Returning to Lugogo Cricket Oval years after I was here for a big international concert, I had different memories but couldn't stop relating Sean Paul's Friday concert to that of UB40 in February 2008.
From the level of organization exhibited by the organizers, the stage, lighting, sound, performance, crowd, there was always something that evoked memories of UB40. It was a chilly Friday evening following a heavy downpour which triggered heavy traffic snaking right in front of our offices. Some colleagues had already declared the show a flop with the drizzle continuing until 7pm.
But my photographer asked: "When was the last time these guys [who are making such conclusions] last attended a concert?"
Indeed the picture at Lugogo was different. We were met by long queues at all gates, as if it had not been raining. Clearly, there is something about Sean Paul that keeps bringing people back to his shows. It wasn't the first time the Jamaican artiste was performing in Kampala, but this concert cemented the fact that Sean Paul is Jamaica's Lucky Dube; an artiste you can bring to Kampala at any time of the year and be assured of cashing in.
In fact he has already earned himself a Ugandan name, Ssennabulya Paulo, if chats on Facebook are anything to go by. By 9pm, the ordinary section was full and a few minutes later, the VIP section was also spilling over. Just like UB40, Sean Paul attracted fans from all walks of life. The show started at 8pm with a competitive game for Uganda's DJs; DJ Shiru went first and then Club Rouge's DJ Aludah, all sampling dancehall tracks which set the mood for the superstar. Kyadondo rugby grounds' DJ Apeman chipped in with a hip hop session.
Curtain raisers then graced the event one after another. These included Peter Miles and Menshan, Brenda Nambi, Navio and Klear Kut. But it was Mowzey Radio and Weasel, Jose Chameleone and Leone Island's Young Mulo, that brought down the house. Never mind that Chameleone was rushing for his own show at New Club Obbligato the same night.
At exactly 10pm, the stage was left for the Jamaican artiste and his team. At 10:30pm, Sean Paul's band comprising a bassist, two keyboard players, a drummer and two back up vocalists (who also doubled as DJs) set the ball rolling. Sean Paul's queen dancers tantalized the audience for a while, doing exactly what we usually see in his videos. Then Sean Paul, dressed in a black jacket and tie with his signature Mohawk took to the stage entertaining guests for one and a half hours until midnight.
The singer belted out some of his well-known hits like Gimme Me Light, Gat To Love You, Dutty and Temperature, which got everyone singing along and screaming, hands in the air. The Jamaican performs with this energy that keeps no one on their seat. His occasional raunchy dance strokes drew oohs and aahs from female fans.
He had no time to waste; he came for music and music he gave. The only time he had something to say, it was: "People in the world have dreams. Ever since I was here in 2004, I have been dreaming of coming back to perform in Kampala."
Yes, there were times when it felt like Sean Paul's concert was fully live - it is tracks such as Baby Girl, which features Sasha, that exposed him.