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Nalangira on mission to sell world music

Who is Samuel Nalangira?
Samuel Nalangira is a multi-talented choreographer, dancer, singer, instrumentalist and writer. He plays almost all traditional instruments but is most outstanding with the Adungu and Kora.

Do you have a stage name?
Our kind of music is original and we prefer to be ourselves.

When did you start doing music?
I started doing music in 2010 but professionally, in 2012. That is when I started recording songs.

Tell us about the kind of music you do.
I do world music. It is traditional music that incorporates elements of Western pop; a fusion of traditional instruments with exotic machines such as the piano and guitar.

You have roots in cultural music, do you still perform it?
My roots are definitely cultural music because this is where I learnt all the instruments that I play, the songs, dance and choreography. I still perform but not as much as before because my new musical journey is a whole other job.

You mentioned choreography. What and where do you do this?
I mainly teach dance in schools. I do general music training in organisations such as MLISADA, Ashinaga, Crane High School, Georgina Primary School, among others.

World music is still struggling in Uganda. What is your take?
The fact that our music is originally a blend of traditional instruments, people find it boring but if they put an ear to it, they will actually find it interesting. We are stuck with foreign music, but world music is soul music.

What are some of the popular shows you have performed at?
I have performed abroad but for fear of doubt, I will tell you the ones here and that is Bayimba Festival and Milege Festival. I think those are the two stages that I have performed at. But I do gigs in bars around Kampala as well.

World music is popular abroad, have you done any shows abroad?
I travel a lot and this is because the guys out there love our music. I have performed in China, France Festival, Spain and I have done a couple of performances in Bilbao, Canada, Tanzania and Kenya.

How many albums or songs have you produced and which popular artiste have you worked with?
I have only two albums; Bwakakya which is entirely mine, and The Journey, which I did with Mame Diack. Bwakakya has 11 songs. I am yet to produce any video.

Who inspired you to join this kind of music?
I was inspired by Herbert Kinobe, whom I call the grandfather of world music. He had great lyrics and vocals that lured me into doing this amazing music genre.

What are the challenges you face doing this kind of music?
Most people think world music is for a certain class of people, that is the local people. They do not take time to listen to the music and appreciate it. This therefore makes it hard for them to appreciate world music. Another challenge is that the ground is not levelled for rising stars like me. It is hard and it takes a lot to attract fans.

So how do you plan to push and popularise world music ?
It is easy. Good music speaks for itself. I believe when one comes to watch me play, despite not loving world music, they will leave wanting more, wanting to get to know more about the instruments, and loving the music. I have heard those comments many times.

What message do you have for people who do not appreciate world music?
This genre is very rich and in most of the songs, you will find yourself jumping and dancing. I have personally played background and backed up in so many audios that I cannot count. Eddy Kenzo and Geosteady can testify. My appeal is that Ugandans embrace this music because it is “brewed from Kampala”.

Nalangira’s journey to breaking out

I was born in Masaka 30 years ago. At eight years of age, I was given a bursary to study at Brain Baker Primary School in Mbarara by the director Mr Joseph Suuna. I attended several secondary schools including Mbarara College and City Centre Secondary School. Because of my talent in music (cultural music then) that was taught to me by Dr George Ssenabulya, I did not pursue university education. I was already working, doing cultural music with groups for money.

To try and popularise our music, I thought it would be a great avenue to start a band that does only world music. Adungu Life was born and we perform only world folk music with a blend of our traditional instruments and the common exotic ones.

I also cannot believe myself sometimes, but I play the Adungu; a string instrument whose origin is from northern Uganda, the thumb piano locally known as Akogo, the tube fiddle, xylophone, punpipes, Engoni from West Africa and the new exciting Janzi instrument.

My plan is to start up a music school that trains children all the skills and basics of world folk music. Children should be able to play our local instruments because through this they can learn the others so easily. The West Africans have branded themselves and therefore we have to do the same.

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