I HAVE loved music for a good number of my years. Music reminds me quite many things.
The first song I watched on You tube, for example, was Glen Gold Smith’s “dreaming” off the 1988 album, “what you see is what you get.”
Preceeding this, are other intersting memories. For instance, “So So Def” was my best record label ever followed by Bad boy records, among others. If am not mistaken anyone close to my desk in high school from form 3 on words will quote me right.
Back home, I still have memories for three Ugandan songs. Philly Lutaya’s Kampala and Afrigo’s semuwemba then Jim.
Lutaya’s Kampala was my first song to be listened to in a car radio.
As a young man one day i was walking on Kla streets with mum holding me by hand, whilst crossing from what’s present day Security house, then UDIAM house (Guess the home of Tropicana 110 Those who recall do) i saw a Toyota Corolla DX pass by- (how did i know it’s a Toyota Corolla DX then ?).
That’s another story for another day.
My escapades with cars is also another book. From walking to spear motors to ask about the price of a Mercedes Benz in S 4 vac, to stoping a benz truck to pay for the same UGx Sh200, in around P2 or 3, to keeping a picture of an old E190 1986 Mercedes from P3 to S2.
Back to music, with a loud beat of an acoustic sound of string and metal, a with an outstanding beat I had never heard of, symphonying Lutaya’s praise of Kampala.
Joanita kawalya’s Jim is a 1995 Afrigo band single that rocked the new FM radio stations .
These two songs start off my discussion. What’s the secret behind what i will in my opinion deem the two of Uganda’s music aspects! Thats is to say,
a)The never fading passion for Afrigo Band.
b)The never ceasing sound of Uganda’s Christmas signature voice of Philly Lutaya’s lone Christmas album.
Understanding these two, gives us the index of discussing Uganda’s music.
The two faces, Afrigo band and the person of Philly Lutaya are a corner stone in Uganda’s music and they start the journey of what we have as the present definition of music.
What is common with the two, manifests our music history and what separates the two, on the other hand, places our contemporary musicians in real context of this discussion.
Their history being a define of our music is partly as discussed below:
The setting of our societies prior to the colonial emergencies, saw different cultures with music as a fibre of the social set up.
The Baganda for example, had music for burials, weddings, worshiping, wars, travel , fishing etc this was the same with all the other of the major five interlucustrine kingdoms in the present day Uganda.
A friend from western Uganda once told me, he can whistle and all the cows gather around him I understood this to mean, that their was music too their that was used to symbolise the face of a herdsman.
I once played an akog (thumb piano,) an instrument whose percussion plays the jingle at the start of NTV’s akawungezi news bulletin. It’s a west nile instrument, that confirms that in The various parts of the country, music had space.
The coming of the guitar, saw a new direction of local music, especially here in central, as it moved from typical tradition folk songs to what was popularly called kadongo kamu (The would be country music in central )
This type of music carried on until the emergence of Congolese bands and rhythms. Many musicians were inspired by super mazembe and Tabley’s styles of this genre, not forgetting Franco.
What’s common of Afrigo and Lutaaya is the fact that both gather their original style, from these Congolese bands.
Afrigo band started as Africa go band. The band today led by a former school teacher and talented footballer Moses Matovu, played the drum beats picking style from Congolese Franco among others, to entertain Idd Amin.
Philly lutaya summarises his journey of music, in one of his singles “Osobolootya”
A song in which he narrates his journey from the dark days as he was discovered by Mr. Stelli.
He played with colleagues like sebiteke Gerald, Kiwanuka, Kasule , Kigozi, mbalala, Mzee Mansulu, Dungu Mukungu, Most analysts argue that he was referring to Summy Kasule another icon of the 80s who latter joined Afrigo band.
A friend of mine who went out much with Lutaya in Sweden narrates to me how “Hanifa omulongo” this writer’s favourite, was a true story.
All this was in Rwenzoli band, prior to Hope Mukasa connecting him to Sweden where he worked with small town studio based in Stockholm.
Why did the two dominate the late 1980s and early 90s?
As seen above, prior to the 80s Uganda’s music was basically a stock of kadongo kamu and a passion for congolese music.
Masagazi, Eclaus Kawalya, Elly Wamala , Frida Sonko, Christopher Sebadduka, Dan Mugula, Matia Kakumilizi, Namale, etc were the shape and fashion of our music.
It’s these icons who gave the 80s and early 90s musicians pace. Real kadongo kamu, dominated the one radio station “radio Uganda.” Haman Basudde, Fred sebbale, Paul Kafeero, Willy Mukabya, Haman Kasozi, Fred Sebata etc were the stars .
Amidst them, were band players . Emitos of Umar Katumba, the kads band, etc who were too in the picture. Others were Jimmy Katumba who also gradually silenced out as the 90s welcomed the modern genres.
Therefore Afrigo n Lutaya, had a totally distant style from their contemporary’s crowd which made them the lead figures to the modern stage.
The other reason why the two were dominate, was that, the 1970s n part of the 80s, were a half decade of war. This silenced substantially most of Kampala night life.
Howeverclose to the end of the 1980s NRA war, came songs that gave hope to Kampala folks. Peter Balijjidde sung “Agawalagana” a song that nearly cost him his life for it’s mystirical meaning – my grandmother tells me.
Never the less, it was a take of the forthcoming victory of the NRA rebels and how the country shall put Its self to order.
At the end of the war, Kampala saw life back . This partly explains why Philly lutaya outdid all his predecessors in dominating Kampala streets.
His Christmas album, came just after these times of war, with joy happiness. But above all, the quality of his music production was so above the ordinary Uganda.This explains partly why hither too, his Christmas album still dominates .
Afrigo on the other hand, gave rhythm to the social problems that struck the country then. A song like speed, was a caution against HIV while oliyigaddi okufumba, was a song about a woman who had failed to satisfy her husband sexually.
It’s dominance and playing house hold music , accounts for its playing the memorable early 90s advert for Nile breweries nile special.– “Ffe twagala nile speciallager kabaka wa biya awatali nile special lager tetunywa kilala…….”
One important point to note, Afrigo Band and Philly lutaya together much as they set the pace , non of the two has more than fifty songs. However , there are artists today, with over twenty songs but have failed to brake through why ?????
To be continued…………
The writer Denis Nyombi is an advocate and Historian. 256-754 592 447