By Bethsheba Achitsa with Ogova Ondego
Published November 4, 2009
The beauty of the African continent is unmatched. Apart from the natural beauty of the continent, rich and varied wildlife and agreeable climate, African tunes with the riveting dance rhythms of the people best capture the beauty of the mother continent. With the emergence of ephemeral, fast-produced formulaic mantra-like genres: Kapuka and Genge in Kenya and Bongo Flava in Tanzania, that appeal to hip-hop-loving younger people, Africa’s commercially-driven airwaves are giving less attention to the celebration of truly African music.
This partly explains why great afro-fusion artists like Sarah Ndagire may not be so well known among the new generation but her music “a celebration of Uganda folk songs and other traditional rhythms” puts her ahead of many other up-and-coming musicians.
A singer whose solo career has just begun, Ndagire has produced two music albums, Katiitiira (2006) and Train (2007). The 2006 album is all the more significant to the African music because it is in this album that she fuses modern and traditional rhythms, bringing to the limelight the beauty of traditional folk songs of Uganda that are likely to appeal to connoisseurs as much as to any ordinary listener who enjoys well packaged music.
Katiitiira, that opens the 2006 album, was an original folk song that Ndagire has fused with modern rhythms to give it a more contemporary feel. The song is followed up by another eclectic song, Peter which is about distant love. The song is about a distressed woman whose husband has left for Japan to make money to better the lives of his family; six months later the wife has not heard a word from him, forcing her to share her plight with her work colleagues. She tells the story to the background of a highly danceable Congolese-styled beat.
This is just an insight to one of the many themes that Ndagire’s music tackles. While she seeks to enlighten the world about the traditions of her own people, she uses her music to voice the challenges facing women and children. Oliko Meyo, sang in Luganda, talks about broken promises, love and betrayal.
In her second album Ndagire refers herself as a train that will travel to every city to let other people know of her people’s rhythms. However in this album she addresses serious issues like the HIV/Aids scourge which is captured in Kunsiko Yaffe that opens the 2007 album. The message behind the song is to caution people about this deadly animal “HIV” that is attacking humanity. The song calls upon everyone to get out their weapons and fight it. Village woman speaks of the role of women as breadwinners.
Ndagire’s music is both educative and unique in many ways. But the fact that Ndagire sees the need to promote the traditional rhythms is all the more fascinating. This perhaps is the only way to get the local airwaves to start noticing this great asset of the African culture that is being ignored by “modernity” and “globalisation”
It is definite that songs like Peter, Nyami Jumbi and Katiitiira irrespective of the language they are sang in have the universal appeal that any avid listener cannot fail to warm up to. Folk songs may look very much outdated to the current breed of musicians, but any musician who wants to produce music that will stand the test of time needs to tap into the traditional music for inspiration.
As if to appeal more to the world that is getting more hooked to audiovisual media content, Ndagire has now put selected songs of her music on DVD. It has Melody, Nyamijumbi, Olikom’eyo, Katitira, Train, Kunsiko, Peter and, of course, Ndagire’s profile.