East African Music - African Radio

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Passings: Twahir Mohamed by Douglas Paterson
January 29, 2004


Twahir Mohamed,
one of Kenya's great sax players as well as bandleader and arranger, passed away in Nairobi on January 29, 2004 at the age of 53. Originally from Zanzibar, Twahir was one of the founding members of the Tanzanian dance band, International Orchestra Safari Sound. In 1984, he migrated to Nairobi where he played for a time with the reggae band Tangerine Fusion (aka Pendo Moja). However, most people know Twahir from his many years as one of the saxophonists in Samba Mapangala's Orchestra Virunga. Several times, Twahir toured with Virunga to the US and Europe (including the 1997 Virunga / Les Wanyika tour) as well as a 6 month stint with Samba in Dubai. He performed on a number of Samba's recordings as well as the on the Les Wanyika CD, Amigo (1998).

In 1994, Twahir joined forces with Shabani Dogo Dogo (d. 1999) to form Bora Bora Sounds. In fact, Bora Bora became the backing band for Samba in the 1996 Virunga tour of the US and Europe. Later that same year, Twahir formed the Golden Sounds Band with musicians from Bora Bora and the Nairobi scene. Through Golden Sounds, Twahir took Swahili rumba dance music into new territory with more complex arrangements and harmonies. It was a bigger, denser sound than the sparse clarity of groups like Simba Wanyika or Les Wanyika.

At one time, the 16-member Golden Sounds group enjoyed great popularity at such Nairobi night clubs as Coco Beach in Buru Buru. The economics of such a large group were not favorable for the long term but before the group disbanded they produced one highly regarded CD that was picked up and released internationally in 2003 by the Naxos World label: Swahili Rumba (Naxos World 76055-2).

Twahir was a brilliant saxophone player but he also gave considerable thought to exploring new areas of East African music. Following the successful Golden Sounds experience, in 2003 he formed a new group called Keuta Band, an acronym for Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania; the countries represented in the band. At the time of his death, he was working on a new recording that built upon traditional melodies and rhythms from East Africa but still maintained the luscious harmonies of the Golden Sounds period and, as always, Twahir's sumptuous saxophone embellishments.

Twahir Mohamed is survived by his wife Rehema (Penina) Alice Omuthe and their four children: Abdulahi, Allawi, Fatuma, and Tatu.

East African Music - African Radio

To contact Douglas Paterson, send email to DPaterson@aol.com.

Last updated 24 July, 2004.

Copyright 1996-2004 Douglas B. Paterson, All Rights Reserved.