Today is May 17, and the name Stellah is, once again, on the lips of Kenyans. About 30 years ago, Freshly mwamburi , a young man fell in love with a young girl who was then a student at Kenyatta University.
Tell us about Stella… was she a real person?
I met Stella in 1991 when I went to perform at Garden Hotel in Machakos after my band, Everest Kings, shifted base from Thika.
At the time Stella was studying at the University of Nairobi .
And then, one day, Stellah informed Mwamburi that she had received a scholarship to study in Japan.
Stellah came from a poor family and could neither raise the fare to Japan nor the money for upkeep.
Mwamburi, seeing a chance to prove his love, and riding on the naïve promises made in the midst of the madness of youthful romance, decided to step in and prove his worth.
“I sold my car and a few personal belongings and gave the money to her to travel abroad,” he said during the interview in Nairobi.
Stella travelled to Japan, from where she kept Mwamburi well apprised of her progress via mail.
But the regularity of the communication soon became an agonising trickle.
Stellah would, much later, confess to freshly Mwamburi that she had started dating her college principal, “a stout, short man”, as Mwamburi describes him in the song.
On May 17, 1992, the day she was scheduled to return to the country, Mwamburi took a colourful entourage to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to receive her.
His heart, however, sunk to his knees when Stella, now married, approached him carrying a child from her relationship with her college head, who was in tow. Stellah ditched him for another man.
Heartbroken, he went to the studios and, together with his Everest Kings bandmate Abdul Muyonga, recorded the hit song “Stellah”, released in 1995 as an album cover.
That song went on to become an evergreen number, taken to the top by Mwamburi’s emotional refrain to Stellah to “come back” to him, and sustained at the top of the charts by the cosy place love stories occupy in creative arts and pop culture.
A lot of Kenyans who will be humming this song today do not know what it means to Mwamburi.
The story had actually started a few years before 1995, when a sprightly, creative and energetic Mwamburi settled in Nairobi from Mombasa to nurture his musical dream.
Do you still talk to Stella?
Freshly mwamburi : Yes. We do communicate and in fact she was to come to Kenya last week but due to unavoidable circumstances they went to Honolulu.
She wants her life private. She plans on coming to Kenya in three weeks’ time, so I am patiently waiting.
Is your wife jealous of Stella?
freshly mwamburi My wife is more learned than I am and she is a good adviser. I mean, whatever happened in the past in behind now us.