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Sal Davies: Legendary Kenyan Jazz Musician Famed For Iconic Songs ‘Uhuru’ And ‘Back in Dubai’

Salim Abdallah Salim popularly known as Sal Davies is a legendary Kenyan musician and song composer, known for some of the greatest hits in the country from the 60s to the 90s. He released a number of songs in the 2000s with his latest in 2021.

Sal is the short form for his first name, and Davis, he adopted from one of his musical idols, Sammy Davis Jr. He was born in Mombasa on March 31, 1941.

The veteran singer moved to the UK to pursue his ‘‘O’’ Levels at Portsmouth College of Technology. Due to a strong passion for music, he abandoned studying law and went into show business. He would tour nightclubs in the UK performing covers of his favourite calypso songs by Harry Belafonte.

He adopted the name Sal Davies in 1962 after he became a professional singer.

In 1963, Sal Davies was a key part of the independence celebrations. He composed the song Uhuru in celebration of the three East Africa countries at the time; Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. He also performed at the Independence Civic Ball, alongside Harry Belafonte and South African icon Miriam Makeba.

Sal dropped a number of hits in the 60s ranging from Uhuru, Makini, his version of the Ray Charles song, Unchain My Heart, and Kenyatta’s song/leave me alone.

From 1964 to 1966, he also worked for BBC as a news and current affairs presenter. he also worked with the Voice of Kenya, presenting Sundowner on radio and current affairs programme Mambo Leo on TV.

In 1967, he operated The Sal Davis Night Spot, which later became the New Florida Night Club on Nairobi’s Koinange Street. He also ventured into the aviation business with Davis Air Limited which owned three light aircraft operating out of Wilson Airport.

His other hit singles include; When you’re in Love (1974), Back in Dubai (1978), Let it all Go/ Baby Let it Happen (1979), Mama He treats my Sister Mean, and Sultan Qaboos song, among others.

By the 1980s Dubai’s Expatriate population had grown and they identified with the city as their home despite not being their permanent home. When Sal Davis’s song Back in Dubai was broadcast on local radio, it immediately connected with Dubai’s Expatriate Community. The song is still remembered and continues to be played and sung today.

Despite being officially retired, and enjoying his sunset years in Nyali, Mombasa, Sal Davies occasionally joins his daughter, Maia von Lekow, for some of her own performances.