Nairobi,” Bramwel Karamoja told Sunday Nation Lifestyle.

“Everyone who loved reggae loved Jahmby, and I was always ready to help,” Karamoja added.

The former Gor Mahia player is just but one of the many who became Jahmby’s fanatics and later on an associate of hers. Karamoja is now a sports consultant known to organise grassroots football tournaments, fusing them with entertainment shows.

And this is how Bramwel and the late Jahmby went on to forge a brother-sister-business relationship. “I told her (about the shows) that for such an event, I would prefer her to just do it like a free event, so that everyone attends. And then we probably look for sponsors to come and take care of all the other costs. Which she agreed to,” Karamoja recalls.

The anniversary concerts were to be held in August.

Jahmby’s last show

On March 31, Karamoja and the departed held an open-air concert at the Kinoru stadium in Meru, which turned out to be her last show.

According to Karamoja, Jahmby made a special request departing from her norm, where she would emcee-entertain with a deejay on site, whose job was always to cue in a reggae song as she hyped through it. This time, Jahmby decided to show up with a band and do a live set as a performing artiste instead.

“She told me that she wanted to do something extra, something she had never done; to perform with a band. Anyone who was in Meru for the Meru Football Challenge will remember Jahmby. She gave a one-hour live performance with the band. The band left then she gave another 30-minute performance, this time with her deejay,” Bramwel adds.

Falling in love with reggae

Growing up in one of Nairobi’s low-income neighbourhoods, Kawangware, the late Jahmby was introduced to reggae music by her Rastafarian uncle.

“He would come home with Culture tapes and listen to them. Then he would ask me, “Can you sing like that one?” I knew Culture (Jamaican reggae group) before I knew Bob Marley,” Jahmby said in an interview in 2021.

It’s her uncle’s influence that ushered her in a career as a reggae radio host, and one of the top reggae emcees in the country. Always encouraging her to sing, it played a crucial part in shaping Jahmby’s entertainment career. The fact that Jahmby could also sing only spiced up her emceeing virtuosity, giving her an edge over her peers. But endometriosis wouldn’t let her shine as she would have loved to. Jahmby’s moving stage presence matched the same energy she brought on radio when she hosted reggae shows first on Metro FM and then the QFM.

And when the radio jobs went cold, through her outfit Street Empire Entertainment she ventured into hosting and securing reggae concert gigs.

Buju Banton Memorable Show

2020 The KICC grounds in Nairobi were tightly packed, like a box of Rhino matchsticks.

The green, red and gold flags floated above a multi-coloured sea of heads. Dreadlocked, baby-locked, braided, hatted— all hidden beneath thick clouds of smoke— young ones, old ones, crazy ones. The night was beautiful. A mix of the ever-contemplative reggae music warmed the cold night as the chilling breeze blew the United Nations flags in all directions. Then, Jahmby walked onto the stage, and the crowd roared to welcome her back to the groove. After almost four years away, largely spent on hospital beds, it was time for Fyah Mummah to light up the moments again.

This was her first major gig, since headlining the Damian Marley concert sometime in mid-2017.

Charming, bubbly and in a Rastafarian, combat-print, flowing dress, Jahmby walked around the stage barefoot, as if to absorb all the positive vibes she was receiving from the crowd. And she didn’t want to lose a moment of it by having rubber soles between her and the place she called home – a reggae podium. “Nairobi, Kenya!!! If you know you love reggae music somebody say Rrrraaa!!!” she yelled into the mic. “Rrrrraaaa!!!” the audience responded in unison. She went on to hype the crowd and the crowd, with the Lion of Judah flags waving, roared. At some point, she paused to narrate the two years spent on hospital beds, and a cumulative five away from the stage.

She thanked the crowd and by extension all those who supported her financially through donations.

Managing Sauti Sol

Just when Sauti Sol was starting out in 2009 and needed a manager, they reached out to Jahmby, whose popularity had been soaring at the time.

Paying their tribute, Sauti Sol thanked the departed for helping them figure out what they needed to do as novices. In 2023, when Sauti Sol announced their hiatus, Jahmby penned an emotional message to the band.

“It was all but a dream. Congratulations and good luck, brothers. Thank you for making us believe that dreams of brighter days can truly be a reality, for believing in me when we were all so young and clueless about the music industry business. Thanks for allowing me to be part of the great, rich, urban revolution of our musical Kenyan sound as we traversed life’s journeys .”

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