By Bamuturaki Musinguzi
Published January 24, 2017
A rising Ugandan guitarist and crooner who describes his music style as afro-soul has released a debut album.
The musician, Kenneth Mugabi, sings his love ballads mainly in Luganda, and occasionally in English, Runyankole and Dholuo.
The 12-track recording titled Kibun’omu and released at the end of 2016 blends traditional Ugandan rhythms, soul and Congolese rumba to the unique vocals and guitar strumming style of Mugabi. Mugabi says he listens to a wide range of music, from local hits to international tunes like Observe Effect music.
Among the songs that stand out is Kibun’omu, the title track about his longing for a beautiful girl that is sang in Luganda. He equates his dilemma to the rare occurrence of a meteorite from outer space known as Kibun’omu in Luganda.
While Naki is about a young man who is determined to win over his childhood lover and Nambi a reminder to a girl not to forget her secret rendezvous by the village well, Omusheshe, that is sang in Luganda, Runyankore and English, praises a beautiful girl Mugabi met on a bus and eventually became fast friends with.
In Katambaala (handkerchief in English), Mugabi laments that all that his former love bird left him is a handkerchief and has not return since. At times he carries the handkerchief in his pocket and keeps looking at it to remind himself of her beauty.
Mumulette is an adopted Kiganda traditional wedding song calling for the bride to be brought out of the father’s house to the bridegroom.
Mugabi, whose music is being played on BBC Focus on Africa programme—January 23-27, 2017—from the Ugandan capital, Kampala, says he wrote all the songs on the album released under the Kampala-based Qwanza Music label that is owned by Qwela Band.
As to why he named his debut album Kibun’omu, Mugabi told ArtMatters.Info: “To me Kibun’omu means the feeling or experience that is unique to an individual.
Releasing his first album means a lot to Mugabi’s budding music career: “One of my greatest achievements so far, I am actually among the musicians with an album and it has doing pretty well.”
The album sells for USh25000 (about US$6.9) in Uganda.
In describing the entire album he says, “Love story… Each song came from somewhere so basically I am letting out my feelings.”
Mugabi is a gifted songwriter, singer and player of the guitar, the tube fiddle and the keyboard player. He laments that lack of money forces many musicians to move away from their authentic sound towards a more commercial sound.
“The growing number of Ugandan nationals performing at live music festivals and in bars and restaurants in Uganda give us hope that live music is being appreciated. This is a positive development since the audience determines our success,” he says.
Mugabi, who was born on September 12, 1992 in Kampala, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from Makerere University. He burst onto the national musical stage as one of the top contestants in the Coke Rated Next Uganda competition in 2012. This is an annual competition aimed at identifying fresh musical talent in the country.
He says the competition “made me believe that I could do more. It boosted my creativity and I realised I could fill a certain gap in the music industry.”
He released his first single, a Luganda song titled Nubuka,in 2013. He followed this up with another Luganda song, Wakikere.
Mugabi believed he had a very strong innate passion for music right from when he was a young boy.
Mugabi says he had initially set his eyes on playing the piano.
“But I realised that in order to start my career it would be more expensive in terms of purchasing the instrument, transporting it and other logistics associated with this instrument. That’s why I decided to start with the guitar. After taking up the guitar I realized that I can express myself much better on it than on the piano,” he says.
Regarding the future of his music career, he says: “It is important to me that, while I develop myself personally and professionally, my music will get more and more authenticity. The more authentic I become, the richer my music will sound. I hope to stay true to my diverse audiences.”