Jazz Central, not that into jazz music

08:19 by Kaggwa Andrew
Jazz Central is one of those theme nights, started at the end of last year; it is intended to celebrate a genre that delicately has its roots in New Orleans – Jazz music.
The first night was at the new Silk Liquid, then Zone 7, both in Bugolobi. The third chapter of the show happened last Friday at Sheraton Hotel.
To raise the bar, a bit, the organizers went for the maestro himself Isaiah Katumwa and vocalist Lillian Mbabazi.
The reason we highly anticipated this concert was a fact that Katumwa is almost a Ugandan Jazz legend and Mbabazi on the other side is one of the most talented vocalists that can translate her music and lyrics in any music genre, Jazz inclusive.
The night was opened by Opera singers, George Semaganda – high baritone, Francis Mutesasira - baritone, Charles Awany – tenor and Ben Katumba - a bass Baritone, together; they are the all boyband Sauti Ya Africa.
Well, many of the songs performed were quite unfarmiliar but still amazing, the growing crowd at the moment was mostly lit up when the boys performed Alexander Burke’s Hallelujah.
They perform with such vigor and charisma, though the most interesting thing was a fact that the boys clearly understand what they do, how high or low their vocal ranges can go.
The problem though, for a night themed as a Jazz Central, there was nothing ‘jazz’ about that performance. Not that they tried to fuse what they do with the genre, NO, it was simply a well delivered opera performance, like the many that followed.
For some reason, even with all her talent Mbabazi too, never even tried to jazz things up, she opened with Yegwe weka, one of her best done songs, but well it was just that. She easily performed it the same way she could do it on a cool Saturday at a nobody’s wedding.
Smile and Nsanyuka nawe were really well done though not memorable. And then came the renditions, I guess it will only be good behavior for Mbabazi to stop taking local music lovers for granted, it is an insult that after eleven years in the industry, one of Uganda’s most talented vocalists still chokes us on covers.
Adele’s Make you feel my love or Bob Marley’s Turn your lights down low performances were literal jokes about the artiste and a night celebrating a fine palate genre of music, they might have been well delivered but they are not the kind of performances someone pays about shs100,000/= to watch. Covers are meant for cheap cash in bars as uninterested art buffs sip away on anything before them.
I guess that’s why the show was called Jazz Central with ‘Isaiah Katumwa and Lillian Mbabazi’, not ‘Mbabazi and the people she emulates’.
The night though had some Jazz performances, one by Michael Kitanda and Pragmo. They have that chemistry which makes their performances feel more of collaborations rather than leads and backups.
“Sax brings out the soul in me,” he said before winding his performance with a tribute to Mariam Makeba.
Then Katumwa and his soprano sax, his always draping smart and has that soul even when he plays. His music was infectious getting many couples into a valentine mood - the sharp vibe from his instrument doesn’t only stand out but gives music direction.
It sits on top of different musical layers like drums, guitars and keyboards, yet never at one time does it override the fruity sound – it complimented the package.
What makes Katumwa stand out is his understanding of not only Ugandans but Africans as a whole – we are happy people who love to dance thus even when you are tempering with a sacred genre like jazz, it is only prudent to make it danceable and funk.
Just like his Sunrise and My joy singles, heavy on bass guitars and one has a heavy zouk feel to it. His music is a direct answer to artistes that believe creativity should be pale and boring.
Katumwa left people yearning for more - a nice way to end a night that pretended to serve a complete dish of jazz music.

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