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From Salim Junior to Salim Young: How one family has embraced music industry

Saturday February 16 2019

Mr Joe Salim Mwangi, the father of popular Kikuyu musician the late Salim Junior.

Mr Joe Salim Mwangi, the father of popular Kikuyu musician the late Salim Junior, during the interview at his home in Subukia. PHOTO | MACHARIA MWANGI 

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To many secular music lovers, the name Salim offers refreshing memories of a signature family that has set a trend in the entertainment world.

Five members of the Salim family have cut a niche for themselves in the competitive music industry led by the 69-year-old patriarch Joe Salim Mwangi

Three of his sons, among them the late Salim Junior, epitomise success with two of his daughters also featuring on air, courtesy of music that seems to run in the family’s blood.

Among the sons are Mighty Salim and Salim Young, whose recent composition "Indo Njega Niiri Ene" (loosely translated to mean 'Good things also have their owners') thrilled fans of his music.


So popular is the song that so far it has attracted more than 700,000 views on YouTube, with majority of the fans hailing the youngster’s prowess.

His father acknowledges that his last born son is an immensely talented crooner, composer and instrumentalist.

“He is in a class of his own and if he maintains a cool head … he is going places,” says Mr Mwangi.

With his first composition, Salim Young, according to the views expressed by many, is likely to eclipse the high standard set by his departed brother, Salim Junior, who was regarded as the king of mugithii.

In his hey days, Salim Junior was a one-man guitarist with a near fanatical following and whenever he performed, he brought business to a near standstill.

During a third commemorative ceremony to mark his death, a few of his former fans from various parts of the country visited the family's Subukia home to honour the one-man guitar pioneer.

Memories are still fresh in their minds. They still love him even in death.

When the Saturday Nation caught up with Mr Mwangi at his Subukia home, the greying entertainer was busy feeding his animals. Engrossed in his day duties and going about his work with precision, he hardly noticed our intrusion.

Mr Mwangi is accustomed to working on the farm early in the morning before embarking on his favoured music career that has shaped his life and that of his children.

“I had eight children, including the late Salim Junior, and five of my children eke out a living from the music industry,” says the father of eight.

The late Salim Junior, a popular one-man guitarist.

The late Salim Junior, a popular one-man guitarist. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Taking us down memory lane, the entertainer, who was born and brought up in Murang’a, fell in love with music in his formative years, largely influenced by his older brother who had joined a church choir in 1958.

“I used to admire their singing skills and when my brother bought his first guitar, my singing ire was pricked.”

Mr Mwangi recalls the rich history that has spanned close to five decades. He also remembers how he had his first encounter with the founding father of the nation, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, after he joined a group of entertainers who sang for the late President.

His music sojourn saw the former primary schoolteacher nest at Subukia in 1970, where he joined church, but jumped ship to join the PCEA church, where he enjoyed playing the guitar.

“At PCEA we were able to compose our first song, where a church member volunteered to buy me a guitar after being impressed with my skills,” says Mr Mwangi.

Unknown to many, Mr Mwangi says he was the first musician to introduce the one-man guitar genre.

“I sang and played guitar in solo music,” says the amiable music teacher with a measure of contentment.

Having become a family man, his children grew up watching their father hum beautiful songs while playing the guitar.

“Even at a very tender age, Salim Junior fancied strumming. When he was in class five, I bought him his own instrument but he always preferred playing my guitar,” he says.

The father credits the late Sammy Muraya for mentoring his son who passionately loved music.

“It was Muraya who first roped him into his band and he was mesmerised by his guitar playing artistry and, as they say, the rest is history,” says Mr Mwangi.


Salim Junior was undisputed king of mugithii until he passed on in 2016.

Mr Mwangi's daughter, Sarafina Salim, has also made a name in the singing industry, having several successful compositions of her own. Her song, Love Hamisi, has attracted more than 84,000 views on YouTube.

His other daughter, Naomi Salim, is a gospel artist who is also excelling.

“The other three I fondly refer them as subordinate staff …” he muses.

His grandson, Kajei Salim, has joined the bandwagon with his song Ciku Gaitu (our Ciku) having close to 190,000 views on YouTube.

Within his compound, he has set up a studio where he is busy redoing some of his old gospel songs and a snapshot of his prowess laying bear the genesis of the singing family.

In his latest song, the quintuplets have backed him and listening to the song is a calming moment for the gospel lovers.

His only regret is that the music industry is still run in a haphazard manner with only a few musicians profiting from their talent.

He hopes that one day the industry will be well managed, with those keen in music career fully benefiting.