Friday, July 30, 2010



QWELA band fuses rumba, reggae, jazz, blues, gospel and afro soul rhythms marking it as one of the most sensational youthful act to emerge on Uganda’s live music circuit.

The band does not disappoint it’s fans at its weekly live performance at the Barbeque Lounge, Centenary Park in Kampala where they churn out their very best including popular jazz cover songs.

The evening would not end without the group playing the crowd’s favourite hit “Tana Tana,” off Qwela’s ten-track album Kidepo (House in the Country). Written by Joseph Kahirimbanyi alas Joze, the band leader, the song dwells on nationalism and gives thanks to God for blessing Uganda. It also mentions that it does not cost man much to show an act of kindness and yet it is worth a world of difference.

The title track Kidepo is about a volatile time in Northern Uganda when the Lord’s Resistance Army was ravaging the countryside, killing and mutilating Ugandans. The song also decries the civil wars in Sudan and Somalia.

The gospel track Fuata Njia Iie, is about the truth embedded within people and it is Jesus Christ. To find him is to find our way. To not find Jesus is to be lost.

Mwana Wanje sang in Rukiga, a Ugandan language carries a piece of advice that one should never let any anyone tell him/her that they are unable to achieve their dreams. They do not know you or what you are capable of.

Human Eyes is about how men make misjudgments based only on the limited information they have. But God who knows everything is the only one who can truly Judge.

Kidepo, their debut album released in 2007 that is full of heart felt African tunes and rhythms prove that Qwela is Uganda’s promising upcoming to youthful live acts.

Watching them live or listening to track after track of masterfully, performed and recorded music, poetry and stories one can not help but wonder how Qwela has been such a well kept secret up to this time. “These songs are pieces of life in the last decade,” says Kahirimbanyi, adding: “Each one represents an experience that has affected our lives or of some one else.”

Off their upcoming album they played Ingha and Tendeko.

“We are currently working on our next album,” Kahirimbanyi told me.

The 31-year-old Kahirimbanyi who does the lead vocals, song writing, guitars and percussion has two solo albums Yelele (2000) and Bagyenda Gye (2002). A graphic designer by profession he owns a multimedia company called "Miracle Worx" based in Kampala.

Kahirimbanyi formed Qwela in 2007 as a live band performing cover versions of classics. The band has Anita Asiimwe, Alice Nakato, and Sarah Tamba (vocalists), Emma Dragu (trumpet), Kirya Kuti Jackson (saxophone), Michael Ouma (lead guitar), Ricco Del Monte (percussion), Roy Kasika (drums), Sam Bisaso (bass) and Victor Uringtho (keyboard).

You can catch Qwela in Kampala every Tuesday at Catch the Fire in Bugolobi, or every Thursday at Barbeque Lounge in Centenary Park or every Friday at Emin Pasha Hotel in Nakasero. In 2008 the band performed alongside the Kenyan star Eric Wainaina at Emin Pasha. They have hosted Amp Fiddler and Ndambi from the US, Jona Soul from Denmark, and Claire Phillips from South Africa.

Qwela describes itself as a fresh afro-soul band from Uganda creating authentic Ugandan music and taking it to the rest of the world. Among its future plans is to tour Europe and America.

“I call our music afro fusion. We just follow our hearts and create a sound we like. It’s influenced by all the music we love and know,” he said.

"When I listen to the songs I have written, I can remember what I was going through at the time. I call them experiential songs. I would say this is about pieces of my life much as this is a debut concert for Qwela band," Kahirimbanyi told Daily Monitor newspaper.

Asked when he started singing, he tells of the time they lived in Kabale at a tender age. He played a guitar given to him by an expatriate, then a neighbour and the first song he learnt to play was the old Sunday school song “Oh God is good…”

"My family got tired of hearing me play that song as it was all I knew, but that was the beginning of my music. I considered music as a career in my S.5 (Senior Five). I always wanted to sing to perfection and mould people's lives long before I even got saved." The word Qwela spelt with a "K" in Rukiga means bright or holy. In South Africa, it's a Zulu word that means arise and it also means to make music with a flute (ikwelo.)

In Ntare School in 1997, Kahirimbanyi was part of Desert Streams a group of seven male students playing acoustic guitars. He derives inspiration from Daniel Winans, Hugh Masekela, Bob Marley, Tracy Chapman, James Brown, Sam Cook, Leni Williams and Selila Selota.

"I consider my music an African perspective of soul with contemporary and jazz beats. I only learnt music by listening to others sing. When it comes to graphic designing, I think I have a natural knack for it. I'm a creative person and like the challenges I find in it. It is fascinating," he told Daily Monitor newspaper.

He believes Qwela’s music will take time to be appreciated in Uganda. “I do think our music can sell here. I think it’s only a matter of time for people to learn about it and for us to get exposure, but so far so good,” he says.

Kahirimbanyi is optimistic about Uganda’s live music scene, saying: “It is up coming, so many excellent bands coming up and the skill levels are going up. I think the next decade holds very big promise.”


Wednesday, July 7, 2010


JULY 7, 2010

NOT TO MISS out on the world’s most loved sport Ugandans have devised all sorts of means to watch the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

While some traders have seen their business boom it’s also an excuse for husbands to return home late.

In cases where a home has one television set and it’s only the father interested in soccer and the rest preferring to watch soaps like La Tormenta, cartoons and the popular Nollywood movies – coinciding with a world cup match, the father will be forced to walk into a sports bar or a kibanda to avoid fights at home.

It’s a period of escapades for unfaithful men even those that are not soccer fans to cheat on their wives commonly referred to as “away matches” under the guise of watching the World Cup.

The real fun of watching the world cup is in the cinemas, makeshift video halls (bibandas) and sports bars. However, one has to be careful to show the side he or she is supporting because you will be accused of not being a Pan-Africanist especially if an African team is playing.

Mr. Joseph Ssennyondo, a resident of Kampala prefers to watch football in sports bars. “I prefer the sports bars because at home one can be lonely. Yet in the sports bars there are cheers and noise similar to that in a stadium and the lots of friends and beer,” Ssennyondo said.

However, due to the prevailing poverty millions are not part of this fiesta. Many can not watch the world cup while others can only listen in on live rebroadcasts on the various local FM stations. Thousands can not afford a transistor radio, television set, newspapers, magazines let alone DSTV.

In case of power black outs owners of cinemas, bibandas and sports bars have stand by generators but this means eating into their profits.

According to the 2002 Uganda Population and Housing Census there are 231,366 (4.5 per cent) households with TV sets and 2,490,165 (48.6 per cent) with radios. About half of the households (49.2 per cent) in the country reported that “word of mouth” was their main source of information, followed by the radio (47.8 per cent).

Less than 1 per cent of the households reported the print media (newspapers and magazines) as their man source of information. The same proportion was recorded for those who reported that the television was their main source of information.

Businesses are cashing in on the global event with the prices of imitated jerseys of the countries taking part going for Ushs5, 000 ($2.1) compared to Ushs20, 000 ($8.7) or Ushs40, 000 ($17.4) for original jerseys of popular teams like England, Argentina, Brazil and France. On the streets of Kampala, taxi and bus parks one will be bombarded with cheap and poor photocopies of the World Cup fixtures at Ushs100 ($0.04).

In the various sports bars, bibandas and streets soccer fans can be seen dressed in imitated jerseys of the participating teams. You would not be surprised if some may not even locate the teams they are supporting on the world map.

Dealers in new and used television sets have not made a kill either because competition is so stiff that if one raised the price of the TV sets people will not turn up to buy. The dealers partly blame it on poverty.

Several companies are engaged in promotions were winners get all sorts of prizes. In most of these promotions participants have to predict the final scores of each match.

The managing director of Manhole Video Club, in Kibuli a suburb of Kampala, Mr. Abu Mutasa says in the turn-up for the World Cup in his club is poor.

“Turn-up is not good because Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) TV is showing the matches free of charge. We only get a good response during the English Premiership and Champions League. And we have seen big numbers turn up in this World Cup when there is a black out or English Premiership players are in action,” Mutasa said.

Mutasa also believes that at Ushs500 ($0.21) to watch a match in a kibanda is not much but people prefer to catch the action on UBC TV.

For the ardent football fans its: “Let the best nation win the 2010 World Cup.”