Whilst the nation and world at large are plagued by the dreadful and lethal corona pandemic, the art industry in Namibia is no exception as it was robbed of one of its third generation musos, in the name of Ralph Edmund Geiseb. Geiseb followed in the footsteps of Sebulon Axue Gomachab, another legendary guitarist and singer who joined the ancestry in mid-December last year. Ralph would have celebrated his 47th birthday on 1 July this year.
Ralph was always passionate about his trade, thus abandoning his tertiary education to follow his musical dreams in the mid-90s. His young sister Shareen Geises narrates how the family, despite its initial misgivings about music, had to let Ralph follow his passion- music. “Ralph had to quit varsity to follow what he loved and treasure the most and we as a family just had to understand that.” “At some point, he was even employed at Air Namibia, but because music was the love of his life, he was also forced to quit that job,” she explained.
Even though he died at the very beginning of April this year, Ralph is yet to be interred. This is due to that the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown has not only taken a toll on the social norms of the society, but it has also unfortunately affected the burial preparations of this unsung hero. “Our wish is to have him buried on the 25 April but there is this uncertainty,” Geises narrates the family ordeal. His wish has always been that he should be buried in his home town of Tsumeb and that we will accord him.”
Whilst studying at the University of Namibia, Ralph served as drummer for the University of Namibia (Unam) band known as the Legends. It was during this period that most of the local bands and artists took notice of his drumming talent. As he did not necessarily belong to a particular band, the young and talented muso would become a session artist.
Names such as Jackson Kaujeua, Willy Mbuende, Stoney Mubiana, Sebulon Axue Gomachab now have certain things in common with Ralph Geiseb. One, these legends have shared a stage with Ralph. Two, these musicians used to perform live music and never were inspired by the lip-sync method which has become the order of the day of late. Three, unfortunately as we speak, all these artists had downed their musical instruments and joined the ancestry. This is how odd their commonality is and it is their passing which has created a void in the Namibian music industry which would probably be hard to fill.
Reacting to the passing of this performer is Godfrey Mananga Konde, a musician and producer -based in Switzerland. “I am so sad. I am almost in tears. That is my colleague whom we started learning Cubase together.” Cubase is a digital audio workstation developed by Steinberg for music and MIDI recording, arranging and editing. Ralph and Mananga were the first two musicians who started off experimenting and as pioneers in the recording and producing using the Cubase system in the mid-90s.
Going through Ralph’s musical journey, Mananga says in the mid-90s, they would jam and play together with different bands and artists at the Windhoek Multipurpose Youth Resource Centre in Katutura. Later, they would join the TELEEZA, the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) TV production which was championed by the late Willy Mbuende. At the NBC, it was where their musical experience flourished especially in music programming.
In that process, Ralph and Mananga were able to contribute to two albums, one for the late Jackson Kaujeua and the other one for Fari Dread of the Omidi d’Afrique.
Their programing work at the NBC Studio 7 was augmented and overseen by one senior sound engineer namely Burton Reid and a keyboardist and producer Elton Witbooi. “We have had a long history of producing and arranging music together.” Mananga describes Ralph not only as a musician but a great producer too. “He was a great arranger, and he always shared ideas about music. When we started working together, Ralph was more advanced than I was.” Their beginning in music particularly in recording was not always that rosy, but being more advanced and good at arranging and mastering music, Ralph made studio life bearable.
Also narrating his experience with this music icon, Setson Wahengo of the Mighty Dread remembers Ralph in the mid 90s during his stint with the Legends. “I knew him from his days with the Legends. He also performed with the Mighty Dread a few times. Besides being a good drummer, he was a very good man who respected everyone irrespective of tribe and he was always smiling,” he reminisced.
Wahengo describes the passing of Ralph as a big shock to him. “The music industry has lost not only a producer but a mentor to the youth and upcoming artists. My condolences go to the bereaved family and relatives.” Wahengo in urges musicians to unite and help each other where they can.
As we grapple with life during this difficult period of mourning Ralph’s passing as well as the Covid-19, we just hope that our artists remain committed to the passion of music to which Ralph dedicated his entire life. Despite the fact that music has no boundaries and it has an impact on society, a lot of local musicians remain unsung heroes and they usually die paupers. May Ralph’s soul rest in power, Wahengo said.