6 November 2012

Uganda: Was the Book of Kirya Worth the Wait?

It is the time of the year when you feel like listening to something new.

The long-awaited Maurice Kirya's second album, The Book of Kirya, is finally out, and no matter how busy that October Friday was, I was determined to be there as the singer made yet another milestone.

This is because Maurice's first release, Misubbaawa, left lasting impressions when the singer chose to differ from others. Instead of an album launch, which every Ugandan artiste does, Maurice invited journalists to a listening party at Cineplex cinema at Garden City where he officially released Misubbaawa.

It was the same story this year - a press launch at Cineplex cinema Nakumatt Oasis mall, which attracted more of the singer's fans, friends and relatives than journalists.

And this must have worked for him because unlike Misubbaawa where he had to give each journalist a free copy of the album, this time round the fans that had been mobilized on social media sites like facebook and twitter competed to carry home an autographed Maurice Kirya CD, which cost Shs 25,000.

It took a year and a half to get this album out, and this occasion was not only a big deal for Maurice but also his fans. In his speech, an emotional Maurice dressed in a UG @ 50 Definition shirt, struggled to hold back tears.

"Today, a new chapter is opened; a new era. Today, these words are more than words. Today will mean a lot tomorrow. Today's presence is vital for the magnitude of tomorrow. Today we make a mark that can never be wiped away. Today will live forever," he said in a breaking voice.

If it were food, Maurice's speech would be the starter. I couldn't wait to listen to the album. However, after listening to all 14 tracks on the album, I didn't get that feeling a writer gets when writing about something s/he loves.

In fact, two weeks after the album release, I was still thinking about what to write about The Book of Kirya. Something lacks that fulfills that authentic Ugandan touch to his music on this album. Could it be because the bar raised by Misubbaawa is still too high for him to reach?

Misubbaawa took Maurice places when he won the Radio France International Discoveries Music award. To follow up such a great album; you want to be consistent and strive for relatable transcendence.

However, when you listen to Maurice on this new album, you are tempted to make that harsh judgment that more should have been put into it in terms of creative crafting of the songs.

The album opens with Maurice's acoustic world - Mulembe Gwa Kirya - a song that sounds like a tiresome game of guess the celebrity, with Maurice predicting how today's youths will one day say they grew up in Maurice's era.

The album then ventures into blues with If My Lungs Don't Fail, Nnanaagira and The Blue Dress Song. And if this were a sugarcane, this is where some sweetness begins, because some of the lines on these three tracks you can sing along to. But if you compare their sweetness with Boda Boda and Misubbaawa, then you may not enjoy them.

"This new album lacks the depth and dynamism to transcend genres and generations as Misubbaawa did. It comes off as something he had to pull off under pressure," says one of Maurice's fans.

Whereas Maurice acknowledges that "this album is the hardest project I have ever worked on", he says it is a truly universal album.

"I wanted to create an album that would appeal to everyone from all walks of life regardless of age, race, religion ...," he says. "I want the whole world to know that we can record this kind of music - live music in Uganda and have it on the international stage. My goal is to raise the Ugandan musical flag for the whole world to see but also to inspire the youth about this possibility."

According to Maurice, The Book of Kirya is a musical documentation of how his mind works in black and white. It was recorded in Kampala by producer Sam Bisaaso of Black Smith studios, and mixed and mastered by Jazzworx studios, Randburg, in South Africa and the packaging was done in London by Disc manufacturing services, Plymouth UK.

A book has chapters and dynamics and this album is intended to bring out who Maurice is as an artiste, the world side, acoustic side; there are many sides to his music life that have never been explored.

But while the cover is catchy with Maurice's hairless head thanks to photos taken by Face studios Kampala, and Will Boase, it is difficult to figure Maurice's secrecy on this album - as he pretty much sounds the same - apart from Ugandan Girl featuring guitarist Myko Ouma.

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