Stella Cancels Return To Kenya For Second Successive Year

To understand why legendary afro-beat icon Freshley Mwamburi's song Stella trends every year on social media, with netizens making millions of memes to rejig the classic tune, we would have to go back to where it all began.

UPDATE 19.00: Kenya Airways, for the second year in a row has announced that Stella, Freshley Mwamburi's campus lover will not be returning to Kenya from Japan.

Mwamburi will however get a chance to heal from the heartbreak Stella inflicted upon him after the national airline offered to fly him and his wife to Mombasa for vacation.

'"We can now confirm that Stella won't be coming home this year due to travel restrictions. We are “short” of words. However, we'll be happy to deliver some gifts to her via KQ Cargo.

"As for the one and only Mr FreshlyMwamburi, we are thrilled that he will be flying with us to Mombasa with his new love to ease his heartache," KQ said in a statement on social media.

May 17 will go down in Kenya's history as the saddest day amongst all couples and Kenyans who continue to wait for one Stella to return from Japan and into legendary afro-beat icon Freshley Mwamburi's arms.

About 30 years ago, Mwamburi met Stella, who was then a student of Kenyatta University, and he would end up falling in love with her. She was from Kangundo, Mwamburi was from Taita, a classic tale of opposites attracting.

Their relationship went off to a flying start, the two sharing the spoils of their youth and moments cruising around Nairobi City in Mwamburi's vintage car.

But as he was organising marriage plans between him and Stella, Mwamburi was stunned to learn that Stella abandoned him from another man. 

Past photo of Stella with her Japanese husband and child. /FILE

Heartbroken, he took to the studios and alongside Everest Kings bandmate Abdul Muyonga, recorded the hit song Stella Wangu and released it in 1992 as an album cover.

Little did he know that his rebound track would emerge to become a nationwide and international hit, made possible by Mwamburi's repeated efforts to convince Stella to return to his arms, and maintained its grip on the top charts thanks to its feature in many love stories across the city.

29 years after its first release, he reworked it to a modern tune whose video was shot and directed by Eric Ahoy alias Mtu Cinema and choreographed by dancer and choreographer Arthur Chiluba and audio rejigged by Nixon Mega records.

"Stella being an evergreen hit that is engraved in the heart of Kenyans it deserves not just a remix but also a quality music video and there is no better time to remix it if not now. I would like even the younger generation who might not know the song to know it and enjoy it,” the 62-year-old explained to Nairobi News on January 28, 2021.

To understand why Mwamburi's story trends every year on social media, with netizens making millions of memes to rejig the classic tune, we would have to go back to where it all began.

A few years before 1992, a creative and energetic Mwamburi moved to Nairobi from Mombasa to nurture his musical dream. At the age of 15, he birthed his musical group, Mombasa International Band, joining Simba Wanyika Band, the popular musical group headed by the Tanzanian Kinyonga brothers, Wilson and George.

Two years later, he left Simba Wanyika for its offshoot, Les Wanyika, where he stayed until 1986, when he formed Mavalo Kings. In 1988, he would join with Muyonga and changed the band name to Everest Kings.

Cover of Freshley Mwamburi's hit album 'Stella'. /FILE

Stella had moved to Nairobi to study at Kenyatta University when the two crossed paths, an unexpected twist of fate. The love chemistry, strengthened by the struggles of a typical youth in campus and promise of a blissful future began.

One day, Stella had received a scholarship to study in Japan, and she informed Mwamburi. However, there was one problem, Stella was from a poor family and could neither raise the funds for upkeep nor the fare to facilitate her trip to Japan.

Mwamburi saw it as the perfect opportunity to prove his undying love and affirm his insane promises made amid the craze of young love, and without no hesitation, offered to help her.

“I sold my car and a few personal belongings and gave the money to her to travel abroad,” he told Nation in 2017.

Stella travelled to Japan and kept Mwamburi up to date with her progress through mail. However, the regular back and forth conversations through that channel would soon be for nothing.

On May 17, 1992, Mwamburi trooped to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi to receive his love, flanked by a colourful entourage. It was the day she was scheduled to return to the country.

Stella would smash his heart to pieces when he emerged from the aircraft carrying a child from a relationship she began with what Mwamburi described in the song as "a short, stout man", her college principal, who was in her company.

Following the shock that came onto him like a wrecking ball, Mwamburi sought closure from Stella through seeking reasons as to why she would abandon him, after a lengthy young relationship, for a man she met in Japan who was arguably below his calibre. Stella would reveal to him her vulnerabilities in Japan and how they had somehow led her to the principal, who was her husband.

"We remained friends. We kept in touch after the JKIA incident, and once or twice she attended my gigs in Nairobi.” he added.

The song that was promptly produced and released by Mwamburi has been hummed and shared by social media thousands of times on May 17 every year, many netizens calling it the country's ultimate 'sad man hours'.

Many believe up to date that Mwamburi received the wrong Stella and that the right one is yet to return to his arms. Kenyans continue to wait for her return, inviting their peers to troop to JKIA to receive her on that date every year.

Kenya Airways on the same day in 2020 had apologised to Kenyans for being unable to bring Stella back home as international flights were by then grounded following the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We, unfortunately, cannot bring Stella home this year, but we look forward to welcoming her and her family same time next year,” the national airline addressed in a tweet.

Kenya Airways aircraft at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. /FILE