Once upon a time, Congolese and South African music ruled the entertainment scene in Uganda. A party was not complete without Kanda Bongoman’s ‘Kwasa Kwasa’ or Koffi Olomidde’s Soukous dance.
Then came the exotic and complex waist-wriggling dance moves of ‘Ndombolo’ exhibited by the new generation of artistes led by boy-band group Wenge Musica. There was Ugandas’s darling Yvone Chaka Chaka, Pat Shange and the late Lucky Dube representing the South.
The music was live and done by a complete Band. No cheating from artistes ‘miming’ their own songs from CDs. Performances were original; well-choreographed and fresh.
A few Bands like Uganda’s Afrigo band, led by Moses Matovu and Joanita Kawalya, were our versions of the big boys from Congo and South Africa. Music was fresh, with original compositions that lasted decades. Full bands performing with queen dancers clad in African costumes like the Bitengi, Kikoyi and shiny velvet attires.
Sweet old times indeed. Someone once said oldies are goodies in reference to 1980’s and early 90’s music and I have come to live the experience.
I recently picked interest in the new budding and upcoming bands that perform live music in and around Kampala. Some are well refined others are a combination of very talented individuals, while others ride on good organization, management and professionalism.
You can talk of the likes of never expiring Afrigo Band, the dynamic Qwela and Revival bands, Milege Band,Band Aroma and The Eagles Production Band. We cannot forget very many of the lesser known but extremely gifted groups such as Percussion Discussion Afrika, Stone Band, Code 9 and Simba Band.
One such band that has interested me is the Talent Musica International which performs every Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at Sports View Hotel in Kireka a Kampala suburb. These guys bring all the old sweet memories back. I have just talked about the euphoria old music can create.
They are a small team of talented musicians who play a variety of acoustics and fusion music from Zouk, Rumba, (Kwasa-kwasa, Soukous and Ndombolo) from Congo to West African Zouk, Jamaican Raggae tunes and not forgetting our very own East African ‘Utake’ flavours.
When I had just taken my seat at the front row on the cool poolside at the rooftop of this quite hotel located on Jinja Road in Kireka, I was welcomed by a combination of sweet melodies from the instrumentalists as well as the organized harmonies the vocalists were putting up as they did a rendition of ‘Sinamakosa’ by the great Kenyan Band Les Wanyika.
Many individuals and bands have re-done this song and even recorded remixes, but this group was particularly impressive in a way partly because of their ‘limited resources’ in terms of sound and band equipment and also partly due to their few numbers with only eight members (Five multitasking – instrumentalists and three vocalists) they managed to pull it off.
Things even got better this particular Sunday evening, when they turned to Congo with General Defao’s 90’s super hit ‘Amour Scolaire’ complete with soukous dance strokes. A group of people from the predominantly adult audience seated next to me could not contain it anymore and soon were on their feet as they joined the band to a wild dance and cheering.
I got goose bumps all over my body as the lead vocalist, King Kimbeni, belted the vocals. They mixed the songs randomly but the flow was organized according to tempo, with slow ones like the great Oliver Mtukudzi’s African classic ‘Todii’ leading as they climaxed with the faster hot lingala songs like Koffi Olomidde’s Loi and JB Mpiana’s block buster hit song ‘Ndomblo ya Solo,’ which he did with Wenge Musica. Other common song renditions done are reggae jams from the late Lucky Dube and Bob Marley.
King Kimbeni a congolese, who also doubles as the band leader, told me after the show in an exclusive one-on-one that, the band is a mixture of Ugandan and Congolese artistes who were selected from other bands in and around Kampala and formed officially in 2011.
They became the in-house band for the hotel to entertain their patron clients who want to relax and unwind at the weekends. Most of the band members do not have side day jobs, so they dedicate their time for rehearsals and even some members have recorded their own singles which they perform too on the nights. They are working on a group debut album which they intend to release soon.
“I have many dedicated colleagues here who want to change the face of live band music in Uganda. So they work hard everyday” Said Kimbeni in heavy Congolese accent.
The other band members who only prefer to be called by their stage names include Sammy who plays lead (Solo) guitar, Delu on Base and Rhythm guitar, Jimmy on Key board and Ombeni on the drums, the support vocalists who also double as Queen dancers are Sandra and Flavia they add the ‘smoothness’ to balance with the deep voices of the men while the main backup vocalist is Bruce who also has mastered the artistry of dancing and stage performance.
King Kimbeni says despite challenges they face as an upcoming band, they have also received some support from the people who come to the hotel for accommodation and other facilities. He says because of that, they managed to get a few upcountry gigs in Westnile and other parts of Northern region during the festive season and were also invited to perform in functions in and around Kampala
“We are committed and our music is growing so we call upon the public to come and support us by sponsoring and attending our shows” King Kimbeni concluded as he packed his instruments.