Remembering the person who made performing pay in Kenya

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Ken Gichoya

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Peers say Charles Bukeko (C), referred to as Papa Shirandula, was a trailblazer who helped others

Charles Bukeko, who died earlier this week aged 58, helped remodel the performing career in Kenya. The BBC’s Ferdinand Omondi, himself a former actor, appears again at his profession.

In Kenya, a pot stomach is humorously used as a measure of success, whereas a watchman is among the least effectively paid jobs.

Papa Shirandula, performed by Charles Bukeko, was subsequently a paradox – a pot-bellied watchman.

So beloved was that TV character that Bukeko, appeared to morph into it. Even now, he’s affectionately known as Papa.

In actual life and on the display, Papa shook when he laughed, the hole between the enamel flashing infectiously and forcing a smile on the very least from anybody watching.

Yet his character additionally exemplified the stigma related to the job of a safety guard in Kenya.

Button-popping swimsuit

In the long-running sequence of the identical title, Papa Shirandula lied to his spouse that he had an workplace job. He would depart the home in a darkish swimsuit, brilliant shirt and unusually outsized tie, striding his means out of the home and whistling.

But the second he was out of sight he would soar right into a bush, become his shiny maroon swimsuit whose buttons and stitches threatened to pop, then cycle off to his job as a safety guard.

His huge, spherical physique would sink right into a chair a 3rd of his dimension, and legs aside, he would launch into continuous gossip with Njoro (performed by Kenneth Gichoya), a buffoon of an off-the-cuff employee who nearly all the time landed him in bother.

Papa’s spouse Wilbroda was a pesky and demanding persona, and their daughter Naliaka an bold, trendy lady with huge goals.

On-screen chemistry

These vibrant characters amongst others made for hilarious comedy episode after episode – whether or not Papa was struggling to make ends meet along with his meagre wages and lavish wishes, or impressing a village lady with fancy wordshe may neither perceive nor correctly organize in a sentence.

The actor who performed Jalangó as soon as revealed that they barely wanted a script. All they wanted was a plot, after which the strains would circulation.

In reality, this solid carried out so persistently effectively that their characters grew to become real-life alter egos.

Papa Shirandula then started opening new doorways, touchdown roles in worldwide commercials.

With Coca-Cola, it was a 2007 advert now referred to as “Brrr”, from the sound Papa makes after sipping the chilly drink and trembling in satisfaction. He additionally starred in a marketing campaign for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

Then the floodgates opened. From multinationals to Kenyan start-ups, Papa was in demand.

With new alternatives got here more cash, and he was nearly all the time solid as “Papa” because the character had cachet.

Soon his sitcom co-stars began reaping the fruits too.

Turning level

Suddenly performing was not a low-paying job, a profession stand-by or an afterthought after failing to land a everlasting contract in media.

Acting grew to become a good career in Kenya and opened doorways to careers within the media business.

Charles Bukeko’s profession highlights


  • The Constant Gardener, 2005
  • Malooned!, 2007
  • The Captain of Nakara, 2012

TV exhibits:

  • Makutano Junction, 2006-2008
  • Papa Shirandula – 2007- 2020

Jalangó, actual title Phelix Odiwuor, says he obtained his nickname from his function within the Papa Shirandula present. It was Papa that gave him the moniker.

Today Jalangó is a family title – an in-demand radio presenter and MC who can not keep out of a job. And he’s a millionaire entrepreneur by his media manufacturing firm, Arena Media, which hosts festivals and company occasions.

His counterpart Otoyo, Papa’s spouse Wilbroda (Jackie Nyaminde) and Njoro have additionally had important success as radio personalities, MCs and comedians.

It is not unusual to see an actor in a Mercedes-Benz or proudly owning property in Kenya.

Most of the Papa Shirandula solid say they gained their roles due to suggestions from Charles Bukeko himself, with whom they used to hustle on the Kenya National Theatre.

Nearly all have since develop into acquainted faces in Kenya, gracing commercials, internet hosting radio exhibits and making thousands and thousands within the course of. Acting is now a profession to be happy with, and Papa can take some credit score for that.

Several different TV comedy characters have equally branched out.

I performed was a TV character in long-running highschool drama Tahidi High, earlier than heading into journalism.

Others have remained profitable in performing careers, as performers or producers and administrators.

‘Tomorrow is just not promised’

We all admire Papa because the icon who demonstrated you could construct a profitable profession out of performing.

I final noticed him a short time earlier than the coronavirus pandemic struck. It had been some time.

“Call me, let’s discuss. There is one thing we have to talk about,” Papa instructed me, handing me his enterprise card.

But I procrastinated, partly as a result of I used to be busy and likewise as a result of I felt there could be ample time to satisfy and discuss.

Later, on Saturday 20 July, I heard he had died. His enterprise card flashed into my thoughts.

Papa’s widow Beatrice Andega told mourners he died after breathing complications whereas ready for remedy at a high personal hospital in Nairobi.

Tomorrow is just not promised.

Papa’s success has impressed me to think about a return to the set in some unspecified time in the future, be it as a screenwriter or director, perhaps even an actor.

The business nonetheless has many challenges and success is just not assured.

But we are able to look to the instance of Papa, and see an vital lesson.

That no matter you do in life, give it all your coronary heart – plus your stomach – and success is yours to take.

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