By Bamuturaki Musinguzi
Published November 25, 2015
An initiative that promotes music talent among young people in Uganda has given music lovers a taste of its first fruits with the public performance of four finalists at a one-day festival in Kampala.
Four young talents—Timothy Arinaitwe, Ann Nassanga, J Wonder and Lynn Aineomugisha—were among the highlight of artists who entertained revelers during the second annual Pearl Rhythm Festival held on October 24, 2015, at the National Theatre in the Ugandan capital.
The four are beneficiaries of Stage Coach Seasons, an annual search for young, fresh and talented artists who join Pearl Rhythm to go through a three-month mentorship programme which includes studio production for The Pearl Rhythm Compilation CD and rehearsals to prepare them for their first Pearl Rhythm Festival performance accompanied by Arpeggio, an off the stage coach academy band, every October.
“It’s a growing project and I like the fact that the organisers have been in the music industry for a while and they have exposed us to marketing, performance, production and music composition skills so as to have a lasting music career and avoid being among the one-song-hitters. The organisers are putting in enough energy, time and thought as they endevour to develop an East African sound,” Nassanga (alias Afrie), told ArtMatters.Info.
On his part, Arinaitwe (alias Haka Mukiga) who says he plays folkloric Kigezi music, said Stage Coach is important because it preserves traditional music that would otherwise die out if it were not performed.
“Without musicians performing our traditional rhythms, our music may die out. For example, we longer have any one playing the ekinimba (flute) in Kigezi because the last player died some time back without passing on the skills to the younger generation,” Haka Mukiga said. “He died with the skills and music that had been passed on for many generations.”
While Afrie, a final year dental surgery student at Makerere University in Kampala played her songs Teliyomulala, Asikari and Grey (Hamwe), Haka Mukiga, a Bachelor of Arts student at Makerere University, delivered his Afro-fusion songs, Kunihira Abagenyi, Kazooba, Omutti Murungi and the Acholi love ballad, Tudu Wiye.
Haka Mukiga is a folk-reggae musician, vocalist, dancer, poet and choreographer whose music is rooted in Kigezi philosophy, spirituality and history. He plays the harp (enaanga), guitar and flute (omukuri).
Saying he stands for identity, creativity, harmony and unity in African music, Haka Mukiga says “Music is the only form of intellectual expression upon which world principles are determined.”
Aineomugisha, a singer and songwriter who performs contemporary music with cultural, alt rock and urban influences, played her song, Cycles, while Wonder excited the crowd with his Lumasaba rap songs, Munauganda and Ring Tone.
Suzan Kerunen, director of Pearl Rhythm Festival, says Stage Coach is an academy that takes place from February to April each year and that the Pearl Rhythm Compilation CD is a promotional tool that is given out free of charge to talent scouts, radio stations and sponsors to market Ugandan sounds and rhythms.
Besides the four finalists, bassist-singer Sammy Kasule, Saba Zibula, Micheal Kitanda, Jahliya Band, Saava Karim and Uwezo Impressions and Kahiri. Modern dance performances were by Break-Fast Jam/Breakdance Project Uganda and Inspirationz also performed at the festival that charged each reveler US$3.
“It’s good to see musicians, especially the young ones, playing live instead of using back-up CDs and shouting at the top of their voices,” said Kasule of the festival whose director described as “a platform for the Stage Coach artists and the existing world music musicians.”
Kerunen said the festival, run by Pearl Rhythm Foundation, “is a grass-roots music and creative community that aims to strengthen an independent music scene in Uganda besides developing the country’s indie music industry.”