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Tshaka Mayanja strums away

Qwela Junction pays homage to the bass

Qwela Junction could be Uganda’s epitome to exhibiting as far as musical instruments are concerned – choosing to get an excess of a single instrument on one stage.

Last year, they did it with the saxophone, and lead guitars, they would later venture into male and female vocalists with divas and crooners editions.

On Sunday at Serena Hotel’s Victoria Hall, Qwela Junction was back at paying tribute to yet another vital yet very uncelebrated instrument on a band, the bass guitar.

For it’s conversational form, a bass guitar usually complements the louder instruments on the set like drums, lead guitar, saxophone and piano – even when the bass plays a vital role of setting the rhythmic and harmonic foundations in music, it is easy for the players to go unnoticed because people may hardly notice the bed their sound creates.

It’s this component of the instrument that made Qwela Junction: Bosses of Bass such a daring yet so far the most experimental edition that Qwanza Music and House of DJs, the organizers have yet ever put together.

With respectable names in the industry like Ernest Otim, Martin Mutabingwa and Josh Mutebi, they had put together some of the seasoned session bass players any band could ask for, not that they are just good, but even a fact that they are different in style.

Otim for instance is a mixture of an indigenous play with a little mix of funk; Mutabingwa gets it right with the groove while Mutebi’s sound is simply urban and chill.

With the three challenging each other on different songs, they managed to show a presence of the bass though not fully upstaging one Fidel Mambo on the lead guitar – he kept his sound at least as loud as theirs and at some points, he was more audible.

With an audience yet to appreciate bass, they choose to kick their performances off with songs that a bass guitar has given signatures, thus went on a repertoire of classics like Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal, Beat it, Billie Jean, I Want you Back to Philly Lutaaya’s Empisazo.

The opener was enough to introduce us to the bassists – since very few of these guitarists have ventured into producing own bodies of works, much of what was played was songs they’ve been part of like Ndakwikundira where Qwela’s Joe Kahiri features with The Mith, Lillian Mbabazi and Ruyonga or Mama Tokaba  and Pecho among other songs.

But it was when Tshaka Mayanja was invited on stage that the mood of the show entirely changed, of course unlike the younger bassists he referred to as YouTube bassists, he only depended on his guitar to do amazing things – this was a contrary to the younger players that had guitar pedals  especially for effects.

He took music lovers to the days of his Dark Chocolate album where he mostly collaborated with singer Angella Kalule, with the backing of Myko Ouma, Michael Kitanda and Pragmo, they reminisced some songs from the album like Happy Birthday.

The show ended with Sammy Kasule joining Mutabingwa, Otim and Mutebi for Ozze Munange that got the house on its feet – not a regular performer on today’s circuit, Kasule has grace with his style of slapping and slapping the bass – most of the time in his performance, he took the lead while the other players watched and learned.

About Kaggwa Andrew

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