The death of Charles Bukeko popularly known as Papa Shirandula due to his popular Citizen TV program by the same name came as a shock to many.
Papa, 58, passed away on Saturday morning at Karen Hospital, Nairobi after developing breathing complications.
Papa, who was born and bred in Mumias, Western Kenya, is regarded as the man who brought about fundamental changes in the comedy industry with popular entertainers in the country attributing their growth to his wise counsel.
Being one of the finest thespians in his generation, Papa will for many years be remembered for his great work in the comedy industry not just in Kenya but across the world.
He got the rare opportunity of starring in big-budget commercials for some of the largest corporates and brands including Coca-cola, GOTV, Vodacom and Safaricom.
Papa rose to fame after featuring in the much-hyped Coca-Cola “Brrr” advert in 2007.
The AFC Leopards fanatic once said that he is known as Baruti in China, courtesy of the Brrr Coca-cola advert.
After the 2007 Coke advert, Papa earned star ratings and travelled in many countries doing commercials especially in South Africa.
The celebrity status saw him featured on GO TV and Vodacom adverts helping promote the brands for various markets.
Papa Shirandula became a household name in 2007 when he played a lead role in one of the biggest and longest-running television shows in the country by the same name aired on Citizen TV.
In the comedy-drama series, Papa Shirandula, an animated guard who lived a double life and came out as everything from a liar to a polygamist.
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Many Kenyans fell in love with his acting skills that left them cracked up whenever he appeared on their screens.
Through the show, Papa is credited for having brought the likes of Jacqueline Nyaminde (Wilbroda), Felix Odiwour (Jalang’o), Kazungu Matano (Otoyo) among many others to stardom.
Felix Odiwuor, now Kiss 100 presenter, is on record saying that Papa is the one who gave him the “Jalang’o” name.
Unknown to many, before making a debut on Papa Shirandula drama series, Papa started acting much earlier.
During a past interview, he recalled having to trek to the Kenya National Theatre to hone his talent, without a coin in his pockets on many occasions.
He said that in 1998, he met Dr JPR Ochieng’ Odera who would become his first-ever director before moving onto Phoenix Theatre where he ran into Ian Mbugua and who, in turn, introduced him to James Falkland.
Falkland, after being impressed by his skills, would go on to train Bukeko for three years on the basics of theatre performances at absolutely no charge.
He won the heart of Wachira Waruru, the Royal Media Services managing director, when he was cast to play the role of a security guard in the film Malooned (2006).
“When I started doing Papa Shirandula, the heavens opened for me,” he narrated to former Citizen TV E-Profile show host George Kariuki in a September 2010 interview.
Other films that Papa appeared in include: The Captain of Nakara (2012), Constant Gardener (2005) and Makutano Junction (2006).
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Yesterday, President Uhuru Kenyatta recognised Papa’s contribution in the comedy industry describing him as a gifted storyteller whose works will be remembered forever.
Deputy President William Ruto also heaped praises on Papa for his distinctive performances further singling out the actor’s guidance in grooming a number of local entertainers.
“We are heartbroken by the passing of versatile television star Charles Bukeko ‘Papa Shirandula’. Bukeko was a towering, talented and skilful actor. His electrifying and distinctive performances will continue to enlighten and inspire many generations,” tweeted Ruto.
We are heartbroken by the passing of versatile television star Charles Bukeko ‘Papa Shirandula’.
Bukeko was a towering, talented and skilful actor. His electrifying and distinctive performances will continue to enlighten and inspire many generations. pic.twitter.com/gaRI2S4u8x
— William Samoei Ruto, PhD (@WilliamsRuto) July 18, 2020
Papa is survived by wife Beatrice Ebbie Andega and three children Tony, Charlie and Wendy.