We are pleased to report that The Abubilla Music Foundation has been providing local support to Bill Odidi, from KBC and Ketebul Music on his recent trip to the UK. The purpose of the trip was to research into the archives of the late Peter Colmore, which are now in the possession of the Bodelian Library in Oxford.
Andy accompanied Bill to the University library at Rhodes House to help sort through the photographs and documents and take photographs for the ‘Kenya at 50 project’.
Who was Peter Colmore?
Peter Colmore was born in England on the 22nd November 1919.
He was schooled at Sherborne, and went on to work in the aviation industry, based out of London Airport – then in Croydon. During the second world war he was stationed with the Kings African Rifles (KAR), as a lieutenant and aide de camp to Sir William Platt, the commander in Chief of the East African Forces. He also worked as a flying boat traffic officer.
He was thought to be the first person in Kenya to own a tape recorder, which he bought from a fellow serviceman. This brought him work from the BBC around the time of the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya.
Colmore spent time working for the Kenya Information Service around this time – possibly as a photographer.
He was instrumental in setting up the African Broadcasting service Entertainment unit, which included the guitarist Fundi Konde – said to be the first electric guitarist in East Africa. He also set up Hi Fidelity Productions and studio in Nairobi – a promotion and public relations company, which produced advertisements for big brands in Kenya at the time – Coca Cola (featuring the Congolese musician Eduoard Masengo), Ever Ready and Aspro. Through this union, he created the All African Variety shows, which were broadcast live on radio, and later television. He also launched the career of Jean Mwenda Bosco – who toured Kenya promoting Apsro products.
He was a friend of, and supporter of Ally Sykes, who was the first person to begin a Jazz Orchestra in Tanzania, and played a part in the drive for Independence in Tanganyika. Colmore appointed Sykes as his agent in Dar es Salaam for Hi Fielity promotions.
In later life, he was involved less in music and his business interests widened to include that of the Photo Me franchise in Kenya.
His daily diaries between the years of 1970 and 2003 are comprehensively written and prove and interesting insight into life in Nairobi at this time. His diary writings tail off towards the end of his life. He died in Nairobi, on the 24th January 2004, aged 84.
Colmore was a keen photographer and as his diaries and the archive show – he seems to have taken a photograph of almost everyone he met, including the ruling politicians of the era. The archive also contains some interesting artefacts from Independence in Kenya – including an invite to the ceremony of the handover of instruments at Independence.
Colmore bequeathed the contents of his archive to his friend, Oxford academic Professor Richard Greenfield. Sadly, Professor Greenfield died before the contents reached the UK – and as such, the archive transferred to the Bodelian Library as part of the Professor’s estate.
We are indebted to Lucy McCann and the staff at Rhodes House in Oxford for their help in studying the as yet un-catalogued collection.
Andy also provided support to Bill in the video recording of an interview conducted with James Currey – a leading academic publisher on Africa. The interview will form a part of the project looking at the other aspects of culture around the time of independence in Kenya. Currey was part of the team responsible for the publishing of the African Writers series of novels.