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Kenneth Mugabi comes of age at Bayimba

“But what is the difference between Kenneth Mugabi and Maurice Kirya?” asked a girl close to the stage as Mugabi was opening his set on Saturday night at the just concluded Bayimba International Festival of the Arts.

Mugabi and Kirya are two artistes that have been compared since the latter auditioned in Vision Group’s televised talent search, Rated Next; the year was 2013 and surprisingly, Kirya was one of the judges.

Mugabi did not win the contest but may have enjoyed a better music career than Daniel Kaweesa the winner of the show. Mugabi is also probably the best male artiste to have emerged from the competition that later gave us Apio Moro and Winnie Nwagi.

From singing scores for films New Intentions and Reform by Kennedy Kihire and Ken Ssebaggala, he has slowly found his footing in the industry. From festival performances, wedding gigs and bigger dos like Qwela junction: The Crooners, Mugabi has won people over that he no longer needs an introduction.

Of course, there was fear that the man was going to become a one-hit-wonder, how could he bounce back from the love that song ‘Naki’ was receiving? But he has somehow manoeuvred through a lake of girls requesting for ‘Naki’ to push other songs like ‘Kibunomu’, ‘Amaaso g’otulo’and ‘Nkwegomba’.

On Saturday night, however, he was facing a different challenge, performing at an island remote from Mukono and Kampala, the urban places that could have heard of his songs. In Lunkulu, an island Bayimba Foundation acquired to host many of their activities, he wasn’t a darling.

Many of the locals had only come for the third day of the four day festival because they liked how the first day had played out, they had enjoyed Gravity Omutujju on Thursday night and somehow expected more of the same.

Others that were in the know, knew Aziz Azion was coming through thus stayed around to stomach all the different sounds from soul, neo-soul and ethno that they don’t consume off their small radios.

Mugabi took the stage after Sandra Nankoma  a powerful performance she had served – like a boy trying to introduce himself to a suspicious audience, he started with a self-titled song Mugabi; the song is off his new album Ugandan.

Here, he talks about a girl that calls his name in ways that makes him forget all her wrongs that even when he plans to end the relationship, imagining her call his name changes his mind. This is one of the things he shares with Kirya, they love their names so much that they all have songs about them. And of course, the fact that they both sing to the ladies.

With a sizable audience, Mugabi turned the show into a choir of sorts, making girls that had moved closer to the stage sing word for word on songs such as ‘Nkwegomba’ – he smiled and laughed with his audience which made the entire performance as engaging.

For over two hours, alongside his talented band consisting of Eugene Gum, Ronnie Bukenya, Aloysius Migadde, Julius Ssengoba and Ernest Otim, he had to sample his catalogue doing a few songs from his new album to those from the debut Kibunomu.

By the time he concluded his performance at 10pm, he had done the audience’s most loved song, Naki, yet the audience started screaming for more. But it was a festival, every artiste must do their slot and leave.

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