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Why Ugandans are yet to appreciate folklore music

Sabar Zibula’s Mame N’diack at LaBa! Art Festival over the weekend

It’s always been a major problem when festival curators are looking for acts to programme; it’s said, many would want to give our famous artistes a chance but most of the times, the artistes barely make even half of these festivals’ tall order.

In 2012, it’s basically hard to forget how Bebe Cool struggled with the first parts of his performance during Bayimba International Festival of the Arts, how Haruna Mubiru failed to connect with his audience, Henry Tigan’s debacle or Sheebah Karungi asking the DJ to low, while signaling the drummer.

Organizers of these shows have usually faced a torrid time getting artistes that can pull off their performances and still sound as interesting as they do on CD.

Often, music pundits have blamed this on the way our famous music is produced – barely with any actual instrument; all an artiste will need at times is a laptop and just like that, an album is done.

The situation leaves, festivals and shows interested in live music like Bayimba, LaBa!, Nyege Nyege, Milege World Music or even Blankets and  Wine among others with no options but folklore/world music artistes.

These are artistes (mostly young) that have appreciated an African sound and thus want it to influence much of their work, in that way, as many upcoming acts go for high end guitar sophiscation, or complicated sax sounds, the group will opt for a dash of it but primarily local instruments like Kadinda, Ndere, Akogo and Adungu among others.

The recording of this music is usually done live and thus the ease for them to replicate it on stage, either with a band or even just a guitar.

A folklore performance during World Music Day celebrations in 2014

On Thursday, as you may already know, one of these artistes Joel Sebunjo held a concert, with a team of guest appearances by Giovanni Kiyingi, Sandra Nankoma alias Sandy Soul and new kid on the block Keneth Mugabi.

It’s a group that’s not merely talented but also one that writes music that is easy to relate with for instance Kiyingi and Mugabi sing about things we care about like politics, social conscience and love.

Even Sandy Soul’s banger of the night Omusada w’eka, which talks about lazy men, is about an issue that’s barely discussed.

Yet, even with the rich message and a fact that much of it is delivered in local languages, it didn’t seem to have swayed the crowds their way. The audience at the Joel Sebunjo concert was typical of those at different shows of a kind; many of them were expatriates and their friends.

According to Patricia Mawanda, a reveler, people would actually love to watch this music but they don’t know where to find it, she says adding that considering a fact that they love Annet Nandujja and the planets or all those songs that have been influenced by the folk like Irene Namatovu’s Kuzala Kujaganya to Navio’s latest Njogereza, it’s clear they love what’s authentic but they only can’t access it.

Navio has too done songs with a folklore feel

And you can’t completely fault her reasoning, it’s been an outcry for a longtime about Ugandan art being inaccessible to the Ugandans, apparently the local community feels like much of the art is packaged to exclude them, for instance, much of the visual art at galleries is usually priced in US dollars even when Uganda has a currency.

“The moment I see a price in dollars, it’s like am being told that I wasn’t expected there in the first place,” Mawanda says adding that it is literally the same case with the Subunjo’s concert being priced at shs100,000 and shs200,000 and somehow still expect the real lovers of folklore ndingidi and ngoma Nganda to show up.

Just like many people, Mawanda believes that art, including folklore music is packaged as something very complicated; “They make this music extraordinary like it shouldn’t be understood or listened to by everybody.”

However, others put the blame on the electronic media; a radio presenter that requested anonymity notes that most Music schedulers and Programs directors, are ignorant of the music genres and think only studio refined music from the likes of Bebe cool is music or Chris Brown and at times playing artistes because they’ve been hyped.

He adds that it’s made worse by a fact that the crowd wants to listen mostly to songs that have already made it than new ones; “So Radio stations are forced to play what the listeners want in order to stay afloat with the others.”

About Kaggwa Andrew

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