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RIP: TikTok comedian-musician who repeatedly played dead has been buried

A popular comedian and musician who repeatedly played dead characters before he met his ultimate death in a road accident in Bomet County has been buried.

Nicholas Kiplangat Rotich alias Chongin was buried in an emotional ceremony over the Easter holiday at Kapsasian village in Transmara, Emurua Dikirr constituency, Narok County.

Chongin died on March 18, 2024, in a gruesome accident involving a matatu he was travelling in and a tractor that killed five passengers on the Silibwet-Kiptagich highway.

Nicholas Kiplangat Rotich alias Chongin. PHOTO| POOL

Leaders, mourners and fans have expressed concern about the poverty that comedians and musicians in the South Rift Valley region face away from the public spotlight they enjoy.

Like many artists who have died in their prime in the region, members of the public volunteered to build a house for Chongin from scratch as he had none at home after leaving the village several years ago.

“It is unfortunate that we lost our brother in a road accident at a time when his comedy career was beginning to take shape. He was about to establish himself on so many fronts. It is unfortunate that he did not live long enough to realise his plans,” said Peter Kirui, a family spokesman.

Mr Kirui revealed that the deceased had separated from his wife and two children a few years ago but was in the process of reconciling and building a house for them to settle in as part of the healing process.

“Chongin had so many dreams and was at a point in his life where he wanted to settle down and focus on the family front while taking his career to the next level. We are grateful for the support we have received from all well-wishers since the tragedy,” said Mr Kirui.

Nicholas Kiplangat Rotich alias Chongin
Family members of Nicholas Kiplangat Rotich alias Chongin led by Peter Kirui (right) speaking during the funeral at Kapsasian village, Transmara, Narok county on March 29, 2024. PHOTO| VITALIS KIMUTAI

Mr David Rotich aka Makiche says the inability of artistes to monetise their content in the digital age has become a major problem hindering their professional and financial growth.

“It is important as musicians, comedians and content creators to adapt to the changing global market trends and embrace technology in our work so that we are not left behind with outdated technology that no longer pays,” Mr Makiche said during the funeral on Friday, Match 29.

Emurua Dikirr MP Johana Ngeno, who has been supporting musicians in the region for years and was behind the inaugural Kalenjin Music Extravaganza held at Kapkatet grounds in Kericho County on December 30, said a lot needed to be done to turn around the fortunes of the artists.

“It is unfortunate and disheartening for fans to discover after the demise of artistes that some of them have no home. We need to come together as leaders and the community to help our musicians live a better life,” said Ngeno.

Nicholas Kiplangat Rotich alias Chongin
Nicholas Kiplangat Rotich alias Chongin. PHOTO| POOL

The exploitation of musicians is an age-old problem in the South Rift region, with producers taking advantage of the ignorance of artists to take copyrights to their work, which has not been addressed.

“I would like to urge the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO), chaired by former Cheranganyi MP Joshua Kutuny, to ensure that royalties due to musicians in the country are paid by the relevant organisations that administer them,” said Mr Ngeno.

Mr Ngeno said, “There have been persistent complaints against the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK), Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP), Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) over non-remittance of royalties to musicians and content creators in the country, a serious issue that needs to be addressed with the urgency it deserves”.

Mr Tamalinye Koech, the Deputy Governor of Narok, called on society to support artists to realise their dreams in life and work with institutions to eradicate piracy that has robbed musicians of their earnings.

“For generations, musicians from the Kalenjin community have archived history in society, yet they have not been paid for their work,” said Mr Koech.

Mr Chepkwony Kipngeno, the Narok County Assembly member for Mara Ward in Narok West Constituency, said the government should ensure that artists are not exploited by producers and media platforms locally and globally.

“There is a need to train artistes to ensure that they are not exploited by unscrupulous businessmen and outfits that have left them poor yet their songs are getting good airplay on media stations and other platforms,” Mr Kipngeno said.

Nicholas Kiplangat Rotich alias Chongin. PHOTO| POOL

Mr Kipngeno said most of the artistes were exploited because of their educational background, an issue that should be addressed by government authorities.

Thousands of fans came from far and wide to bid farewell to the artist, whose work had received mixed reactions in recent years.

In an earlier interview, the late Rotich, who was born in Transmara in 1982, explained that the name Chongin was a shortened version of Chonginiot given to him at birth by his grandmother.

In one of the videos in a song called Jerusalemu, he played the role of a dead man who was resurrected in a coffin as he was being prepared to be taken home for burial, sending his shocked handlers scurrying in all directions.

He was dressed in an all-white outfit – shirt, trousers and shoes – safe for his grey socks and a black backpack – when he collapsed and “died” in the video.

“In the video, I wanted to show the biblical death and resurrection of Jesus as it is written in the Bible. Not many people want to play this role, especially the ascension and death, but I see nothing wrong with it,” Chongin said in an earlier interview.

He is also seen in a TikTok video playing a man on a tree who is about to take his own life by suicide with a rope because of the high cost of living in the country.

Chongin can also be seen on video in another episode “condoling” a heifer whose mother had died shortly after giving birth.

His dalliance with music began in 2019 when he teamed up with secular artist Ann Chebaibai, with whom he recorded several songs, the first of which, titled Omuiten, became a hit.

But his career took another turn when he was introduced to comedy by fellow artists at Kapkatet in Bureti constituency, Kericho County, which he took up with great enthusiasm.

“I am forever grateful to Layon Media (Ventures) in Litein Trading Centre (Kericho County) for shooting my videos and introducing me to the world. I would not be where I am today without them,” Chongin told Maryn Cheptoo, a content developer, in an earlier interview.