I got to know Jafet Helao, also known as Au Jafet, while he was roaming around the late music icon and legend Au Lyden Naftali Khuruseb’s house in Katutura’s D33 section in the early 1970s.
He was selling ginger beer. He could have been staying at numerous houses like that of Au Guiter Namaseb, Dokes Hange, and the legendary police detective Au Blessy Uchamp.
When the Ugly Creatures were forced into turning professional musicians, (the band members were all teachers at different schools in Katutura: Axali Doeseb was teaching at Augaikas, Joni Adams – Goreangab, with Jefta Noabeb, Baby Doeseb and Gothardt Awaseb at Auas), Gothard Awaseb opted to leave the band because he wanted to keep on teaching, and founded the Motion band.
I believe that the Motion band project was the first music academy to be started in Katutura. At a later stage, the Ugly Creatures recruited Dawid Banza Swartz from Motion to replace Jefta Noabeb on bass guitar.
Motion band had Gothardt Awaseb – Drums, and founder Jafet Helao – manager/vocals, Maria Greta Doema Herero – Admin, Fred Cheetah Gaweseb – Keyboard, Otto Outies Gawachab – Bass, Nangoro Kooper – Guitar, Runa Gorases - Main vocals, Sugar Boois – Main vocals, Gorilla Goraseb – Trumpet/keyboard, Ou Gies Goraseb (Teacher) keyboard – brass, Safe /Oxurub (Grootfontein) Tancy Hans Pius Gaeb, Tipe Joseph Gaoseb and Elvis Afrikaner.
The opening show was a big success. To my surprise, Jafet was also in the band! The evergreen song ‘Shahasha’’ became Jafet’s brand song. I remember that Au Lyden also expanded his mbaqanga outfit into a pop band which went by the name of ‘‘Lyden Naftalie and the Funmakers’’, with well-known preacherman, Pastor Jaret Brinkman Sr, as the main vocalist.
But I can’t remember Jafet as part of that band, mainly because I never attended any of their gigs, and they didn’t last long. Jafet liked dressing up in his all-white suit, white hat and shoes; only the socks and the shirt would be black.
His entrances into the Mashego or the Katutura Community Hall were always well-timed. They were show-stopping moments, his entrances with the likes of Ou Kill and Elvis Afrikaner, and were of such manner that almost everyone in the dancing hall would come to a standstill and watch them take centre-stage.
Real gentlemen of the dance floor!! In the ’80s, television and disco music became a big challenge for live music bands. Jafet Helao was quick to realise this, and became a partner at the Guesthouse Club, which was founded by liberation hero, the late Emil Appolus, and soon all roads led thereto.
When the late AU PYP released his langarm album, Jafet was again fast to grasp this, and his Ebony Club soon became the mega of langarm. Jafet and I had an on-off kinda relationship.
One moment we would be on good terms and jovial, but that could change like as in a flip of a coin. One incident I will never forget happened. With my Namibian Music History Research project, I went to interview him about Lyden Naftalie.
When I arrived at his house, he was seated with a guest. As is customary, you have to greet everyone. Jafet’s guest was sitting close to my point of entry, and himself deeper in the room. I greeted the guest first by hand, and proceeded with my extended hand towards Jafet. But this did not go down well with him. ‘’I will not take your hand. Ti !gatse, Mamas ao ta di tite.
How can you come into my house and disrespect me like this? You put that stranger before me. You don’t even know him, but you give him more respect over me by greeting him first. I am not going to talk to you!’’, he said. I left feeling very ashamed and humiliated. The next day, I was driving past his house, and he was standing outside at the food stall. He signalled me to pull off.
He came to my car, and started talking to me as if nothing happened the day before. He was in such a happy mood, telling me a story which up till now I can’t recall what it was all about. We parted our ways with a pat on the back from him, and he was still smiling when I drove off.
Rest In Power, Au Jafet.
- Baby Doeseb