25 June 2004

Uganda: Cultural Troupes Usher in Frenzy On World Music Day


Kampala — World Music Day festival is one of France's contribution to world culture. Started in 1981, it has since become a true social phenomenon and tradition.

Every year on June 21, in France, thousands of musicians, both amateur and professional, gather at all public places to celebrate the true spirit of music.

In keeping with the tradition, Alliance Française de Kampala in conjunction with the French Embassy, organised the event on Monday at the national theatre with a theme 'To promote and enjoy good music'.

The groups that lined up to celebrate this day were so diverse that they would make your head spin. It is for this reason I too hoped on a boda boda after work on Monday afternoon, head spinning and giddy with the possibilities of what promised to be yet another day of great live music.

The fact that it was a free-for-all affair meant the crowd would be big. Indeed on arrival, I came face to face with a big listening party craning its necks and feasting on the spectacle being provided by cultural troupes, including Aboluganda kwagalana, led by the Albert Sempeke, Kampala Tarab Club, Dynamic Adungu Cultural group, Wat Mon cultural troupe from northern Uganda, and martial by M-Lissada Brass band, wafted in the air.

After their set, everybody walked to the Crafts Village yard, which had been transformed into an arena and where many revellers were whiling the evening away by stuffing in chicken and guzzling chilly Pilsner lagers.

The first group on stage was Simba Sounds led by the incomparable Tony Senkebejje. He ignited the crowd with a slow jam, Eyali Akwagala, which is also one of my favourite tunes. But the best moments came whenever I dropped into blues and jazz territories.

However, when Jane Kayanja came to sing Obufumbo ye mwana, the three piece backing band simply did not know a thing about orchestration, let alone good playing and note perfection.

The Big Five we also witnessed, was not the musical force they used to be, but Jimmy Katumba, now popularly known as Ludigido, proved his vocal chords are still in good form, though he sang to a back-up CD.

The teeny boppers were also served well by Klear Kut, but it was the Bataka Underground crew who threatened to blow up everyone with their Tujja Kubabya.

If there was any misgiving about their set, it was actually the good dose of those endless and tiresome call-and-response routines "make some noi-oise!" "Everybody say 'yeah-a! Are you feeling OK? Gyemuliii?"

Percussion Discussion, the guys who sound like nobody, but themselves, popped on stage and thrilled the audience percussive set which included favourites like Mwafrica and sweet-sounding Mulamu.

After their turn, Wamani Musica, one of the headlining acts of the evening which the organisers had flown in from DR Congo, were announced. They did not disappoint although there was a déjà vu feeling to their set, thanks to some local skulls that have approximated Congolese music style and dance routines and in so doing carved themselves a mainstream career. But you can beat the quality of the original product. As the chaps of Wamani Musica bounced around the stage, you would think the spirit of something musically intoxicating was passing through their veins. They sprinted through the music with a dazzlingly tight display of fineness that drove many, especially the tourists, to higher ground.

This proved they are indeed a polished group that were not only worth bringing, but could give some of those Paris-based groups we seem to idolise so much, like Wenge Musica's, a run for their money. The World Music Day festival was so easygoing and family friendly, My advice? Oh, if you get a chance to be in town when it is being celebrated, don't miss it.

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