The pain is ill-disguised as he lies in his hospital bed, attempting a smile.
When he settles in a comfortable position for the interview, celebrated Kenyan dancer Said Makdar Mahfuth—popularly known as Kanda King (and previously known as Kanda Kid)—is in a reflective mood: “For years, I ignored doctors’ advice and here are the results.”
Kanda King is recuperating at a Nairobi hospital after undergoing hip replacement surgery.
Sitting on the edge of his hospital bed, Kanda King, who has made a name for himself for more than two decades as one of Kenya’s top dancers, says he started experiencing groin pain for about five years on his left leg while on a tour of Norway. He later learnt that he had injured his hips during his dancing performances, including performing acrobatic stunts.
“I started feeling pain while on a tour with my band in Norway where we used to have a minimum of three shows a day. I went and saw a doctor who advised me to be warming up before I go on stage. But because I had been doing this all my life, I ignored his advice.”
A year later he started to limp but still despite the pain, he still went back and performed.
“This has been my life, yes I was feeling some pain but I still got on stage and did what I love doing,” he says
Attempts to treat the condition in the past did not bear fruit, forcing him to seek advanced medical attention.
“The pain killers that several doctors gave weren’t providing relief and the pain worsened.”
Last year, he visited PCEA Kikuyu Hospital when the pain became unbearable and when the doctor saw the X-ray results, he said he should undergo surgery, failing which he would end up in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Appealed for support
The doctor recommended him to an orthopaedic. He met and consulted with Dr Edward Sang, an orthopaedic and trauma surgeon with an interest in upper limb, sports and arthroscopic surgery who also recommended surgery as soon as possible.
“He was nice and we clicked, he told me he was a fan and that I needed to have surgery soon.”
Kanda King was told he needed to replace both hips, each hip replacement (arthroplasty) for Sh495,000.
He needed at least Sh1 million for the surgery to take place but did not have the funds. He did what most Kenyans do and appealed for financial help from well-wishers.
Kanda King had targeted to raise the funds by the end of January, but last week, the pain became too much.
“I called Dr Sang on Monday and explained to him that the pain was too much and I did not have all the money for the surgery. Luckily, he agreed to do the surgery. I told him I have fans and I know I will be able to raise the funds and pay him.”
On Wednesday, Kanda King underwent surgery on his right hip where his cartilage, which was damaged, was removed and replaced with viable, fresh allograft (donor) cartilage.
According to Dr Sang, they cannot pinpoint what happened.
“We were presented with a patient and he was diagnosed with severe arthritis where he needed a total hip replacement. I could have been his career as a dancer or he was born with it.”
The doctor added that he replaced his hips with un-cemented polyethylene implants, which have a lower rate of repeat surgery. “He will come back after two weeks for observation and then do another surgery on his left hip after two months.”
His advice to Kanda King is to take it easy and not do what he used to do. “He can dance, but not vigorously, what he cannot do is run a marathon.”
Kanda King, whose career has seen him grace the stage with some of the biggest names in the industry, says that when he was young, his elder sister, who has since been born again and now dances and sings Gospel music (Princess Farida), used to take him to some of her shows.
“I started mimicking her and that’s how it all started. I chose the nickname Kanda Kid, as I was previously known because I liked Congolese star Kanda Bongo Man, who is famous for the Kwasa Kwasa style.”
His stage name changed to Kanda King after he won the East African King of Dance Competition, which was held in Tanzania in 1996. “I watch many Lingala videos and imitate the dancing styles and, thereafter, craft new ones.”
After his elder sister, Princess Farida, who used to be the leader of their band African Rhythm Band, convinced him to try singing while performing in Dubai, most of the band members didn’t like it and told him his voice was horrible.
Later, she took him for voice coaching, which helped a lot. “I took over the band after she became a born-again Christian and started singing gospel music.”
Some years ago, dancing was hardly considered a career worth pursuing. The few who dared take the risk did so in fear, hoping to just survive. But he has managed to overcome many hurdles and still be here after all those years.
“To tell you the truth, if you told me I would be traveling and performing in places like Paris, Dubai and London when I was still in school, I would have laughed. But God is great because I have seen and travelled to places many people only dream of.
“I have two sons and I’m a grandfather too. One of my sons is a dancer and he took over the name Kanda Kid, mtoto wa nyoka ni nyoka, he does everything I do. I am training him to follow in my footsteps and keep the Kanda King legacy alive.”
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