I write so I can breathe. I am constantly evolving, mindless at times, frustrating even perhaps but heck, I wouldn't change the smell of freedom that comes with writing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Whatever Happened to Kelly Brown?

Circa mid eighties. One of those really popular singers, widely listened to in the North Eastern state of Nagaland was someone called Kelly Brown. I was gifted a tape by a friend in Dimapur and the songs became something that played in my head all the time. While “Higher” was a peppy hit, the lyrics of “Tied to a Heartache” tugged at my mental faculties more than any other. Perhaps it was because it had moonlight somewhere in the lyrics. I was thirteen, fourteen or fifteen sixteen. It has been so long that all of it is hazy but I remember…

“I’m laughing at the moon

Staring into darkness

Hoping that the night will last forever

I can hear only yesterday

Falling in love again (here I am not too sure of the lyrics)

Not to be a ship in stormy weather

You can run

You can hide

Playing tricks on me…(I forget the lines here…It’s been twenty-five years)


Girl I’m tied to a heartache

Always feel the same

Nothing ever seems to stop the rain,

Yes I’m tied to a heartache

Seeing smiles turn

It’s only when you listen

That you learn…”

A few of his numbers are here:
Sexy Lady
Only You Can

Okay, that’s round about what I can remember. It was a cassette (a cassette is a tape...just in case this generation has not used one...I used one years ago) showcasing the hit  Higher  and had these really awesome numbers sung in a sexy African accent. A white cover with his picture on it...Where is Kelly Brown?

I began hunting for his music online after I could find none of his numbers in any music store. Clearly, the age where CD’s took over music tapes had forgotten to carry his music through. Rainy days and moonlit nights and when I get hit by those heart breaking achy moments, the song wafts through.

This afternoon, when it did, I had to search again and here is what I found about him.

“Born Abdulkadir Mohammed Ali Bux in Mombasa, Brown made a name for himself as a soul-singing showman through a residency at the Bonanza night club in Nairobi. In the 1970s he moved to Germany and built up a considerable reputation there, subsequently dividing his time between Europe and Kenya. He was found dead in his apartment in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1989.”

Sigh! And thus…faded a star into oblivion. I dug deeper…

He was born in Mombasa, named Mohammed Abdulkadir Ali Bux and he became popular in the seventies, touring the East Coast of Kenya. Lesser known as a singer initially, he was popular with the tourists with his dance breaks. Whatever visuals are available of his dances are on U Tube via tourists who captured him on video. The stage for Kelly Brown got bigger and he first moved to Nairobi, performing at the nightclub “Bonanza” (now called Florida) which belongs to his brother now.

He moved to Germany where he adopted the name Kelly Brown after his Idol James Brown. In 1973, he returned to Kenya and released a few singles that became popular during that time. “Higher” was an instant international hit. He gave his bit back to Kenya then, popularizing local patriotic song “Asante ya Punda” (The Google translation from Swahili to English gives me the meaning” Thanks to Donkey” and I am not sure if this is what the song was about. It doesn’t sound like a patriotic song in theme at least. Another song popularized was “Kenya Yetu Nchi” which means “Our Country Kenya”. I am not sure anyone internationally remembers Kelly Brown but yes, I would presume some Kenyans do. Kelly gave a number of charity performances in Kenya as a part of giving back to his country.

You never quite know how your end will be. Kelly Brown was missing for about six weeks before someone found him dismembered and dead in his apartment in Stuttgart on 03 February 1989. The mystery regarding his death never was solved.

Now I know, why I never heard of him all these years. Now, I suppose, I never quite will.

- Sandy

(Picture Courtesy http://www.discogs.com/)
Thanks Raj for the U Tube Links :)


  1. Sad to see musicians die such! Those who bring joy to our lives, they themselves die a sad death. Heck :=(

  2. @A J - have posted a few links...do check...very disco ages! I feel sad.

  3. Asante ya punda means "The Thanks of a Donkey" in Swahili. The first line is "asante ya punda ni mateke" meaning the thanks of a donkey is kicks. The song was about helping people out who then turn around and stab you in the back. I would love to hear this and other songs from his African Way album but can't find them anywhere online.:(

  4. I recall Kelly. Sad how he died. I liked him! I have stumbled on this as I was searching for a song of those Kelly Brown days which went something like "Yes..we can do it... we can do it!...." It's a long time ago. Was it Carl Douglas, or who was that? It was quite a groovy song. Mwenda. Kenya

  5. Lots of love to our Brother the late Abdulkadir Mohamed Ali Bux. WHO KILLED HIM.APREHEND THE CULPRIT AND BRING HIM TO BOOK. IT WAS A MURDER !!!

  6. Kelly Brown sang for Ory Okolloh's birth in 1979 in Madakara Estate Nairobi West. I sang my soul out to "Higher" Do you love me or you wanna live...do you love me forever my love, oh high, oh high, me and my baby tonight we hold each other tight, she gives me everything and she is my all life, oh hi, oh high...higher, higher your love keeps keeping me high.....reminds me of my late brother Michael singing his soul out in our balcony and our roundabout in our neighborhood....did they interview his german wife/partner about his death. I saw his body being flown to Kenyan through Nairobi to Mombasa. I was a young girl then...God rest our Makadara Estate hero in peace....we love you and always will Kelly...