Namibia remembers music maestro Axali Doëseb

Axali Doeseb

The atmosphere was sombre at Axali Doëseb’s family residence in Gemengde, Katutura, on Saturday.

Unlike the first time Doëseb welcomed The Namibian into his living room a few weeks ago for what would be his final interview, this time the house was filled with mourners who came to pay their last respects to the man who composed the country’s national anthem.

The award-winning music composer, songwriter, poet, pianist, orchestra conductor and former band leader, died on Friday morning at the age of 68.

His wife, Amalia Doëses, narrated her final days with her famous husband.

“My husband was fine all these last few days. We have just been going around doing normal business like going to the shops. In fact, we even went to the mall on Wednesday and it was only on Thursday morning that he became sick.
“He started to cough profoundly and we took him to a private hospital. Upon arrival, the medical staff discovered that his blood pressure was very low. It was a struggle to stabilise him and in the meantime his body started swelling,” Doëses said.

She said medical staff at the hospital suggested that he be transferred to Lady Pohamba Private Hospital for an operation, but they said it was a high risk to move him around because of his condition.

“It became a real struggle now to stabilise his blood levels and it so happened that he got a stroke while the medical staff fought for his life. They transferred him to Lady Pohamba, where the doctors also said that it was a high risk to operate on him,” she said.

THE WIDOW … Amalia Doëses sandwiched between two family members during yesterday’s opening service at their house. Photos: Conrad Angula

President Hage Geingob on Friday paid tribute to Doëseb’s significant contributions to the nation.

“I have received the news of Axali Doëseb’s passing with a heavy heart. He was not only an artist and composer, but also a driving force behind the creation of our national anthem, ‘Namibia, Land of the Brave’.

“His efforts in shaping our nation’s identity will forever be remembered,” he said.

Geingob extended his condolences to Doëseb’s wife, children and family.

The Okahandja-born musician inherited his understanding of music concepts from his late father, Casper Doëseb, an elder of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELC) at Okahandja, who played the violin.

His love for music was later strengthened by Fritz Schneider, a missionary from Germany, who was the youth and brass leader of the Lutheran Church based at Okahandja at the time.

Schneider ensured that Doëseb, who started his educational journey at Nau-Aib Primary School at Okahandja, was admitted to Martin Luther High School.

Doëseb’s elder sister, the late Mathilde Doëses, is also said to have been a gifted singer who entertained the congregation with her beautiful voice. His younger brother Baby Doëseb plays lead guitar for the Ugly Creatures, which was founded at the Martin Luther High School in the 1970s and went on to become one of Namibia’s most popular live bands.

Some artists in the industry also paid tribute to Doeseb.

“I met Axali for the first time in the late ‘70s when I joined the Ugly Creatures. I even sang one of his songs, ‘Not Tonight’, during a show at Augustineum. We did a couple of songs together like ‘All The Guys In The World’ by Barry White and ‘I Believe There’s Nothing Stronger Than Our Love’ by Paul Anka, just to mention a few,” said Simeon ‘Sledge’ Kanime, who fronted the Uglies during the 70s.

“I used to call him ‘The Maestro’ because of his artistry on the piano. I will always remember Axali as a brilliant musician and the driving force behind the Ugly Creatures,” said Kanime.

LAST RESPECT … Alpheus //Gowaseb is a former NFA secretary general and Axali Doëseb’s former schoolmate at Martin Luther High School, singing the book of condolences.

Afro-jazz singer Erna Chimu also had the opportunity to share the stage with Doëseb when they had a show at the Warehouse Theatre back in the days.

“I will remember Uncle Axali as the soft spoken music genius who always had time to educate and advise young musicians. I have experienced this when I played with the Uglies shortly after they came back from their 40-year sabbatical.

“He was really a lovely person and I never saw him raising his voice to anyone. He would leave the talking to the other band members like the late Nicro //Hoabeb who was always full of jokes. I will always remember Axali as the master of music,” Chimu said.

Retired school principal Peta Karon, a former manager of the Ugly Creatures, described Doëseb as an impulsive introvert.

“He made his mark as one of the tone-setters of the Uglies. He was never punctual for rehearsals or meetings, but when he arrived, you could feel his strong presence. It is not surprising he achieved what he did,” he said. Doëseb may be missed from his spot in the Inner City Church, where he was a pianist during Sunday mass, but his music will be remembered by those who appreciated him.

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