By Bamuturaki Musinguzi
Published September 6, 2013
A three-hour pulsating performance of funky folk music is what music lovers got for their US$19 per head from Kaz Kasozi, Uganda’s funk-master. The concert was at Jazz Ville in Bugolobi, Kampala, Uganda, on August 10, 2013.
Much to the delight of his fans Kasozi, who performed with his new Blue Sugarcane band, played music from his wide and eclectic back catalogue. On the menu were hits from his work ranging from the 1990s to-date.
The group, that has brought a sugar stained slice of Ugandan afro-funk and blues to the scene, kicked off the show with Duka, off his 2005 album, Naked and Blue.The song admonishes one to put up only with positive people, those that appreciate one.They also played Kati Oze, a Ugandan blues hit flavoured with the ‘gonno’ vocals from Buganda and Busoga. Babe Come Home, Cherry Lips, Running Head, and The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful were also served.
Playing the saxophone, Moses Matovu, who leads Afrigo band and who was the guest artist, accompanied Blue Sugarcane on Entalo Mubire and Sunny Days in Africa; the latter starts with rock and blues and ends up with Ekitagururo funk from Ankole in western Uganda.
The rhythm section had Kasozi on piano, electric guitar and vocals; Gerard Mbuya on drums; Ernest Otim on bass and Kenneth Oneka on keyboards. While the horns had Timothy Bulwa, Herbert Kiggundu was on the saxophone and Brian Mulindwa on trombone.
Producer-cum-musician Kasozi fuses blues, funk, jazz, pop/rock influences with an African sensibility. A multi-instrumentalist, his music is edgy and hard with guitar and laid back when on piano. His work has been likened to that of international acts like Richard Bona, Prince, Bill Withers, Lenny Kravitz and James Brown.
Besides producing or co-producing and arranging music for various international and local artists and bands, Kasozi, who has performed around the world, released his debut album, The Quest, in 1998. Naked and Blue, his second album, was released in 2005. He released Jazzmoss, a collaborative work with Louisa Le Marchand, in 2008. The next album, Dance with Me, came out in 2012. He says he plans to release his next album titled Postcard from Uganda in October 2013.
Kasozi told ArtMatters.Info in Kampala that he founded Blue Sugarcane to exhibit a certain flavour of live music ‘that is always morphing, growing, crying and laughing, among others’.
“When we record music in the studio it can be very cool; but nothing beats playing it live. I believe live music has a living soul and it has to continuously change according to the feeling, the audience, the heat, the venue and all sorts of other parameters,” he says. “One needs a band to play against these parameters.”
As to what has been his secret in fusing funk, soul, rock and afro-jazz, Kasozi says: “I have a passion to learn new things and test out how they can work together. For example, I have done extensive research on traditional rhythms in the east and west of Uganda and I incorporate these into my music. So rhythms like Kadodi, Luwengere, Ekitagururo, and Ekizino find themselves weaving in and out of the funky stuff I am making.”
Saying that traditional singing in Uganda already has elements of blues in it, he opines that these could ‘easily fit into funk, jazz and rock music’. “So I exploit all these possibilities,” he says.
Kasozi observes that the live band scene in Uganda is very promising “because there are bands springing up all over the place and this will increase the competition which in turn improves the quality of music and musicians. The problem is that there are not enough competent musicians on the scene so most of the bands use the same musicians. So everywhere you go you will find the usual suspects under another moniker but this will change as more competent players come on the scene.”