Salim Abdallah Salim was born in Mombasa on March 31, 1941 and went to the UK to study his ‘‘O’’ Levels at Portsmouth College of Technology.
He abandoned his ambitions to study law and instead plunged into show business, performing cover versions of his favourite calypso songs by Harry Belafonte, in nightclubs.
By 1962 he was a professional singer, adopting the stage name Sal Davis. Sal is a short form of his first name while the Davis is taken from one of his musical idols, Sammy Davis Jr.
Sal played a major part in the Independence celebrations in 1963, recording the song Uhuru, in praise of the federation of the three East African states. He also performed at the Independence Civic Ball, alongside Harry Belafonte and South African icon Miriam Makeba.
Sal enjoyed a string of hits in the 1960s, notably Makini, the flip side to the single Uhuru, and his version of the Ray Charles song, Unchain My Heart.
He also worked as a broadcaster with the BBC from 1964 to 1966, presenting news and current affairs, and with the Voice of Kenya, presenting Sundowner on radio and the TV current affairs programme, Mambo Leo.
In 1967, he ran The Sal Davis Night Spot, which later became the New Florida Night Club on Nairobi’s Koinange Street. He also went into the aviation business with Davis Air Limited that owned three light aircraft operating out of Wilson Airport.
Though officially retired in Nyali, Mombasa, Sal occasionally joins his daughter, Maia von Lekow, during her own performances.