woensdag 30 maart 2022

Afrigo Band


Afrigo Band: Early years                                                                                                                     The roots of the Afrigo Band lie in The Cranes. The Cranes were one of Uganda's most popular bands of the sixties and early seventies. In 1974, after the release of their hit album 'Ten Hits', the band broke up due to internal disputes. Some former band members including Moses Matovu formed Afriraha Band, whose name was changed to Afrigo [Africa go forward] in August 1975. The other seven band members were Jeff Ssewava, Charles Ssekyanzi, Paulo Sserumaga, Paddy Nsubuga, Fred Luyombya, Anthony Kyeyune and Geoffrey Kizito. With the exception of Matovu and Jeff Ssewava, who now lives in Germany, all members of the initial line-up have since passed away.  Officially, the band was launched on November 1, 1975, after they were invited to play at the Bat Valley bar/restaurant, later Little Flowers in Bombo Road, Kampala. After some time, the Afrigo Band was invited by Tendo kabanda, the manager of Cape Town Villas, to perform at his popular waterfront establishment on Lake Victoria. 

A prominent fan                                                                                                                                                          One Sunday, the then President Idi Amin heard the band playing in Cape Town Villas and was immediately charmed by their music. Shortly after this first meeting, a representative of the president offered the Afrigo Band to become his personal house band, a request that obviously could not be turned down. From 1976, the Afrigo Band was under contract to the President and its members received a fixed monthly salary. The band performed in Cape Town Villas until Amin was deposed as president in April 1979.

1971: Idi Amin playing the accordeon

Starting all over again

After Amin was deposed, Uganda went through a restless period in which looting occurred all over the country. The Afrigo Band, as former home orchestra of Idi Amin, also had to deal with this. The orchestra was robbed of all its instruments and had to start all over again. After several months of complete inactivity, they met Omar Mattar, who helped the band buy back a large part of the instruments that had been stolen from them.

The first recordings
In 1980, the Afrigo Band made a trip to Nairobi for their first recording session. Due to lack of experience, the recordings were of moderate quality. The band made their first really good recordings during a visit to Europe and the UK. This trip was made possible by a fellow musician, Hope Mukasa, who had settled in Sweden and had a recording studio with good equipment.

It is in this studio that the Afrigo Band records one of its most successful albums, Vol. 8: Afrigo Batuuse II. The album was released in 1989 and attracted the attention of British music promoters. The album eventually earns the band a first tour of the UK. Afterwards, the band visits Denmark, where they perform at a festival and record another album. The period that followed was the most successful in the band's existence, culminating in the album with the hit song Jim, which was number one in the Ugandan charts for three months and sold more than 500,000 K7s in Uganda alone.

Afrigo today
Today, Afrigo is busier than ever. In November 2021, the band celebrated its 47th anniversary. Founder and bandleader Matovu is now 72 years old and still the core of the band. However, it is a mistake to think that he is solely responsible for the fact that the band has existed for almost 50 years. That is impossible according to Matovu. The real reason, according to him, is the professional discipline with which all those involved in the band contribute. Central to this is the principle that the band as a whole always comes first, not the individual band members. 

A good example of the strong organisation and professional climate in the band is the fact that even vocalist Rachel Magoola, who is now a member of the Ugandan parliament, contributes to the show just like everyone else. Unless you know her, you would never say that off stage she is a high profile person.

Afrigo Band employs over 100 workers and has gone through the musical revolution of the long playing vinyl records (LPs), cassette tapes, compact discs (CDs) and now the digital formats through all of which they have churned out more then 20 albums that include: Afrigo Batuuse I, Jim, Genda Osome, Vincent, Mp’Eddembe, The Best of Afrigo and Julie. The 1994 album Omutanda Gyali was the first CD by a Ugandian band. 

Although the band’s music is heavily influenced by Congolese Rumba, they also play reggae and African dance music with Ugandan traditional rhythms and folk songs. They sing in local Ugandan languages and Swahili, but mainly in Luganda. However James Wasula laments: We haven’t established the national identity of Ugandan music and that is still haunting me. You hear music, for example High Life and you can tell it is Ghanian music and Soukous is Congolese music, but we are still struggling to find what Ugandan music should be.

February 6 2022 Afrigo live at Forest Park Kampala

The fact that the band is still alive and kicking after COVID was demonstrated recently in February, when the band performed a blistering three-hour show three consecutive nights.  


The original band members

Moses Matovu: He came up with the band’s name ‘Afrigo,’ which is a short form of their self-motivating slogan, ‘Africa-Go in music.’ Matovu took over band leadership from Sewava and is the remaining member of the pioneers and one of three band directors alongside James Wasula and Sam ‘Kapeera’ Tamale. Apart from being the band’s lead vocalist right from its inception, Matovu also plays the flute but is best known as the unrivaled saxophone maestro. Also an accomplished composer, Matovu is the brains behind some of the band’s biggest hits such as Nantongo, Sirina Anantwala, Afrigo Batuuse 1, Speed, Bagikwongere, Mundeke, Tondeka Awaka, Ngenze, N’ono and Sirina Reverse among others.

Jeff Sewava: The founding band leader, Sewava, led the split from Cranes band months before the formation of Afrigo. He was a saxophonist and a vocalist but left the band towards the end of 1977 and relocated to Germany, where he lives to date. He is best remembered for composing Betty, a popular song then.

Charles Sekyanzi (RIP): A trumpeter, Sekyanzi’s was one of the most recognizable figures in the band due to his sheer vocal refinement. His calm style endeared him to fans and rubbed off well Matovu’s precise singing on several hits. He composed songs like Musa, Rose Guma and Onnemye, but his Enneeyisa stands out to this day as one of the band’s greatest hits. Sekyanzi Died in March 2009.

Paddy Nsubuga (RIP): A vocalist, he also played the rhythm guitar. Nsubuga stepped out of the shadows in 1985 with his composition Express, a hit that celebrated Express FC’s Uganda Cup triumph that year. Nsubuga passed away in the late 1980s.

Anthony Kyeyune : Originally the band technician, Kyeyune learnt on the job to become a trupeter. He left in the 1980s and became a businessman.

Fred Luyombya (RIP): Luyombya was the band’s bass guitarist and lent his vocals on several hits. His biggest composition was the hit Christine, in the late 70s. He left the band in the 1980s and
Passed away in the late 80s.

Paul Serumaga (RIP): The multi-talented Serumaga made his name as a lead guitarist as well as a vocalist. But for all his attributes, his Oswadde Nnyo remains one of the most popular hits the band has ever made. He passed away in 1989.

Former members through the years

Rachael Magoola:  Joined Afrigo in 1989 as a singer, songwriter and dancer. In 2001 Rachel launched her own group and recorded several albums including: Inhaife (1997), Tyenda Wundi (1998), Tonyiiga (2000), Atubembe (2001), Songs from the Source of the Nile (2005) and Eisadha (2008). Her compositions contain elements of languages and traditional rhythms from all regions of Uganda, as well as reggae and zouk. In the 2021 general election she was elected to Parliament, as the women's representative in Bugweri District, for the National Resistance Movement. 

Joanita Kawalya: 

Billy Mutebi (RIP): He joined in the late 1970s and became lead guitarist. Also a vocalist, Mutebi moved to Sweden where he teamed up with several Ugandan musicians such as Philly Lutaaya and Sammy Kasule. Among his popular compositions while in Afrigo are Olumbe Lw’obwavu, Ebizibu, Zalwango and Ekitiibwa Kyo. He returned to the country in the late 1980s but died in 1989.

Frank Mbalire: He joined in the late 70s as a rhythm guitarist but later moved to the Thames band, from where he composed Bamuleete and the popular Sirikusuula. He relocated to Sweden before
returning to Afrigo Band. However in 2009, Mbalire left Afrigo to form Misty Jazz Band, which also has Matuvo and had made Kampala Casino their home.

Godfrey Mwambala (RIP): He joined the group in the late 1970s as a keyboard player but because the band had no keyboard, he became the band’s drum player following the departure of Gerald Naddibanga to Sweden. Mwambala also became one of the group’s composers and some of his hits include Jim, Mp’eddembe, Julie and Obutonde Bwensi, among others. He died in 1996.

Gerald Naddibanga: Arguably the best drummer to come out of Uganda, Naddibanga joined in the late 1970s. He also had his moments on the microphone, as well as doing some dancing, but he moved to Sweden in early 1980s, where he lives to date.

Deo Mukungu: He joined in 1987 as a guitarist but made his major breakthrough by composing the smash hit Afrigo Batuuse II in 1989. Mukungu relocated to the UK in the mid-90s.

Fred Kigozi (RIP): He joined in the late 1980s as a vocalist and some of his classic compositions
include Semuwemba and Prossie. He passed away in the late 90s.

Mansur Bulegeya (RIP): The saxophonist joined in the 1980s but passed away in 2007.

Tony Senkebejje: Together with his wife Racheal, Tony joined in late 1980s as a bass guitarist and vocalist. His popular compositions include Dora, Alivawa, Twali Twagalana and Jukira. The couple left in the 1990s to form Simba Sounds, a resident band at Kampala Serena hotel.   

Tony Sengo (RIP): Versatile Sengo could virtually play any instrument, but specialised in the keyboard. Sengo came on board in the 1980s and the multi-talented artiste composed several songs like Emmere Esiridde, Kangende Nga Munonya, Ki Kyetunonya and Bw’osika Ekitajja. He left in the 1990s to found The Big Five band, before forming his own Badindazi band. He died in 1999.

Albert Amigo ‘Wawawa’ (RIP): Amigo joined Afrigo in 1994 as a lead guitarist but also had a couple of compositions like Safari, Yote Bule, Shamusha and Ekikere Kiri ku Mbaata. He left the group in the 1990s to start his own Waka Waka Band.

Dede Majoro (RIP): One of the celebrated lead guitarists who joined Afrigo in the 1980s but left in the 1990s to join Simbangoma band and later Hope Mukasa’s Mixed Talent band, before passing away.

Justin Matu: He joined the group in 2002 as a lead guitarist from Sarah Birungi’s IRO Stars. He left the band in 2010 and relocated to the USA.

Meddie Mbaziira: He joined Afrigo in the late 1980s, playing trumpet and a vocalist at the same
time. He composed Sirina Musango but later moved to Summit Band.

Rashid Musoke: Joined the group in the late 1980s as a drum player, but passed away in May 1993.

Others who went through Afrigo band are: 

Julius Jjuuko (keyboard) 
Godfrey Khadume (keyboard and trumpet) 
Tony Kalanzi (vocalist)  
Godfrey Ngoobi (bass guitar) 
Stanley Ntwatwa (drums) 
Grace Lukomwa (bass guitar) 
Margaret Kawalya (vocalist) 
Abdul Kintu (vocalist) 
Harriet Mpagi (vocalist) 
Juliet Kiwanuka (vocalist) 
Afua Luzinda (vocalist), 
Sarah Namulondo (dancer) 
Sarah Ndagire (singer/dancer) 
Sandra Namiti (dancer) 
Remi Wasajja (dancer) 
Eva Nalumansi (dancer)

dinsdag 20 juli 2021

Jolino Kiezowa


In the summer of 1991, I was introduced to the debut album A bas la violence by Jolino Kiezowa. During a visit to the legendary (but by now closed) record shop Musica Nova, an album featuring my highly appreciated singers Carlito Lassa and Nyboma Mwan Dido caught my eye. The owner Pierrot raised his thumb and beckoned me, which meant something like: "Good record, give it here and I'll play it for you. A few moments later, Jolino's slightly hoarse voice echoed through the record shop. His voice was a perfect match with those of Carlito and Nyboma and after listening to the title track for a few minutes, I was sold, especially when Pepe Felly Manuaku gave the go-ahead for a delicious uptempo sebene with a fierce guitar solo. 

After three years of waiting, Jolino's second album followed in 1994, Regard sur le future, which I actually liked even better. In the years that followed, Jolino released a new album on a regular basis and when I started this blog in 2013, I was planning to dedicate a post to the man. The reason why this post is only now coming is that there is hardly any information about this fine singer. Because I still find his music worth listening to, I decided to take the lack of biographical information for granted. And who knows, maybe there is a reader who has additional information about this, in my opinion, undervalued artist.

Jolino, whose real name is Jolino Kiezowa Kiangala, is a French-speaking Congolese musician, founder and singer of the eponymous group. He is nicknamed "le vieux mouké ".After several participations in different groups in Congo and Switzerland, Jolino started a solo career in 1990. In 1994, his second album Regard sur le futur met with some success. He was awarded Revelation of the year by the Association of Congolese Music Reviewers (ACMCO). Also nicknamed Ya mudefend-defend, his action towards youth enabled him to be awarded a special prize for peace by UNICEF for the song Unissons-nous2. In 1997, the song Makinu mabeto was nominated for the Kora Awards. Apart from his commitment to world peace and children's rights, Jolino Kiezowa has released 6 albums to date, the last of which was released 10 years ago. Hopefully, this was not his last album. 

♫ Audio: 1997 – Jolino Kiezowa ft. Papa Wemba – Faut pas desesperer 6:29

♫ Video Clip: 2004 – Jolino Kiezowa – Maman capitaine 6:50

♫ Video Clip: 2010 – Jolino Kiezowa – Feeling 4:27

♫ Live: 2002 – Groupe Jolino live au Palais de Congress Brazzaville 8:40

2002: JOLINO  au Palais de Congress Brazzaville


vrijdag 4 juni 2021

Daouda le Sentimental

Singer/composer Tou Kone Daouda a.k.a. Daouda le Sentimental was born to Burkinabe parents on 1 January 1951 in Niangoloko (Burkina Faso). He spent his childhood in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and moved as a teenager to Bry-sur-Marne near Paris, where he followed technical training at the Institut National de l'Audiovisuel. After completing his training in 1975, he got a job as a TV technician at the Ivorian Television (RTI).

Daouda the technician

Besides his work as a technician at RTI, music was Daouda's great hobby. He especially loved the romantic and comic songs of Togolese singer/songwriter G.G. Vickey. Daouda taught himself to play the guitar by playing the songs of G.G. Vickey.

♫ Clip: 1969 – G.G. Vickey (1944 – 2013) – Vive les Mariés : 6:05

Yet, it never occurred to him to pursue music professionally. It was his colleagues at the RTI who discovered his hidden musical talent and pushed him in front of the cameras, almost against his will. The unexpected appearance on the popular TV programme "Dimanche pour tout", in which he performed his self-written song Gbaka's d'Abidjan (Gbaka means Taxibus)live, accompanied by the RTI orchestra, turned the life of the modest technician completely upside down. Daouda had become a phenomenon overnight in Ivory Coast.


Georges Tai Benson, at the time programme director of the national Ivorian TV, recognised the amateur singer's potential and realised that you have to forge the iron while it is hot. Benson wanted to produce the song Gbakas d'Abidjan and set up the label Moya productions.

♫ Audio: 1976 – Daouda – Gbakas : 4:47

The single became a success and the public asked for more. Daouda therefore decided to focus entirely on a musical career from that moment on and proved with his second single, Les Villageons in 1977 that he was not only a good singer but also a gifted lyricist/composer.

In 1978, he recorded his first LP in Nigeria under the direction of his new producer Maïkano Adamou. This album also contains the first version of the song Mon coeur balance. In this song, Daouda sings about the 'problem' of not being able to choose between two girls: the first one is the most beautiful and the second one is the nicest, my heart is swinging back and forth. His lyrics, sung in French, which appeal to a wide audience, together with a seductive melody and an extremely danceable rhythm, ensure that his popularity is rapidly growing in large parts of Francophone Africa. Mon coeur balance became one of the biggest hits in French-speaking Africa in 1978. From that moment on, Daouda was nicknamed 'le sentimental' by his fans.

In the early 1980s, Europe also discovered African pop music. In 1983, Daouda recorded a new version of Mon coeur balance for Maikano in a new arrangement written by the Congolese guitarist Souzy Kaseya. Supported by bassist Aladji Toure and a wind section consisting of Jimmy Mvondo Mvele (sax) and Fredo Tete (trumpet), all from Cameroon, this new version of the song is an ideal mix of local Ivorian music influences and the then popular Congolese soukous and Cameroonian makossa. His biggest breakthrough comes when the London Sterns label decides to release this new version of Daouda's debut album internationally.

♫ Audio: 1983 – Daouda – Mon coeur balance: 5:43

Lyrics Mon coeur balance

Meanwhile, Daouda had settled in Paris to further develop his career. In the early 80s, Paris had developed into the centre of African pop music. It was the time when the Antillean supergroup Kassav had its breakthrough, Zairean artists like Kanda Bongo Man conquered Parisian discos with their straightforward dance Soukouss and the popularity of the Cameroonian Makossa with its bouncing bass lines was at its height.

Cameroonian musicians like Aladji Toure (bass), Valerie Lobe (drums) and Toto Guillaume (guitar) were much in demand as session and studio musicians in those days. For his new record, Daouda wanted the best makossa musicians, without doing makossa himself. Daouda says about this in an interview: (...) Aladji Toure was the best arranger at the time. I had the guts to ask them for help, although their fees were far above my meagre means. But they all wanted to help me for a minimal fee. My audacity bore fruit, because to this day I am enjoying the extraordinary success of "La femme de mon patron(...).

With the album's title track La femme de mon patron - which describes the problems of a driver to whom his employer's wife makes sexual advances and threats - Daouda once again shows that he is a formidable composer/lyricist. The song is extremely danceable, cheerful and the mischievous lyrics, in which many people recognise something of themselves, bring a smile to many people's faces. By happily singing about the daily relations between men and women, Daouada's music reflects the optimistic atmosphere of the mid-80s in Côte d'Ivoire, which at that time was experiencing a period of relative prosperity. The latter perhaps explains why many Ivorians can still intensely enjoy Daouada le Sentimental's 80s hits to this day - now that the country has been in dire straits for years. 

Abidjan in the 1980s; the good old days!

♫ Audio: 1982 – Daouda – La vie est belle : 5:59

♫ Audio: 1982 – Daouda – Salsa de Niangologo : 5:00

In the years that followed, Daouda released several more albums, with varying success, with various record companies in several countries. With none of these albums, however, he managed to repeat the successes of Mon coeur balance and La femme de mon patron. 

In the early 1990s, he emigrated to the US where he lived and worked as a machine operator in Greensboro, North Carolina. He did not really succeed in building up a career as an artist in the US. After more than ten years, he returned to the Ivory Coast, where he tried to make a comeback with limited success. He released several albums, partly containing new versions of his old successes, but partly due to poor distribution, these albums were hardly available outside Côte d'Ivoire. With the arrival of modern streaming services, this situation has improved somewhat, but the question remains whether Daouda will be able to reach the younger generations with these services. He will have to be satisfied with his loyal group of, by now, mostly older fans. With his successes in the 80s, however, he will forever belong to the icons of Ivorian popular music. 

♫ Clip 2007: – Daouda & Betika – C’est pas ma faute 4:47

Daouda (le Sentimental), now 70 years old, has not forgotten how to write seductive, romantic songs, as he proves with 'Je te dis adieu', a sultry, slow mid-tempo song that has a Cape Verdean flavour, released around 2014. 

♫ Clip 2014?: – Daouda le Sentimental – Je te dis adieu 4:22