Henry Sang popularly known as Tumbalal Arap sang is one of the oldest Kalenjin musicians. He is married to one wife and blessed with seven children and they are settled in Keringet.
Thanks to time and change. It has turned the field of art traditionally held ‘road to hell’ into one of the areas of the community’s heroes.
A great witness of this change came at the dead of the Kalenjin music legendary Kipchamba Arap Tabotuk in 2007. The Kalenjin community mourned and the community’s great men and top leadership who graced his burial, that was live-aired by Kass FM radio, lauded him as the hero and father of music.
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The mourning expressed the turn around that has placed worth and value to the ones cursed.
As Tumbalal shared his story about the road to conger the pitfalls in the industry, his face is shone by smile rays of a hero. He says though he is yet to fully enjoy the fruits of the art he is happy because nobody managed to stop him on the journey to his passion.
The man who never yielded to unfounded believes said his parents tried in vain to stop him.
He remained on the realm of the community’s secular music after the great legends of the community and his colleague Kipchamba Arap Kabotuk described as the father of music in Kalenjin died in 2007.
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Starting his singing in 1961, Tumbalal remained adamant to all back-setters in focus of his passion, music.
And, last year as the nation’s mood of hero’s day was passing, Tumbalal, though not in any official way celebrated, says he was humbled by the messages he got from friends and his audience appreciating him of his share in the music industry.
“People call me to grace their functions and offer entertainment. “The soft-spoken artist in his late sixty’s said.
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Like his colleague the late Kipchamba, Tumbalal never parts with his guitar, even in the city he cuts across the streets with his tools hanging down his shoulder.
When Fm stations cropped up and vernacular stations emerged such artists found a platform to present themselves and sweep away the demonic connotations to secular music among the Kalenjin. Today Rumba shows among three leading Kalenjin stations top the list of popular radio shows.
Enock Ng’etich a secular music presenter in a show dubbed “kuskong” (look back to history) in Kitwek Fm says Tumbalal is the role model to upcoming musicians in the community.
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“Tumbalal’s songs carry strong message cutting across every aspect of life. Young musicians have no message in them. “The presenter said.
However, he says such musicians like Tumbalal faces a great challenge in selling songs.
“Piracy has hit such musicians so much. Although their song remains popular and on high demand piracy has denied them the fruit of their sweats.” Ng’etich lamented.
Although national broadcaster KBC had vernacular programmes in Kisumu station, limitations such as length of such programs and few people affording radios could still not give enough light of appreciation to the artwork.
This remained for Kalenjin community until 2005 when Kass FM a then only pure Kalenjin radio station was launched in Kenya. This brought rays of light at the end of the tunnel for the musicians.
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“Music moved from clubs top radio bursting its audience boundaries to masses.” Said Tumbalal.
But have they ripped yet?
“No, we are still running after its fruits to date. But we are happy the curse that was attached has been cleared.” Tumbalal answered in a smile.
Tumbalal is one of the best Kalenjin secular artists who stood the tempest cursing the field true his youthfulness the early 60s to date where he stands tall among many artists at his old age.
He says as our country celebrated its third hero’s day last year though not featured mentioned among the great heroes he looks back and reflects on the obstacles he has triumphed as a musician since he ventured into it.
“No one would allow is a child into the field. You’ll be beaten up and if you had korera (a guitar) it was destroyed.” Says Tumbalal.
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But this could not deter the man who had all the zeal for the art. The father of seven said, “I told them even if you deny me, I will still find somewhere and sing. I will get another guitar; for music was in me and my blood.”
Recalling about 40 years ago Tumbalal said he bought his first ever and solo guitar at Kshs. 35.
Tumbalal had to go as far as becoming a security guard in search of the passion of his heart.
The artist says he is cautious to avoid any kind of singing that can encourage conflicts among communities.
He says to be a hero one has to work hard and achieve despite all ups and down.
And, as if proving him a hero his first song kitot kobaran (it could almost kill me) which he sang in 1984 has stood the wave and completion to rank top among other songs of his Kalenjin community. The love song which he sang in a great description of his beautiful girlfriend who was snatched of him by an older and a well-off man than him soars high of his ten trucks volume he has since recorded.
A busy man, Tumbalal, who is planning for a new song on peace for Kenyans as we move to elections, parts with me soon before completing his emotions wrecking story.