Remembering Mighty King Kong
Leroy Moore interviews Anthony Muraya about the life and death of famous Kenyan reggae artist, Mighty King Kong
by Leroy Moore/PNN
Krip-Hop: Give us some of your background.
Anthony Muraya: My name is Anthony Muraya, born and brought up in the Central province of Kenya. I'm the founder and Patron of the Destiny Talented Generation (DTG) Kenya (which deals with identifying, nurturing and promoting talents among young people in remote areas of Kenya.), and owner of the FORTY TWO TRIBES ONE NATION, blog. Also work as a missionary and youth speaker. Newly Married to Lisa Muraya and currently settling in Stockholm Sweden where I plan to pursue my education.
KH: Hello Anthony, I've been tracking Mighty King Kong career by the internet for almost five years and always wanted to contact him. I was shocked to find out about his death! Tell us how did you know Mighty King Kong and the controversy around his sudden illness?
AM: Well, I first heard King Kong through his first album Ladies choice. Mighty King Kong's real name is Paul Otieno Imbaya. Just like many young people in Kenya, the hit song became my favorite. I came to like him even more when I heard about his background- that he was once a street boy and also battling with polio that disabled him. And when I watched him perform, I got even more interested with his life.
Well there are claims that King Kong's death is a result of poisoning. The death is a big loss to the country and especially the disabled and poor people whom he has aggressively fought for and campaigned for their well being.
KH: Mighty King Kong's life was incredible from poverty to musician and before his death he was looking to get into politics. Please give us a window into Mighty King Kong's life from childhood to now.
AM: A good part of his childhood was spent on the streets where he had found his home after the death of his dad (he was only 6 when his dad died) which forced him to drop out of school. Unlike many street children, King Kong knew that the streets were not his real home or destiny. When he realized his talent and how influential it was, he decided to pursue it whole heartedly. As a former street boy, it would take him a lot of courage and determination since it is always tempting for such to go back to their former life. Street "bosses" also keep threatening a "rebel" who chooses transformation to normal life.
When a woman who owned a night club and a disco offered him accommodation, King Kong grabbed the opportunity that would change his life. With time, he practiced his talent at the discotheque, first as a dance performer.
A tender and kind King Kong, he believed that many disabled people would have better lives if they were well represented politically. This faith was the motive behind his ambition and dreams. He also tried so much to uplift the lives of the disabled by encouraging and introducing them to small scale business. He could even spend his money to assist the needy.
KH: I read that he was respected as a street person among the youth. Can you give us some highlights during that time when Mighty King Kong was living on the streets?
AM: Life on the streets is not always so easy but King Kong's entertainment gift and music talent always made the way for him. He would always make people around him feel good. Another reason is that he never despised himself; he was always alert and charming and active. He also found favor with decent-living people because unlike other street children, he never involved himself with stealing or pickpocketting. Thatâ€™s also one of the reasons a woman who owned a night club trusted him and offered to accommodate him.
KH: What kind of music did Mighty King Kong sang?
AM: He sang reggae.
KH: A couple of years ago many articles reported that Mighty King Kong was in contract deals with a record label that took advantage of him. How did he get out of the contract?
AM: To King Kong, that was the worst mistake that he ever made in his life and because he had already signed the contract, there was nothing much he could do but to wait the contract expiry which lasted seven years. The contract threatened to cripple his music career but he never gave up.
KH: Mighty King Kong was going to represent people with disabilities in the government. When and why did he get into politics?
AM: It is hard to tell when but the fact that his talent opened doors and many chances to meet and interact with politicians might have opened his mind to know that he was best positioned to represent the marginalized community of disabled people in the parliament.
KH: Have things change for people with disabilities in Mighty King Kong's home since his birth?
AM: Any body, even the physically fit, that followed his example would benefit from King Kong's life. He was always enthusiastic in demonstrating practical lessons of success and his positive influence will live on after him. I personally have learnt a lot through his life and I also believe that he wanted to reach a wider audience through politics.
KH: Mighty King Kong's songs are really political. If you can pick out one song that sums up his politics, what will it be? Can you share some lyrics?
Note: (Stay tune for the answer to this question in Part two of this interview)
KH: Did Mighty King Kong face discrimination in the music industry because of his disability?
AM: No. Not because of his disability. To some point, the disability was his uniqueness and was always admired since not many people in his situation pursue their destiny with such determination as his. Piracy, corrupt music managers, producers and show organizers are the only thing that hurts many musicians' work in Kenya.
KH: I read that Mighty King Kong protest about how musicians were treated by producers, radio stations and the whole entertainment industry. Please give us the story behind this protest.
AM: Well, many producers take advantage of musicians especially if the musician is not well established and rich. Nearly 90% of musicians' work fruits go to producers. King Kong was among other musicians who believed in changing the whole music industry.
KH: How will his life, politics and music live on in Africa and beyond?
AM: I think there is a great need for his work to be collected and put together in for theaters.
KH: Mighty King Kong was a supporter of Raila Odinga's ODM political movement. What is this movement about and why was he attracted to it?
AM: The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) movement was started to fight for a new constitution that the government of the day had promised to deliver within its first 100 days in office. The movement attracted many Kenyans and won the referendum against the government. Mighty King Kong must have been attracted to the movement because much of the constitutional changes that Kenyans demanded in those areas where the common man feels oppressed. Some chapters were also in favor of disabled people. Hon. Raila Odinga is the leader of ODM.
KH: What kind of work did Mighty King Kong do for or with people with disabilities and people living in poverty?
AM:Mighty King Kong has been in the front line fighting for the well being and recognition of disabled people in the nation. He has also involved himself in talent promotion programs and projects.
KH: As a Black disabled music historian, I was looking for Mighty King Kong's CDs here in the USA but had no luck. How can other people buy his CDs?
AM: There is a big need to promote such music to the international market. Many musicians are not financially well to promote themselves internationally. A possible way is being figured out on how to have the music available and reachable for King Kong's world wide fans.
KH: Is there any other disabled musician that is following in Mighty King Kong's footsteps?
AM: Reuben Kigame, a blind gospel music composer and singer was already in music industry before King Kong. Despite being blind He is impressive and sings very good playing the keyboard for himself. He is an influencer, maybe King Kong got inspired of him.
KH: The story of Mighty King Kong is made for a book and movie screne. Has anybody thought about putting this story as a book or movie?
AM: Not as far as I know. Such a move is highly commendable.
KH: How can people help to keep Mighty King Kong's life, music and politics alive?
AM:Keeping his dreams alive would make him most greatful wherever he is. He always believed in talent promotion and encouraging people with disability to believe in themselves and realize their potential.
Sponsoring disabled people to higher education and the political arena would also keep his dreams alive. There are smart disabled people who would do a great job in the parliament.
Fighting piracy was another of his main goals. Piracy has crippled many musicians.
KH: Any last words?
AM:I really would thank people who have a heart for the disabled and the poor and those who love the street children as their own younger brothers and sisters. Many efforts have been made to form a strong force that would voice their needs but lack of resources and trust is slowing down the initiative. The needy know exactly what they need and they would be the best candidates for such works should they be equipped.
Leroy's note: Please tell the family of Mighty King Kong that my heart goes out to them