By Bamuturaki Musinguzi
Published November 15, 2015
As he gets on the podium, the man is received with clapping, shouting and ululations from the sea of hungry music lovers. The charged crowd is up on its feet, dancing and singing along to the popular hits; Sirina, Muziki ye Sanyu, and Obangaina.
In the house for the third quarterâ€™s Quela Junction concert series is their â€˜Papa Moiseâ€™, the legendary Moses Matovu, co-founder of Ugandaâ€™s oldest band, Afrigo. Without wasting time on speeches and other niceties, Matovu, a household name, takes his fans through some of Afrigoâ€™s greatest hits to their joy and delight.
Matovu, a composer, arranger, alto saxophonist, flutist, vocalist and the leader and music director of Afrigo Band who began his music career almost 60 years ago in a band called The Cranes that wound up in 1975 giving way to Afrigo Band that has so far released 22 albums, is on this August 30, 2015 among the crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me of saxophonists invited to grace Qwela Junction, a quarterly musical concert that brings top instrumentalists in a collaborative family show at Kampala Serena Hotel.
The other equally established instrumentalists at the concert are Isaiah Katumwa; and Brian Mugenyi. Also present are some up-and-coming musicians: siblings Michael Kitanda and Habbi â€˜Happy Kâ€™ Kyazze; and Maureen â€˜MoRootsâ€™ Rutabingwa, the only female in the line-up. Joseph â€˜Saxâ€™ Kizito, a newer face on the jazz scene, too, present.
Tickets to the evening show, dubbed The Sax Aces is Sh50000 (about US$13.5) per head.
While Kizito, who plays for Janzi Band performs his songs Friday Night, Sax Madness and a rendition of Elly Wamalaâ€™s Viola, 24-year-old saxophonist and trumpeter Kitanda who performs with with Baximba Waves and Code 9 bands, plays two songsâ€”the title track Saxfaction and Ssemusajjaâ€”off his 2014 debut solo album Saxfaction and Folk Junction off his forthcoming album, Afrology. He also plays Qwela Bandâ€™s Star Taffa.
Kyazze, an alto saxophonist with Unit 446 band plays Beautiful Feeling, I am Happy and Wirira while 25-year-old Rutabingwa, a singer, composer, pianist, and the leading Ugandan female saxophonist, wooes her fans with Take It All Back (TIAB) and Million Pieces.
Rutabingwa started playing the piano and recorder while in her school choir at the age of six. She blows the saxophone for Qwela and Soul Deep bands.
Though he only started playing the sax in 2008 and his debut album, Take Time, was released in 2013, Mugenyiâ€”who started playing music instruments in church at the age of 8â€”puts up a good show playing Dawn and Kamungolo. He majored in piano at Africa Institute of Music (AIM) in Kampala, though.
Soprano and alto saxophonist Katumwa, who began his musical journey at Rev John Foundation Primary School in Kampala where he taught himself how to play the saxophone and has eight albums under his belt, plays Nakupenda Sana, and Sunrise. He just celebrated 20 years of his music career with a concert on May 8, 2015 with the South African multi-instrumentalist and singer Hugh Masekela as guest artist at the Kampala Serena Hotel.
These top saxophonists are accompanied by members of Qwela Band who play Mupenzi and Awinyo.
Thereafter Joe Kahirimbanyi, the founder of the quarterly Quela Junction concert series, tells ArtMatters.info that the idea behind the initiative is to stress that cooperation is the future of the music industry.
â€œWe can do a lot more when we work together; when we create joint efforts and alliances among ourselves,â€ Kahirimbanyi says. â€œWe have so much talent among ourselves that deserves of a much bigger stage than it is given in Uganda. Every year corporate organisations work hard in promoting foreign acts and performances at the expense of the local ones.â€
The Qwela Junction, he says, is an effort in answering the question, â€˜Do we have local talent that can be relevant on an international stage?â€™ The initiative seeks to bring together the fragmented audience base.
Kahirimbanyi believes that Uganda has instrumentalists who can sustain her music industry.
â€œContrary to belief that there is lack of talent, skill or musicians on the Ugandan stage what is missing is artist management, industry organisation and adequate finance. Our industry is full of talented musicians with frustrated dreams,â€ he argues.
â€œUnfortunately, we in Uganda often discredit and shoot down our own budding talent. If you have any doubts just look at how we treat some of our top musicians, beauty queens and athletes. I have no doubts in the sustainability of the Qwela Junction because every day I come across amazing skills and talent that makes me wonder, â€˜how is it possible you have been out there undiscovered?â€™,â€ Kahirimbanyi says.