BY BAMUTURAKI MUSINGUZI
MUSIC lovers were taken on a trip down memory lane with pleasant old material by two American greats - the Jazz legend Kirk Whalum and the R&B and soul diva Karyn White at the 8th annual Nile Gold Jazz Safari that was held at the Kampala Serena Hotel on October 2, 2015.
Whalum hit the stage at 8:35pm with Luther Vandross’s 1988 hit Any Love. With his saxo-jazz-funk style he followed it up with Boyz II Men’s I’ll Make Love To You, Steve Wonder’s All I Do, Toni Braxton’s Breathe Again, Ascension, Underpaid, Grover Worked and Falling in Love with Jesus, among others.
Whalum joined the US-based Ugandan guitarist Mpambara on his song Onowuliranga.
Whalum exhibited his mastery of the tenor sax while he played I’ll Always Love You – a hit he originally did with Whitney Houston in 2000. He received a standing ovation after he blew the sax with passion and skill much to the satisfaction of the audience who had parted with Ushs200, 000 ($53.8) for a ticket. He had earlier on mesmerized his fans when he played the sax while lying down on his back.
White came on stage at 10:18pm with her hit The Way I Feel About You. With her energetic dance moves and distinctive sultry soul voice she followed it up with Secret Rendezvous, James Brown’s funk song Sex Machine, Romantic, Love Saw It, Tears of Joy with Whalum blowing the sax, Hungah, The Way You Love Me, Can I Stay With You and I'd Rather Be Alone, among others.
White received the loudest applause when she played the women’s anthem Superwoman – after which she left the stage at 11:23pm but the crowd cried out to her and returned and bowed out after performing Everything Is Gonna Be Alright.
Among the House Band members that backed the two jazz and soul headliners were: Karl Vanden Bossche on percussions; Mark Walker on the keys; and the sweet harmonies were sung by Vula Malinga and Vanessa Haynes (the Lead Singer in Incognito). The illustrious Mo Pleasure was the music director.
The Ugandan pianist, singer-songwriter Stephen Kigozi was the curtain raiser at 8:07pm with a couple of cover songs and his own Don’t Try to Change Me, among others.
“This is my first time on the soil of Africa. It feels amazing and spiritual as well as celebratory,” White said.
On his part Whalum has performed in South Africa, Ghana and will play in Nigeria this October.
Music lovers today prefer to download music from the Internet and sometimes do not pay for it; a trend which Whalum says has a huge impact on the musicians’ royalties. “Until we are able to negotiate fair streaming royalties we are basically giving away our art for free. People don’t value the things they get for free. Music streaming can only be fair if we can be well compensated.”
As a result of low album sales most musicians around the world have resorted to constant live performances and festivals - a trend that is impacting on their creativity in the long run. “It is a good thing to be in good contact with your audiences but you may not be able to allocate adequate time for developing, writing, recording and work shopping (testing different sounds) if you are on stage all the time. Our source of income should be from royalties. We should stay at home and earn from our music and be creative,” Whalum told this blog.
“We are depending on live performances because people no longer buy our records. I am promoting my brand of music through live concerts and on my own label Karyn White Enterprises. When I am performing live I want my fans to feel my new music and experience. I am glad that I can still perform,” White said.
Born on July 11, 1958, Whalum is a smooth jazz saxophonist and songwriter. His music has been described as soulful, passionate and stirring - ranging from pop to R&B to smooth jazz to gospel with emphasis on melody.
“My music is made up of soul, gospel and jazz. I don’t combine these genres. This is where I come from. It is like describing the aspects of the work of a sculptor where you have to look at through different angles. So these are the aspects of what I do,” Whalum said.
He toured with Whitney Houston for more than seven years and soloed in her mega-hit single I Will Always Love You, the best-selling single by a female artist in music history.
In a career spanning three decades, Whalum has recorded film soundtracks and 25 solo albums including Cache, his first number 1 album, For You and his eclectic Gospel According to Jazz series, (Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 4). Chapter 4 musically explores the convergence of jazz and gospel infused with rhythm and blues with musical messages of tribute, tragedy and triumph — musically illustrating God’s radical hospitality.
Whalum has received numerous awards and acknowledgements for his musical accomplishments. A twelve time Grammy nominee, he won his first Grammy award for Best Gospel Song (“It’s What I Do” - featuring Lalah Hathaway).
Although Whalum plays the tenor, alto and soprano saxophones, and flute he says the tenor is his best. And he is clearly identified by his rich tenor sound that leaves an indelible imprint on the listener. “Although I play the soprano as well the tenor sax is my favourite because it’s my voice.”
White was born on October 14, 1965, in Los Angeles. She is a singer-songwriter, who was popular during the late 1980s and early 1990s. She is best known for her R&B singles: The Way You Love Me (1988), Secret Rendezvous (1989), the Billboard Hot 100 number one single Romantic (1991), Can I Stay With You (1995) and I'd Rather Be Alone (1995).
The accomplished musician entered the music history books with her smash hit song, the female anthem, Superwoman. The song sold over a million units, being certified Gold and named the Billboard R&B Song of the Year in 1989. She received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (Superwoman) in 1990. “This is a timeless anthem for women. It’s about loving and appreciating someone,” she says.
White, who plays R&B, soul and new jack swing released her self-titled debut album Karyn White in 1988. Her follow-up albums were Ritual of Love in 1991, Make Him Do Right in 1994.
“I would say that I play R&B, funk, soul and rock. I have two sides: the dance side and romantic side that I fuse together. I love Prince, Tina Turner and James Brown so I bring the energy of all these three,” White said.
White temporarily left the music scene in 1999 to start a family and bring up her daughter and only child Ashley – which the nomadic lifestyle of a professional musician could not afford. She returned with her album Sista Sista in 2006 and later Carpe Diem in 2012.
White’s considerable talents have extended well beyond music. She resides in Rocklin, California, where she runs a successful interior design and real estate business.