22 December 2010

Uganda: Philly Lutaaya's Music Suffers Generation Gap

As Christmas draws nigh, the late Philly Lutaaya's Christmas carols, alongside those of the Boney M, dominate the airwaves, street corners and almost all shopping malls.

The reason why this music is such a big thing is because of its quality. Philly, whose music leaned more to Rumba, ranks up there among the best ever musicians this country has had. But since his death on December 15, 1989, his secular music songs on the Alone and Born in Africa albums are rarely played on the FM radios.

Fat Boy, a radio presenter on Sanyu FM tells The Observer that most radio stations stick to a brand of music in which they have competitive advantage. At Sanyu, their brand is RnB. The biggest part of their audience encompasses the youth, who are not keen on oldies but new music.

"In fact the kids always complain when we have the oldies day, which is the last Wednesday of the month. They cannot wait for it to end," says Fat Boy.

Fat Boy adds that because of their audience, most oldies music has been given little airplay and it is not Philly's music alone. Nick Nyombi, the Programmes Director at Dembe FM, said Ugandans are too into current stuff. Most music lovers want new music and, therefore, quickly forget about the old music.

Apart from Philly's Christmas songs, the rest of his music is not relevant today. But Nuwa Nyanzi, a renowned fine-artist disputes that argument, saying what you feed the public on, is what they grow to love.

It is, therefore, not true that young people do not like oldies music. "Besides, have these FM radios done any research to ascertain their view?" Nyanzi wondered.

Oldies supportive survey

In a random survey done at the National Theatre early this week, out of the thirty youth between ages 20 and 35 interviewed, twenty-nine of them said they love oldies, be it foreign or Ugandan, and only one was not interested in oldies.

This brought Nyanzi to conclude that radio production managers do what they want, of late. They select foreign music that they like and when it gets to local music, Nyanzi says, they will play music by their musician friends in order to promote them.

"If you do not press for your music today, it will rarely get play time."

Moses Matovu, the music director of Afrigo Band - arguably the masters of oldies - says that generally, Ugandans' appreciation of good music is still wanting.

"I do not think Philly's music can be compared to any of the contemporary music in terms of message and content. Philly's music will remain miles ahead."

For Tshaka Mayanja, a music producer, he is usually at pains discussing the music played on most of the FM radios here. But the fact that they hardly play Philly's secular songs, which he believes are richer in value compared to his Christmas songs, has brought him to one conclusion: "They do not know music."

Before Julianna Kanyomozi did a rendition of Philly's Diana in 2008, it had become an archived song. But it is this song that earned Julianna the artiste of the year 2008 award. A song like Alone is so touching to people's lives for its bearings on transforming attitudes on loving faithfully to avoid HIV.

But until December 1, World AIDS day, you will not hear Alone played. Other songs on that album like Nakazaana, Emiziro, Nazza Gwaki among others are all rich in terms of instrumental balance and message.

The Born in Africa album is also a fine music compilation with Empisazo, Entebbe Wala and Nkooye Okwegomba. Listening to this music brings a sense of nostalgia.

Therefore, wouldn't you wish such music is played more regularly in tribute of such an incredible singer, composer and producer that Philly was, 21 years since his passing?

Make your requests known to your favourite radio station then!

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