The years between mid to late 1960s were pivotal, shaping the making of a vibrant live music scene across urban Kenya. This formative influence spilled over into the glorious, memorable 70s – transforming Nairobi into East Africa’s foremost showbiz hub. Countless songs were composed and recorded against a backdrop of some neighbouring countries undergoing political upheavals. A steady stream of uprooted regional music makers found their way to a safe haven in Nairobi. Loi Toki Tok band was a beneficiary of this influx, among other home-grown groups – attracting into its ranks musicians drawn from varied nationalities. A succession of ‘visiting’ instrumentalists easily blended handy skills with their Kenyan counterparts.
On weekend evenings, they blazed the trail on the live music scene in upmarket nightclubs. Loi Toki Tok staged regular performances at Club Arcadia, then situated along Sadler Street [modern day Koinange Street]. The band line-up comprised of Bonnie, Kabasela, Issa, Otis Kalume, Kafeal, Zortose, Bongenya, Getmore and Chausiku.
Hailed as trendsetters, the band – besides handful other musical groups, were bank-rolled by a showbiz-savvy Israeli entrepreneur-cum-businessman, supposedly only known as Jack ‘the Jew’. He reportedly also owned a string of commercial enterprises in Nairobi, among them Club Arcadia [later re-branded as Florida nightclub]. For a span of nearly two years, Loi Toki Tok was the resident band at Arcadia. Alongside nightspots such as Starlight, Club 1900, Camay and Small World among others – these clubs served as the bedrock of an inevitable wave of social revolution, spreading fast across the city like wild bushfire. Foreign music infiltration locally had begun almost quietly during mid 1950s but trend spiraled a hundred-fold in the seventies. Pop music became the staple serving on then sole government-controlled VOK [voice of Kenya] national radio and TV stations. The sway of British pop, American funk or boogie songs was so intense and manifest in cross sections of mostly Nairobi-based musicians and bands 70s recordings repertoire. But despite performing a sprinkling of pop covers, Loi Toki Tok was among few bands, which concentrated more on composing and pressing original, indigenous songs. These included tracks like debut recording Amalia, Jennie, Tabu na Mashaka, Bertha, Lakusema Mimi Sina, Wakati Nilikuwa na Baba, Mungwana and Leta Ngoma among others. The band’s stint at the Club Arcadia wound up at tail-end of 1973 and some splinter members deserted Jack ‘the Jew’. They pitched tent at the Small World Club, situated a couple hundred miles away from the capital city. Later in 1974, the remnant members differed and a fall out ensued, spelling an imminent end for arguably one of Kenya’s most illustrious early 70s bands. Core members were promptly snapped up by other fledging bands.
Credits:- Emmanuel Mwendwa