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Reggae legend Eric Donaldson in Uganda for reggae festival

Reggae legend Eric Donaldson of the classically enduring Cherry Oh Baby fame is in the country for a one-day Reggae festival on April 22. The 70-year-old Jamaican music icon who is on his first ever tour of East Africa that started in Kenya on the April 14, arrived at Entebbe Airport on Monday evening, 10.30pm. The reggae festival, dubbed “The Cherry-Oh Jamboree”, will take place at the Jahazi Pier in Munyonyo.

“The “Cherry-Oh Jamboree” festival is 12 hours of entertainment, with great music names like Ugandan roots reggae band, RPV The Dons, Kenya’s Reggae 5 band featuring the versatile Nazizi Hirji, and Burundi’s reggae icons, Loin Story, a celebrated reggae band. The evening will climax with a performance by Donaldson, one of the founding fathers of reggae, playing live with Lion Story,” says David Cecil of East African Records, the Muyenga based company that is hosting the reggae legend.

Donaldson’s classic song, Cherry Oh Baby, has since been covered by music icons like The Rolling Stones and UB40, making it even more globally famous. That is the song that earned the young Donaldson the top prize in the Jamaican Festival Song Competition in 1971 and turned his fortunes around forever. With Donaldson’s distinctive high voice and catchy lyrics, the song went far beyond the shores of the Caribbean, quickly becoming a hit single in the UK, before the success spread worldwide. The song has been a regular feature of reggae DJ playlists worldwide since the 1970s.

Uganda has the honour of welcoming one of the founding fathers of reggae music: the mighty Cherry-popper himself after nearly fifty years of enjoying his music. Donaldson’s ‘Traffic Jam’ and ‘The Lion Sleeps’ still feature regularly in East African soul & reggae playlists, on top of several other hits from his 15 albums spanning from the early 70s to 2004 when he last released an album. Donaldson will spend several days rehearsing with the Burundian reggae maestros Lion Story at the East African Records studio in Muyenga, to prepare for a unique live show. An excited fan posted on his FaceBook wall: “This is the land of my birth” is my best chune from Eric Donaldson. The 70-year old Jamaican Reggae star is in town this weekend. Must attend!

Who are the Lion Story reggae band?

This Burundian band of brothers boasts a major following in Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. Throughout their decade-long career, they have played annual shows in filled-up stadiums in Kigali and Bujumbura, as well as headlining international festivals such as Nyege Nyege.

They shot to attention worldwide after criticizing the use of violence by Burundi government forces in the Burundian civil war which led them to flee to Uganda where they are currently living. In true reggae fashion, their songs are a mixture of love, inspiration and politics. Besides backing Eric Donaldson they will be delivering a full set of their own original material, ahead of their new album release on East African Records.

The festival that starts as early as 10am will go on till the wee hours of the night and the entrance is fee is only fifty thousand shillings.

“There will be a friendly atmosphere, with vendors selling Caribbean and local food, as well as crafts and cocktails,” says Cecil.

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