Beldina Odenyo Onassis: Tributes flood in following death of acclaimed Glasgow musician and theatremaker

Tributes have flooded in following the death of a leading Scottish-Kenyan musician, singer and theatre maker.

Monday, 8th November 2021, 9:00 am
Updated Monday, 8th November 2021, 4:18 pm
Beldina Odenyo Onassis, who performed under the stage name Heir of the Cursed, performed at the recent Scottish Album of the Year Awards.

The family of Glasgow-based Beldina Odenyo Onassis, who performed under the stage name Heir Of The Cursed, announced the musician had died on Friday morning.

The statement said: “We are devastated. Bel was so loved and will be so missed. We ask that our privacy be respected at this time of profound grief.”

Beldina, 31, who was originally from Kisumu, in Kenya, moved to Dumfriesshire as a young girl.

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She was named one of Scotland’s 30 most inspiring women under 30 in 2017, when she was praised for her work about the African diaspora, her experiences of living in Scotland as a young black woman and mental health.

Beldina worked with the National Theatre of Scotland and was involved, with two of the most high-profile shows at the Edinburgh festivals earlier this year.

She was also involved in a new Scottish all-female song-writing collective, Hen Hoose, which has just released its debut album, recently performed at the Scottish Album of the Year Awards in Edinburgh and had just confirmed a headline gig at Glasgow’s forthcoming Celtic Connections festival.

Beldina’s recent work included Lament For Sheku Bayoh, Hannah Lavery’s play written in response to the death of the father-of-two in police custody in Fife.

She and Lavery unveiled a new live show, Blood Salt Spring, in Edinburgh last month, exploring “intergenerational trauma, in particular the legacy of colonialism, racism, and the reality of living through 2020’s political and cultural shifts and shocks”.

Lavery said: “My dear friend, I will miss you. I promise to always treasure and hold close the time we shared, the beautiful belonging you offered me, all your wisdom and wondrous talent. My heart is broken. It will always be broken. I will miss you forever.”

Theatre company Disaster Plan, which staged the open-air Fringe show Move that Beldina worked on, said: “We are bereft at the loss of our dear sister.

"It is the greatest honour to have had Beldina Odenyo work with us in all her brilliance, but even more so to have loved her as a friend.

Beldina Odenyo Onassis, who performed under the stage name Heir of the Cursed, performed at the recent Scottish Album of the Year Awards. Picture: Euan Robertson

"The world has lost an extraordinarily powerful artist and a beautiful soul.”

David Greig, artistic director of the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, where Lament for Sheku Bayoh was staged, said: “Beldina was a writer whose extraordinary talent was just beginning to be fully recognised on Scottish stages.

“Her songs explored life's hardest moments with honesty and beauty. Her work on Lament For Sheku Bayoh was unforgettable. We will miss her."

Musician and composer Roddy Hart, who was due to perform with Beldina at Celtic Connections, said: “Beldina was a captivating talent and truly gorgeous musical soul with so much more to give to the world.”

Singer-songwriter Kathryn Joseph said: “There is no one more beautiful. Our hearts are broken.”

Broadcaster Vic Galloway said: “This is such utterly shocking, tragic news. Such a singular talent and a lovely person ... she had so much ahead of her.”

Nick Barley, director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where Beldina had also appeared, said: “Beldina was a striking musical talent and a wonderful, generous person. The world will never be the same without her unforgettable voice.”