14 years later: where would E-Sir be?

Saturday March 18 2017

It has been 14 years since Issah Mmari,

It has been 14 years since Issah Mmari, popularly known to many as E-Sir passed on, and even though it has been more than a decade, fans and artistes in the music industry show no sign of forgetting him anytime soon. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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It has been 14 years since Issah Mmari, popularly known to many as E-Sir passed on, and even though it has been more than a decade, fans and artistes in the music industry show no sign of forgetting him anytime soon.

Through the years, he has been eulogised with deep and heartfelt messages by those who adored his music, television and radio shows have dedicated segments of their programmes to him and tribute concerts held in his honour.

This year was not any different. Artistes paid glowing tributes to the late rapper who died in a road accident enroute to Nairobi after a successful show in Nakuru, on their social media platforms remembering him as a great musician, a brother and a legend. Nameless, who survived the accident that took E-Sir and had collaborated with him on Boomba Train and Maisha wrote on Instagram:

“14 years since you left. Miss you bro. Celebrate you bro,” followed with the hashtag “We still dance to your music, E-Sir Forever.”

Sauti Sol posted a special tribute with Bien Aime Baraza singing "Mos Mos". The group captioned the video: “On this day Issa Mmari aka E-Sir left us…but his music, spirit and legacy lives on.”

One of his closest friend rapper Big Pin shared a memory of the fallen musician, recounting the last conversation he had with E-Sir.

“15.03.2003, went for a sleep over at E-Sir’s place ...Interesting thing was that we had a very weird conversation, just not any type of conversation we would have on a normal day. Religion being a very sensitive one, he brought it up and advised that we should always go to church or mosque and be prayerful regardless of whether you are Muslim or Christian. Being some of the last hours, that was just too deep of him,” he said. “Talked to him after the show at Dimples and he was happy he killed the show and was to come and tell me the next day but it never came to pass. 14 years on, miss you bro,” wrote Big Pin.

On March 16 2003, when news of E-Sir’s untimely death broke, the country mourned arguably one of the most gifted rappers Kenya has ever seen. He would have been 36 years this week.

Today, E-Sir’s songs still have a powerful impact in the industry for both fans and artistes alike, no wonder they still get airplay in clubs as sentimental throwback songs, as all-time favourite Kenyan rap tracks and as a reminder that he was instrumental in revolutionising the hip hop scene.


E-Sir’s career will perhaps always be remembered and celebrated as a defining moment in the music industry when through his music, he helped the craft gain recognition and respect in an urban culture that was just beginning to take shape.

His album Nimefika had numerous hits like "Nimefika ‘Jo’", "Saree", "Bamba", "Hamunitishi", "Mos Mos", "Kamata", "Boomba Train" and "Leo ni Leo".

With a glowing background like his, one question comes to mind, if E-Sir was alive today, would he have been a hit now as he was back then? Granted, several of his peers with whom he came up with like Nameless, Redsan, Wahu, Juacali, Nonini, Bigpin, Mr. Lenny, Brenda (Mos Mos) did very well for themselves. Some fizzled out and tried to make comebacks but unfortunately they did not stick.

Others like Nameless, Nonini, Redsan and Juacali are still respected names in the industry but in the same vein have been overtaken by the new crop of superstars like Sauti Sol, King Kaka, Khaligraph Jones, Bahati and many more.

So, would E-Sir still be making timeless music if he was still alive? Would the rapper and lyricist still be a game changer like he was when he impressed so many with his artistic rap flow and mastery of the Swahili language in music?

Would he still be bagging awards like he did back then at the Kisima Music Awards in 2003 when he took home Song of the year, Best Male and Hip Hop artiste of the year and Best album of the year? Would he be a force to reckon with alive as he is in death where Kenyans celebrate him as a legend with a legacy worth pages in history books? From the look of things, he would still be respected but probably not as hot. Or he would have gone silent and made a major comeback and he would be dominating the scene.

But we don’t have those kind of powers and we can only look at his peers and figure that he would still be highly regarded but the cycle of the industry where a new alpha male/female shows up and takes over would still have happened.

Whether he would still be a hit or not, the fact remains that E-Sir left a mark in so many people’s lives. He was not just an entertainer. To some, he was a sign that the future of Kenyan music was going to be bright, he was part of many childhood memories. To others, he was a reminder that Kenya was home and that his music crossed borders and cut through languages and age groups.

“I remember when I was in primary school, our teacher came to us in the middle of a church service and told us that E-Sir had died, she was like in her late 40s and we were just kids; he was just a kid, just 22-years-old. But his star was so bright and I was very in awe of that and have always been to this day. Very few people die as legends at the age of 22 from rapping. He was special and he broke through that wall of success and became an icon,” Hakeem wrote on YouTube.

Ken Mwendias wrote on YouTube: “It’s 2017 and it’s still my hit song. I hope to be listening to it even in 2043,” he said about the song "Mos Mos".

“E-Sir was seriously ahead of his time. I didn’t grow up in Kenya but the first time I heard this song was in 2002 in USA, I really liked it. I don’t speak Swahili but may Allah bless his soul. RIP brah,” Ahmed Ciiltire commented on YouTube to "Boomba Train".

Rishan Riri went down memory lane saying “RIP brother, you died while I was in form three. I now have a three-year-old daughter and she dances to this song’s chorus,” he wrote about Hamunitishi.

“Bruh, memories man!” exclaimed Yusuf Omar about "Boomba Train". “We’d come back from school and at five o’clock, we’d wait for this song to come on NTV, The Beat. Good ‘ol days, E-Sir, pumzika kwa amani brother.”

“I’m Ethiopian but I lived in Kenya for 13 years and I remember when this song first came out. It was around 2002 if I’m not mistaken. I also remember the day E-sir got killed in a car accident. I miss you Kenya. Thank you for being my second home,” Afalgun Afalgun also gave his thoughts after watching "Boomba Train".

Conversations and debates on if music legends and icons who have passed on could still be the Greatest Of All Time (G.O.A.Ts) if they were still alive are a continuing trend every time their anniversaries come by. The most popular one of them being about Tupac and Notorious BIG. Some have argued that their deaths saved their legacies while others are of the opinion that they could have been better with time over their careers. The debate continues.