Charles Bukeko famously known as Papa Shirandula was a Kenyan actor and comedian who was known for portraying the dramatic character in the television series Papa Shirandula. Through his success in film, the late legend won the 2010 Kalasha Award for Best Actor in a TV Series. Besides acting, Shirandula worked as a scriptwriter and director from time to time.
Other than being a household name, Papa worked with major brands like GoTv and Cocacola. He was born July 10, 1962, and died on July 18, 2020, from what seemed like COVID-19 symptoms.
The legendary actor was the firstborn of four children to parents Valeria Makokha and Cosmas Wafula. Bukeko was born in Busia and pursued his education in Jogoo Road Primary School and Upper Hill Secondary respectively. Being the firstborn, he had the responsibility to help his parents take care of his younger siblings.
Career and early life
Born and raised in a humble background, in Buhalarire, Kakamega, Papa Shirandula’s rise to stardom came with its share of challenges. He completed his studies and was a resident in Nairobi’s sprawling Eastland’s Uhuru estate, where he had to often walk many kilometers to the Kenya National Theatre.
Papa later natured his talent by moving to the Phoenix Theatre, where he was introduced to renowned actor Ian Mbugua, who linked him to James Forkland who decided to coach Papa for free on theatre basics for three years and opened his eyes on production. Back then, there were very poor structures, but this did not hinder him from pursuing his dream. His big break came when he won the heart of Wachira Waruru, who worked as Royal Media’s Managing Director and he was cast to play the role of a security guard in the film Malooned in 2006.
Waruru proposed to Mr.Bukeko to develop a character around the watchman for a TV series only for Papa Shirandula show to be born. The local drama series got a good reception and became popular in the country despite local productions not been taken seriously since the Mexican soaps were dominating the airwaves at the time.
Local productions were still a big No, and I remember Waruru saying that we take a risk and see how it would turn out, and that is how Papa Shirandula was born…
Through the course of his career in acting, the late star received numerous awards during the Kalasha Awards which were held at KICC in the year 2010, he was awarded the Best Actor in a TV series. The TV series Papa Shirandula was not left behind as it won the Best Comedy category. Other awards won by the renowned actor include the Best Comedy in TV series. He also featured in films like The Captain of Nakara, Malooned, Constant Gardner, and Makutano Junction.
Before Papa Shirandula happened, Mr. Bukeko would do voice-overs for radio. His first big paycheque was Ksh 30,000 although getting paid was another thing altogether.
Speaking in an interview, the Papa Shirandula show production was put on hold following the Coronavirus pandemic. One of the cast members, Ken Gichoya popularly known as Njoro, recently revealed that the popular Tv show was canceled a few months back.
Many assumed that they will be making a comeback when the pandemic is dealt with but unfortunately they were told only re-runs will be going on air.
The show was cancelled four months ago after Kenya started recording coronavirus cases. The management just told us the show was over and we were not going to record any more episodes. They said they planned to air reruns, Njoro said.
Marriage and family
His wife is called Beatrice Ebbie Andega and the couple is blessed with three children namely Tony, Charlie, and Wendy. Speaking during an interview at the Churchill Show, they met back in 2004 when the late actor visited some friends near her home area. The rest was history and they became family.
I met him in 2004 when he was just visiting some friends and pastors around the area we used to live. We started meeting and talking and one time he came through the pastor asking for my consent; and the relationship took off from there. He took me to Busia and I met his family. I knew he was serious because all his siblings were married, so he said it’s time he also settled down.
The two shared a happy family life for sixteen years but a string of miscarriages brought them sorrow and frustration before welcoming their first child.
It took some time before we settled. By the time we got our firstborn in 2006 we had lost four babies. In 2007 we had our second born and in 2009 is when we had our last born. She was born a month or two before our wedding. in December 2009 we formalized our marriage.Beatrice added
Networth and endorsements
Many actors and influencers dream of bagging big endorsements from their career and Bukeko was fortunate enough to bag a few from major brands.
He elevated his celebrity status worldwide when he appeared in the popular Coke advert ‘Cola Brrr! advert’ in 2001. Mr. Bukeko made a whooping Ksh.15 million from the video alone. The Coca-Cola advert was shot in 2001 and ended up being a bang years later.
Vodacom In South Africa
Bukeko played the brutal Uganda dictator Idi Amin in the Vodacom advert. The South African advertisement was well-received paving Papa to celebrity status in Kenya. The actor made upwards of Ksh10 million from the advert.
Shirandula made a generous sum from his GoTv commercial that is also estimated at more than Ksh10 million. Online estimates and sources place Papa Shirandula’s net worth at a conservative Ksh 50 million.
Acting was his primary source of income as he earned a good amount of income from his appearance on the Papa Shirandula series. He made an estimated Ksh 200,000 per month for playing the main act and production of the sitcom that aired every Thursday on Citizen TV.
Some time back, Jackie Nyaminde, who plays the role of Wilbroda, left the show leaving the fans speechless. There are claims that Charles Bukeko removed her from the show when she joined Milele FM. The decision by Wilbroda to join Milele FM created a conflict of interest, and it did not go well with the management of Royal Media Services.
At one point, there were rumors that Charles Bukeko had died after being admitted at Nairobi Hospital. It was claimed that he had complained of severe headache and back pain, and he had been rushed to Nairobi Hospital. The report went on to say that he had succumbed to the illness and his body was lying at the Lee Funeral Home. Charles came out to refute the rumors and said that he was alive and well. Adding that he had already been declared dead 7 times!
I have been killed by social media users seven times and honestly I never get angry.However, I always worry about my family whenever such news breaks. I do not know why people do such evil things,” he said.
In a recent Mpasho interview, his co-star Njoro said when he was first told that Bukeko had died, he did not believe it. He assumed he had been killed by bloggers once again like they always do, what he did not know is that this time round he was indeed dead and gone. The two acted alongside each other for over 10 years, and his death on July 18, came as a shock.
I am fine but still struggling with the death of Papa Shirandula. We have buried him but I have not accepted it. Some people give you ‘notice’, maybe they were sick, but when someone just dies, it’s hard to accept, It will take time for me to accept I will never see him again but one day I will rise above the pain. I do not know when but I know it will take some time, He said.
Charles Bukeko succumbed to Covid-19 in Nairobi after he developed breathing problems. Bukeko died Saturday 18th July 2020, while waiting for treatment at Karen Hospital. According to his widow Beatrice Andega, Shirandula had developed breathing problems and had requested for three tests upon arrival at Karen hospital which included, Malaria tests, Pneumonia, and COVID-19 tests but the hospital concentrated on COVID-19 tests ignoring the other tests.
He left behind a widow Beatrice Bukeko and three children and was buried at his Busia home, under very strict Covid-19 regulations. His cast-mates had to swallow the bitter pill of finally bidding farewell to him as they had turned into the family over the years.
Despite his untimely and unexpected death, Bukeko has proven that his ups and downs did not deter him from achieving his dreams. He remains to be one of the biggest names in the Kenyan acting scene through his remarkable legacy in the entertainment industry.
May his soul Rest In Peace.