Afrigo Band, a soundtrack of Uganda’s history

03:28 by Kaggwa Andrew

The Afrigo Band @ 40 concerts that was held at Hotel Africana was a moment of reflection; looking at where the country has been and where it is going.
Not that they delved into telling stories of how the going has been hard, no, the band instead programmed songs that told a millennial like me how music sounded at a certain stage of Uganda’s development and why.
For instance, they had kicked off with ballads done in the 1980s, probably when the band was new; the songs are mostly heavy on instrumentation and in all ways provocative, they don’t talk about issues, guess it’s because at the time any issue based song could easily be deemed political, they are just sweet and talking about love, breakup and others mainly about looking for love.
Moses Matovu is the only member from the original cast of the band that is still with them and thus did most of the first set, but of course with help from the likes of Frank Mbalire, Rude Boy Devouh and of course the queen herself Joanita Kawalya.
These were songs like Afrigo Batuuse 1, Semuwemba and Endongo Ewoma among others; of course these songs draw a lot of influence from the Congolese music which was ruling the airwaves at the time but that’s not all.
They can make you dance yet they are not as crazy as Rachel Magoola’s 1999 hit Obangaina or Agaliba Enjole.
According to Andrew Patrick Luwandaga, the day’s host, the music sounded that way because at that time, music concerts were mostly done during the day at about five, people were heading back home since it was risky being outdoors beyond six.
But it wasn’t just the political vibe that was felt within the music, when the band played Omutanda from their 1994 album with the same title, a reveler noted that the song reminded him of the time when Kabaka Mutebi had just been crowned king in 1993, this was many years after Kingdoms had been declared illegal by a past regime.
“The song came at the right time, we were still celebrating the return of kingdoms (Obwakabaka) and thus we related with each and every word in there,” he said.
But more to the album, it was the very first Ugandan band compilation to be released on a CD.
Godfrey Kirumira, a city business man says that what drives him to Afrigo band almost on a weekly basis is a fact that they have stayed true to their sound even with the influence of all things ranging from American, Nigerian, South Africa and of course Jamaica.

“They have maintained a standard that many acts in Uganda have failed to,” he said.
But it’s Hon. Maria Kiwanuka’s story that proved that a Ugandan girl is not only getting crazy in the new millennium, they’ve apparently been mad, always; “I used to escape from school to attend Afrigo band shows,” you should have seen the memorable look on her face.
She didn’t however elaborate whether she used to jump over the fence or sneaked through the gates.
Kiwanuka, before becoming Minister for Finance was mostly known as a proprietor of Radio One, an establishment mostly known for giving music of yesterday room to thrive. She’s represents the new generation women that have thrived even in things men can do, and thus when Kawalya was doing Jim, for many, it was more than just a song but woman emancipation.
“It is a song that shares a story of a woman talking to her man about the future of their marriage,” notes Florence Kisakye one of the revelers at Africana.
According to Kisakye, the song for her shows that a Ugandan man and woman had come to a common understanding that they were both human and thus equal; “they had reached that time where a man, who’s Jim in this case could sit and listen to the wife, something that was a myth in the past.”
Show ended with performances by newer faces, Rude Boy Devouh and Eddie Yawe, more of a reassurance that Afrigo band will stay, even after the legendary faces are off stage.
*Photos by Alfred Ochwo

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