UG to the world. Last week, Eddy Kenzo was nominated in the Grammy Awards for his song, Gimme Love, on which he features Matt B. The nomination is a big deal and now Gabriel Buule looks at all the names that have represented Uganda globally in the arts
The first time for a Ugandan musician to shine on the global scale, was in 1989 when Philly Bongole Lutaaya became popular after leading the fight against HIV/Aids stigma using music. His music prowess paved the way for Ugandan-based band Ziwuuna, comprising Sammy Kasule, Nadibanga, Mbalire and others.
However, before that, Geoffrey Oryema, who exported Acholi to France through music, had stamped his base in Europe, earning him international reputation for the release of his second album, Beat the Border on which he collaborated with Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno and other European artistes.
With Eddy Kenzo currently emulating Lutaaya and Oryema to raise Uganda’s music flag globally, there are many Ugandans giving Ugandan music a global moment and these include; DJs, musicians, promoters and calendar events.
Giovanni Kremer Kiyingi
When yoga master, better known as Sandhuguru visited Uganda last year, a performance by a 25-year-old had him on his feet, dancing. And today, the young man, a multi-talented Ugandan Afro-fusion singer-songwriter and instrumentalist, will be at it again.
At the event dubbed ‘The unveiling of a 112-foot-tall face of the Adiyogi Shiva the source of yoga’, Kiyingi performed for one million people at an event that was televised in seven languages to more than 500 million people globally.
To date, Kiyingi has performed on major stages both locally and internationally. Not known to the mainstream music consumers, Kiyingi has travelled to more than 10 countries, training and performing music.
Since 2019, he has had monumental performances at the Musical Instruments Museum Phoenix and also instructed world/traditional music in Uganda at Arizona State University.
He has also performed at the Jazz Nash, a venue for jazz music in Phoenix Arizona and also headlined many cultural festivals in Phoenix, Peoria and Mesa, all in the US.
An instrumentalist with three albums, Kiyingi has worked with a couple of international producers who include; Esa Williams (UK), Ankrew Mckee (US), NII Sanku Dromor (Ghana), Kamal (US) and Mgaya (Tanzania) among others.
A folk musician and what he calls Afro fusional, Kiyingi, who mainly sings in Luganda, has performed for Pope Francis in 2015 in Uganda and for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu in 2017.
If there is a Ugandan who has popularised Uganda traditional music and instruments to the international stage, it must be Herbert Kinobe, alias Chinobay.
His quest to taking Uganda’s music to the world began in 2010 with the illustrious Dance of Hope, a leading youth-based arts education touring project run in partnership with M-LISADA, a charity organisation based in Kampala.
Through World Bridge Foundation, an organisation Chinobay co-found with a renowned instrumentalist Bosco Segawa, Chinobay has inspired many youth teaching music, dance and traditional instruments.
In 2018, Chinobay together with Dance of Hope reached out to more than 45,000 children across the US in its first international tour alone.
The son of school teachers, Chinobay’s passion for the arts as a channel for social change has led him to follow in his parents’ footsteps as an arts educator at international level.
In 1995, he held an engagement with cross-cultural exchange while still in elementary school, touring Europe in 1995 and sharing the sounds of Uganda with other school children as part of the school’s cultural troupe.
In 1999, Unicef ambassador to Uganda, Michel Sidibe, heard Chinobay play and invited him to join the GEM (Girl Education Movement) initiative, a campaign to advocate for free education for girls who had been denied the opportunity to be in school.
His role as Unicef ambassador allowed him to dig into the field of social responsibility, and his music permanently shifted to socially relevant topics, with the goal of helping to improve the lives of children.
Chinobay, who brings Ugandan and people’s stories to life to show the richness of Uganda in all of its facets, has more than 10 shows in the first half of 2023.
Next year, he will perform in Lancaster, Chippewa Falls, Charleston, Footmad, The Ware Center, Heyde Center for the Arts, Charleston, WV all in the US.
His numbers might not reflect his ability, but magnificent describes singer and instrumentalist Samite well. In 2014, his video shared by Dr Bill Thomas caught people’s attention as the singer was filmed playing a bowl lyre, alias entongooli.
Samite’s subsequent place on Dr. Bill Thomas’ 2014 ‘Second Wind Tour’, cemented the natural progression of the work that Samite does with Musicians for World Harmony.
Samite has released 10 CDs internationally and in 2009, the film Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai, which features his original song, debuted nationally on PBS.
Samite released My Music World in 2010 and as he states, the album captures more of who he is than any of his previous albums.
In his role as Founding Director of Musicians for World Harmony, Samite is fortunate to bring his message of peace to a wide audience.
He performed his arrangement of the traditional Baganda song, Ani Oyo, for The Dalai Lama in 2007 during Bridging Worlds with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Ithaca, New York.
In 2009 he performed at Connecting for Change, part of the 2009 Vancouver Peace Summit: Nobel Laureates in Dialogue, hosted by the Dalai Lama Centre for Peace and Education.
A Ugandan based in Tully, New York, Samite plays the flute and Kalimba, a type of thumb piano.
Samite attributes his music inspiration to both Ugandan folklore and as an expression of the life he had experienced in Uganda.
Joel Sebunjo, MC Norman and Batt Badru
Joel Sebunjo is a name to relate with when it comes to Ugandan music in francophone countries. The multi-instrumentalists who blends the Kora into Uganda’s music has on many occasions represented Uganda in French speaking nations, especially in West Africa.
Alongside his Sundiata Band, Sebunjo has performed around the world and shared a stage with international artistes such as Salif Keita, Miriam Makeba, Yossou N’dour and Oliver Mtukudzi.
South African-based singer Reggae and dancehall artiste Ronald Mutebi, alias Mc Norman Ganja, has made a profound contribution to Uganda’s music industry.
Mc Norman doubles as a music promoter who schedules performances for Ugandans in various parts of South Africa.
A son to Afrigo Bands’ legend Eddy Ganja, Norman who is also a famed MC, is a recipient of UK’s Bafta Awards where he won Best International Act, 2015 AFRIMA Africa Songwriter of the Year, among others.
Just like Mc Norman, former radio presenter Batt Badru distributes Ugandan music in South Africa.
Based in London, the singing trio, Ganda boys, who formally traded as Da Twinz, are yet another outfit giving Ugandan music a global moment.
Recently considered for a Grammy, the group that is composed of singers Denis Mugagga, Daniel Sewagudde and Craig Pruess, was formed in 2008 through an exciting collaboration on the highly acclaimed 2009 BBC-TV drama series, Moses Jones.
The band fuses native chants, melodies and Ugandan instruments with English verses and Luganda black harmony choruses for an uplifting effect to create music.
They recently gathered various choir ensembles from around the world to honour Uganda’s cultural heritage.
The Ganda Boys organised choirs from all six continents of the world to come together in a cultural celebration of Uganda’s heritage, by collaborating in a recording of the Buganda National Anthem, Ekitiibwa kya Buganda.
The promoters and the calendar events
Most Ugandan musicians will always attribute their foreign performance to a DJ, an event or a specific promoter.
DJ Bernarzo, alias Bernard Katende, has been at the fore front of helping Ugandan musicians perform in the US and Europe since 1995.
Calendar events such as Uganda American Entertainment, and UNAA Convention have had their contribution to Ugandan music.
Eddy Kenzo to the world
Last week, singer Edrisa Musuuza was listed for a Grammy Award nomination for his song Gimme Love, a project by American artiste Matthew David Benson, alias Matt B.
His nomination brought a smile to Ugandan music lovers and the public lauded Kenzo for raising the Ugandan music flag high.
Kenzo became the first East African artiste to win the Black Entertainment Television (BET) award in 2015 after taking the Viewer’s Choice Best New International Artiste accolade at a function held in Los Angeles, US.
He is also the recipient of Kenzo, the Best African Entertainer Award at the 36th edition of the International Reggae and World Music Awards in Miami and the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award.
Kenzo has held a series of performances in Africa and Europe, representing Uganda at festivals and other calendar events.
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