Uganda’s Popular Music Even Being Synonymous To “Afro-beat” Is Still Not Defined

Ugandan pop connotes Ugandan Urban Music. As opposed to being a collection of many in-style genres, in Uganda, pop strictly refers to a specific style or sound, also known as afro-beat.

What is common and more precise, for that matter, is that pop music survives on a myriad of renditions – as the genre is sort-of still in a mode of experimentation to have to define what Uganda popular music should sound like.

Quite a few factors have influenced this music of Uganda; language, the environment, globalization – a variety of cultures, politics, internet and population movement, all of which are intermixed.

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The most popular rendition of afro-beat in Uganda today is perhaps what emerged as the sound of Mariam Ndagire’s, Chance Nalubega’s, a few other voices and ultimately, Eagles Production, an artist management company founded in the late 1990s.

These absolutely redefined the understanding of the genre in Uganda. The era saw the emergence of fresh solo talents such as  Mesach Semakula, Geoffrey Lutaaya, Ronald Mayinja and Haruna Mubiru.

These artists took the mantle from Afrigo Band and further developed the genre after the turn of the century. In the 2000s, the genre became identified with the Eagles Production label. The label continued to produce more talent, especially female artists like Cathy Kusasira, Irene Namatovu, Maureen Nantume and Stecia Mayanja.

It was yet the beginning; like an avalanche, more talent soon came onto the music scene after the same genre. These among others; Winnie Munyenga, Titie, Roy Kapale, Dr. Tee, Betty Mpologoma, Sophie Nantongo, Sam and Sophie Gombya, Moses Nsubuga aka Super Charger and Martin Angume.

The genre, afro-beat, flourished with the introduction of modern recording studio technology which many record-producers have applauded and scores of artistes confessed; greatly eased their work.

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Others, arguably, have expressed their utter dismay with the coming of the new possibilities with technology as it turned into a sheer proxy. It replaced the industry’s professional work ethic, grit and even the passion of the musicians to do what they love more than what they make money from.

Resultantly, quality has been compromised, at the same time as creativity and originality is little by little being sacrificed to boot. This, critics continue, hasn’t but inevitably brought about the junk that is apparent today – commonly referred to as Kidandali.

Around 2007 when David Lutalo broke through with the hit song Kapapaala he created the way for the genre to move beyond the Eagles Production label and for the younger artists to join the “game”.

The same new technology in audio production enabled the genre to be reproduced digitally using Audio Workstations and the “Band” element had almost totally disappeared. Recording studios like Dream Studios, Mozart, Kann and Paddyman took center stage, helping create a dominant force and indeed the most popular stylistic genre in Uganda.

The development of the genre is still ongoing. As of now however, it is simply undefined what its standard features are!

Prior to the Eagles Production’s kind of afro-beat, there was the season of the Band Music although artistes like Fred Masagazi, Elly Wamala, Jimmy Katumba, Philly Bongoley Lutaaya, and later; Jose Chameleon plus           a few other contemporary ones had found a way around a solo career amidst an immensely seized era.

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As much as it exhibits no more than a few similarities with the modern-day Afro-beat, the roots of this genre can be traced back to the Bands that sprung up after Uganda got independence in 1962.

The Cranes Band, which later gave birth to Afrigo Band, can be regarded as the first group in the evolution process of this genre. At the very outset, their music was heavily influenced by Soukous and Congolese artists like Franco, Kanda Bongo-man were notable influences at the time.

Moses Matovu’s Jazz was also a notable influence. Along the way there were other bands like Rwenzori Band, Big Five Band and Simba Ngoma Band. But Afrigo Band was the most prominent and most enduring, especially throughout the political unrest of the 70’s to 90’s.

By the mid 90’s Afrigo Band was still heavily influenced by Soukous music, which by then was dominant all over the African continent.

Artists like Joanita Kawalya and Rachael Magoola were part of Afrigo Band and helped lay the foundation for modern day Afro-beat, alongside other bands like Kaads Band.

Truth be told; much of the Ugandan artistes’ work today is tagged pop if it sounds like anything but foreign artistry albeit that’s an erroneous depiction.

Afro-pop is that which has a fusion of a foreign beat, a rendition which is African with a diction that adds meaning and poise to the result!

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