Monday, January 22, 2018

Stars Next Door The Jimmy Van Rosi Story

Jimmy and Ligia Van Rosi

Jimmy Van Rosi
Stars Next Door
Jimmy Van Rosi
My life in music and musicians

Jimmy Van Rosi, born and bred in Kenya, is a multi-talented musician who is still gigging around Canada with his equally talented wife Ligia, who is the daughter of the legendary musician Mario Dias. Jimmy is a self-taught muso whose passion has been appreciated through the decades by the thousands of people who have seen him with the various bands he has played with. Like many musicians you will meet (again) in this series, he is very respected by his peers.


The Spiders group was formed in 1962. The initial group members were: Frank Van Rosi on lead guitar, Felix Hermit on rhythm guitar, David Andrade on bass guitar, Warren Mcmahon on vocals and I was the drummer.

When Felix Hermit left the country, Charles (Sanu) Van Rosi joined the group and took over the rhythm guitar. The band frequently performed at Delamere High School, Cliff Richard Fan Club situated in Church House Nairobi, Woodley Club and at very many private functions, clubs and parties.

The Spiders appeared weekly for a short time on VOK TV’s Youth Club Program.

In '63 Cliff Richard visited Kenya for a one night show at Rowallen Camp. There was a competition the weekend before Cliff's visit at the Kenya Police Regimental Hall, for the best band and best singer with the winners opening for Cliff and being presented with the trophy. The Bata Shoeshine Boys won the competition for best band with the Spiders as runners-up. Warren, who was a vocalist with the Spiders, won as best singer. As Warren won the competition, the Spiders and Warren opened for Cliff.

When David Andrade left the country, Joe Peters (Jo Boy) joined the group as the rhythm guitarist and Sanu Van Rosi took over the bass guitar.

When Joe Peters left the group to form the Bandits, Vic Johnstone joined the group as rhythm guitarist and also played the mouth organ.

When Frank Van Rosi and Warren Mcmahon left the group, Luis Gracias joined as drummer, Sanu Van Rosi played the lead guitar, Vic Johnstone stayed on rhythm, I played the bass guitar and Gilbert Lopes joined as our vocalist.

When Luis Gracias left the country, Paulie D’Souza joined us as the drummer.

The group finally broke up in 1965 and all the band members joined other groups.


Clifford D’Souza who played the keyboard started this group in the late 60’s. The others were Leo Rodrigues on drums, Luis Fernandes on bass guitar, I was on rhythm guitar and vocals and Brian Green, from the UK on alto sax. Brian was a trainer from the Royal Air Force who was sent to Kenya to train members of the Kenya Air Force.

The Playboys performed on many occasions at the RAF Officers’ Mess, the Dam Busters Club’s private parties and had a one-month contract at the New Stanley Grill. One of the highlights of the month was when we performed on the same stage with Jeremy Taylor of “Ag Pleeze Deddy” fame who was the cabaret artist for one week. The Playboys also played for many private occasions at major hotels in Nairobi.

When Brian’s term of office ended, the band broke up and I moved to Mombasa where I joined the Ghost Riders.

Clifford and I now live in Canada and have performed together on very many occasions. Leo and Luis live in the UK.


In the early ‘70’s, I went to live in Mombasa and joined a group called the Ghost Riders. The band was already in existence.

The musicians were: Jeff Pillay on rhythm guitar, Francis Port Louis on bass guitar, Roger D’Silva, (who was only 12 years old) on drums, Desmond Port Louis on lead guitar and I was on rhythm and lead guitar.

The band performed at the Little Theatre Club, Stella Maria Club and the Mombasa Institute on a regular basis.

We entered into a band competition that was held at the Mombasa Institute on a Sunday. The Ghost Riders tied for 1st place with the Shiftars Band. The Romantics took 2nd place. As the organizers of the event did not anticipate a tie for 1st place, they contacted Mombasa Sports Club to obtain extra trophies to be presented to both bands who tied for 1st place.

The Ghost Riders broke up when Francis and Jeff left to study in the UK.

Jeff and Francis now live in the UK. Desmond lives in Seychelles, Roger lives in Ireland and I in Canada.


In 1984, soon after Ligia and I got married, we formed a group called The Band.

We had Roger Athaide on bass guitar, Ligia on keyboard and vocals, Lesley Mascarenhas on lead guitar, Benny Athanasius on drums, Dinesh Patel on lead vocals and I was on rhythm guitar and vocals. The only African musician was the very famous John Zenze who played lead guitar. John is still performing in Kenya even though he is in his late 70’s – early 80’s.

Benny left the band when he got married and Tony Fernandes joined us for a short time on drums. Upon Tony’s departure, Jimmy took over the drums and sang.

The Band played for private functions at the Intercontinental Hotel, Pan Afric Hotel, Goan Gymkhana and the Nairobi Institute.

One of the most memorable performances of our time together was playing for the developers and contractors of the Kiambere Hydro Electric Dam at their Christmas party. The organisers sent a bus to pick us up from the Holy Family Cathedral and took us to the venue where we spent Saturday night in extremely lavish bedrooms. When we arrived at Kiambere and were setting up our equipment, Jimmy realised he had left his cymbals in the organisation’s offices in Nairobi – about a three-hour drive away. So he played all night using only his tom-toms, snare and bass drums. Whenever he had to hit the cymbals, he hit the air which caused the patrons to dissolve in laughter. This performance got us a few extra gigs from the patrons who were present, as they enjoyed our performance and selection of music. The band broke up in 1987 when my wife and I left for Canada. Roger and Lesley have since passed away. Dinesh is in the UK, Benny and John is still in Nairobi and Tony is in Canada.

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