Renowned Kalenjin musician Diana Chemutai Musila alias Chelele will be remembered for living on the fast lane despite harbouring a deep-rooted pain and unfulfilled dreams.
Chelele, whose body was found at her Kapkwen home on the outskirts of Bomet Town last Saturday, had struggled with self-identity, inner guilt, loneliness and family wrangles.
She documented her life’s journey, joy and pain in an audio clip that only came to light after her death.
Chelele death has thrown the Kalenjin community into deep mourning.
With condolences and glowing tributes pouring in, many still find it hard to believe that the curtain is down forever on a musician whose career spanned close to a decade.
Famous for her songs, Igaigayan (Please, console me), Meus Kwondo (Don’t Oppress Women), Mapenzi (Love), Binti Osama (Osama’s Daughter), Mashabiki (Fans), among others, was unapologetic in her choice lyrics.
She came into the industry when the Kalenjin Sisters were the top female group in the region. She overtook them with her Chelele Band.
The songstress is celebrated for fusing Kalenjin, Kamba and South African rhythms into her songs, creating a fast-paced genre of her own.
She would at times sing in English and Kiswahili (Freedom, and Mpenzi Wangu) and also Kamba (Makindu), which not only opened to her a fan base in her former husband’s homeland, but also earned her a national face.
Chelele never minced her words in her lyrics, especially to fellow artistes she had “beef” with. In her video of the song Sengengwa, she dressed up a dog in shorts, a tie and shoes to symbolise a “friend she loved,” who would tell Ms Chelele what to do whereas she (the friend) was very disorganised herself. It was the epitome of sarcasm and irony.
On her softer side, she would call for caution in the society as in Bir Mat (take caution), in which she decries the plight of women mistreated by husbands.
Being a secular songstress, religious folks would eavesdrop on her music for humour, gossip, new society trends and advice.
Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen confessed to being her fan.
“It is unfortunate that the life of a young, promising and talented person has been cut short by bloody hands! Even though I have not had a personal encounter with Chelele, I have always found her music to be informative, educative, entertaining and a true reflection of our society,” said Mr Murkomen, on his Facebook page.
“The lyrics are truly moving, the voice wantonly sweet, the diction carefully chosen and her body movements matching the words. Why would one kill such a person? Who will naturally sing for us Mpenzi Wangu and Osupchongwony? We have lost a person who contributed a lot to the national economy. Police should expedite the investigations into this heinous murder and make arrests,” he added.
Despite being celebrated by many across ethnic lines, the songbird’s life was clouded in mystery, with rumours of infidelity, death threats and a bitter divorce. She attempted suicide last October, but not before recording a 10-minute audio detailing the troubles she was battling with.
The singer spurred a lot of controversy when her husband, Eric Musila, an Administration Police officer, was arrested and charged with the murder of a surveyor, Eliud Yego.
Musila, who had twins with the singer, was accused of shooting and killing Yego, who was a famous surveyor in Eldoret Town, after suspecting that he was having an affair with his wife. The AP had been based in Bomet for a long time.
In the audio recording that went viral after her death, the singer lamented how she had lived a miserable life of break-ups, losses and court cases.
She said it was all vanity as everything she had earned from her music was being snatched from her by her former husband, whom, she claimed, had always threatened to kill her.
She said Musila had taken her twin daughters away from her, leaving her lonely and poor.
She also apologised to her parents for not being a good daughter, saying the circumstances were beyond her control, and asked God for forgiveness.
“God, of what use will it be that I live in tears, for the days I have sang yet I have nothing to show for it? All I have is taken from me, all I get is snatched. I knelt and cried to you, I prayed and sang to you. I begged you for mercy and salvation. I tried to comfort myself in many years, but I have never found peace. Did you resolve that I should suffer like this?” says the singer in the video clip, amid sobs.
Referring to the court case, Diana says Yego had only offered her comfort, contrary to claims that he was her lover.
It’s only in her death that many fans now understand the other side of the bubbly singer and lessons of how detrimental family matters can be to one’s career.
After her death was announced, the singer’s 2015 hit song, Osupchon Ngwony, topped all the Kalenjin radio station charts. She died at a time when many expected her to go into gospel music. She had already released a gospel song in her latest album.
“I had a feeling that Chelele was soon going to join us in the gospel music industry,” said Lilian Rotich, a top artiste from the South Rift.
Musicians have condoled with her family and friends. Kalenjin Artists and Musicians Association (Kamua) director Bernard Langat said her death had left a big gap in the fraternity.