Big Kev the ultimate Mr Fix It: He’d network people- pick up the phone and make the connection

Kevin Ombajo popularly known as Big Kev. The tru blaq founder has undergone surgery five times due to a recurring brain tumour
  • Big Kev participated as a gospel rapper in the 1997 ‘Mr. and Miss University’ and won in the talent category
  • Big Kev married a former Miss Kenya, Tracy Mwende Kamene who he bumped into at that watershed pageant, back in 1997
  • Big Kev succumbed last weekend after a long battle with cancer and a twilight light left life

 

If you google ‘Mister and Miss University Kenya National Theatre, 1997’, you will learn of a World Cup qualifier in Tunis in the September of 1997, the Department of Theatre and Drama in Indiana university, ditto the faculty of Drake University ( not the annoying musician) and Mr. John K. Djisenu of Ghana.

What you will not learn is that Kevin Ombajo, popularly known as ‘Big Kev’, participated as a gospel rapper in the 1997 ‘Mr. and Miss University’ at the Kenya National Theatre, organized by one Daniel Juma, and won in the talent category.

“Are you a comedian?’ ( I had an afro, Parker-Lewis-Can’t-Lose shirt and jeans so distressed they had been thrown out for not paying rent, and I was getting ready to perform ‘air guitar’ poetry in the talent category).

Those were Big Kev’s first words to me backstage at KNT those twenty years ago, when the theatre was Wasanii Pub upstairs where Whispers, Maddo & Co. kunywad kidogo and the theatre itself was a ramshackle of wood held together by prayers, plays and recitals.

By the time we were ‘partying like it was 1999’ as goes the Prince song (precisely because it was 1999!), Big Kev had become well known as one of the top rappers in the gospel industry, alongside Big Ted, Kenja Marima, Izzo Gatembo and Circuite (who as M.E. Charles ‘CEO’ Otieno reminded folks in a recent post, would ‘back slide’ and link up with his cousin Joel to give us one of the biggest kapuka hits of the early-naughties; the song Manyake that former First Lady Lucy Kibaki wanted banned as immoral, lol).

Then at the turn of millennium, when we were organising the Mr and Miss Parklands pageant at the UoN’s Law Campus, I turned to Big Kev for help (by then he had formed an outfit called Shilton Entertainment alongside his buddy Big Ted, Leakey Odera and little known DJ Mose) and he introduced our small organising committee to one Dr John Nyamu, known for flamboyance and owning a club called Dimples.

Nyamu also owned the Miss Kenya franchise, and it is informative that in time to come, Big Kev would marry a former Miss Kenya called Tracy Mwende Kamene. Big Kev got us Dimples as a sponsor.

Through him I met Pinky Ghelani (who MCeed our pageant, and for a while, I was the most popular guy on campus), who became a long-time pal – the goddess gone wrong – and that is the story you hear about Big Kev, over and again.

How he’d network people, pick up that call, make the connection.

 

Today, MCs like DNG and radio stars like Shaffie Weru will tell you they owe Big Kev big time for giving them his big spaces platforms, as he went deeply into excellent event organization with his company Tru Blaq (they set up our last 2016 PMVAs – Pulse Music Video Awards), even as Big Ted set up the Main Event Company (before joining State House after 2013 elections as an official ‘happening’ organiser).

Big Kev

His other former partner Leakey Odera became the ‘go to guy’ for models with Pambazuka Entertainment.

And a former model and Miss Kenya, just returned from abroad (and whom Big Kev might have bumped into at that watershed pageant, back in 1997) called Tracy Mwende became Mrs. Kevin Ombajo in 2005.

After giving birth to beloved daughter Shana (God’s precious gift) the Ombajos had a bumpy year around 2007 after the distractions (babes and bikes) became a problem, and the couple split for a year.

But Big Kev wasn’t just big hearted, he was a guy who was never afraid to walk back a mistake, and by 2008 he was back with his wife, and the love that had ignited in a gym in the mid-naughties reaffirmed.

“I realised there is no one else for me out there,” Big Kev told Pulse at the time. “My wife has every quality I’ll ever need in a woman.” And he was right.

Big Kev and his wife Tracy

Shortly afterwards, Big Kev was diagnosed with brain tumour, and Tracy became the rock on which he depended (including to do Tru Blaq books), as well as the Lord Jesus Christ and the friends he had touched including the uber-cool Ashrif Saddique aka ‘Mopao’ alias Ash of Mash Autos.

In February, when a friends’ fund-raiser was held at The Carnivore for Big Kev, Sh7 million was raised in one evening, for yet another surgery in India.

Before that in December, last year, the light had literally gone out of Big Kev’s life after an ‘optic atrophy.’ “The drying of nerves that transmit light from the eyes to the brain,” as Big Kev put this loss of faculty, matter of factually, without self-pity.

But the fight had not gone out.

Big Kev was a classic example of the Dylan Thomas poem, to ‘rage, rage, against the dying of the light,’ and so he bravely battled on, with the undying love for his daughter in his heart. But then, in the twilight of July, last weekend, Big Kev finally succumbed, and as Charles ‘CEO’ Otieno put it, the “news was like a thunderbolt,” even though Big Kev had fought for so very long.

And a light left Life.

RIP, Big Kev.

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