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By Joseph Batte

The curtain is firmly closed. 2022 is here with us. Looking back, truly, 2021 had it all. Crammed into its 12 months were: The Dark clouds of Covid-19 still hanging over head. Musicians who made breakthroughs. Old heads that made comebacks. Upstarts who scored career-defining smashes. Savedees who dropped crossover hits in our laps. And, pretty much everything good and bad that happened in between.

It’s time for us to shine a spotlight at some of them that merit mention like we usually do at the end of the year.

Covid-19, especially the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, had a devastating effect on the country. Lives were lost. Schools were once again closed, restaurants and others businesses closed for the foreseeable (until January. we were promised).

On the local entertainment scene, the pandemic mirrored itself in every sector of the arts and brought cataclysmic knock on effect in the rest of the music business as well.

On the flip side, the endemic was a blessing in more ways than one. Actually, I can confidently say Covid-19 been good for music!  Although we were broken on the inside, resilience was everywhere.

One aspect of the local music industry, though, not only managed to weather the storm, it actually thrived. And, that was CREATIVITY.

Thank God. Firstly, our artists spared us another catalogue of the pandemic songs. Who needs another reminder of the deadly pandemic while it’s still sweeping the globe like wild fire?

While everybody was still at it, around the same time a new breed of artists mellow, falsetto- voiced upstarts with colorful names such as Liam Voice, Victor Ruz and An-Known were born.

They went on to capitalize on the listening habits that had also changed from aggressive beat-driven music that used to dominate the airwaves and clubs to slow songs that tugged at our heartstrings.

Their decision to slow down the tempo of the music and give their lyrics that extra RnB-ish bite was a clever ploy which in the long run proved to be that often elusive winning formula that many artists strive to get.

Overnight, they were turned them into stars as many fans found themselves unexpectedly leaning towards such music. So, is it any wonder then, that the most dominant style of music in 2021 was slow?

The answer is: No. Reason? It’s very simple. Because it chimed with the sad mood. It was comforting in these difficult times. It was the preferred style of music as it healed many people in ways that medicine can’t.

PRESSING THE ‘REFRESH’ BUTTON

Many artists used the opportunity to press the ‘refresh’ button. Take Pallaso, for example. Before Covid-19 pandemic struck two years ago, he had been there of thereabouts.

I have to confess that initially the general impression I had of him was, this young wide-eyed singer/songwriter who was riding on of the back of his elder brother Jose Chameleone.

Pallaso had a refreshed year in 2021

In 2021 officially Pallaso found his feet and proved that he is his own man who can stand on his own feet and give anybody a run for his money, be it his older brother.

And what did he do to achieve that growth? Simple: He sat down, went to the drawing board, pressed the ‘refresh’ button to replenish his creative juices, then wrote song after song such as Malamu, and many others and put them out there. Since then everything he touch somehow  seems to turn into gold.

EDDY KENZO AGAIN, BANANGE!

Eddy Kenzo continued doing what Eddy Kenzo does best—releasing song after week in week out. Before the curtain completely fell on 2021, Kanda Bongoman, the man himself, was imploring on social media to us to listen and support the remake of his 80’s ‘Inde Moni that Kenzo had remixed!

Eddy Kenzo, Pia Pounds and MC Africa (Photo: file)

As were grumbling, debating whether Kenzo did a good job of Kanda Bongoman’s  Inde Moni, he was named among the most streamed artistes in sub-Saharan Africa by Billboard. He actually features among the top 15 artistes on the list with 109.73M views worldwide.

The list includes other African superstars such as; Burna Boy, Diamond Platinumz, Joe Boy and Sinach and others. This is as if telling his detractors: ‘Now eat your hearts out!’

URBAN GOSPEL MUSIC WAS ON THE RISE 

It’s fact. Gospel music is on the rise since that Kosovo-born Levixone chap breezed on the scene with Kyikibombe. Last year Gospel reached its virtuoso climax with Mbeera, a gospel-tinged and kadong kamu-indebted track that was twisted into a tale of life and its pitfalls.

Surely, Mbeera is one of the stand-out tracks of the year by these talented Savedee artists that managed to cross over to the mainstream.

One of the fondly remembered songs of 2021 is the John K-penned Ensonga sung by Carol Nantongo and Kabuye Semboga who I think should now be the one to take on the ‘Evergreen’ title that I had bestowed on Elly Wamala. I mean, this veteran musician can make a bad song sound very good with his emotional voice!

He and Carol Nantongo gave such a good vocal performance in Brian Beats studio during recording they turned this into was a killer tune. Arguably, my pick for best collabo of the year!

Looking for  that elusive hit song? Do this. Get an old hit song, give it heavy kicks behind. Then sit back and relax. By theme I wrote this review Obangaina remix by Ykee Benda views were in millions.

It’s a sing-along classic for ages that is equal part anthemic, tender and groovy at the same time. The video is another matter altogether, which will talked about for years to come

Sam Mukuki on bass guitar and lead did a great job as did Nase Avatar on mastering and mixing.

KANDLE AND KATALEYA, THE BEST FEMALE DUO

A serious statement of intent was expressed by these Theron Music new kids on the block Kandle and Kandle first with Muzibe wa Love, then Tonafuya and as the year drew to a close they waltzed into our lives ‘Do me’.

They then went on to scoop Upcoming Female Artist of The Year award at the just concluded Patiwan Stars Awards (PASA) 2021 that happened in Dubai. What helps them is they sober screwed on their shoulders. Go! Go! Go! Girls!

Kandle & Kataleya have had a great musical year (Photo: file)

Azawi was heavily in the mix and cemented her position as one of the new exciting acts of the year, while her record label colleague Vinka decided to grow up and have a baby.  After giving birth, she bounced back with Slow Dancing.

The pandemic was a welcome breather for Rema Namakula who gave her doctor husband a baby. Grace Khan used the opportunity too to get pregnant while Cindy Sanyu finally found her true love!

Clouds seemed to cover the sun for the music fraternity in East Africa when Sammy Kasule, 69, one of the best that musicians Uganda has every produced, died of heart disease In Amsterdam on April27 while on his way to Sweden to have a pacesetter inserted in the heart.

Bassist Sammy Kasule passed on in Netherlands in 2021 (Photo: File)

Bebe Cool showed that he was far from finished as a major act with the Gyenvude which can be loosely translated as ‘my life’s journey.’ The only downside of it that it sounded like it was written for a 20- year-old upstart who has just scored big and is telling the world the hassles, not a 40-year- who has been there, seen it all, and has sung about it before

Some celebrity gossip shows took their act tad too far and inviting the wrath of OS Suuna. Kay Z Marco and Wako were locked up. The Good folks at UCC came hard on such shows and decreed they be aired almost in the middle of the night!

WHEN MUSICIANS TURNED TO POLITICS

2021 will be remembered for many things such as the musicians who swapped the studio microphone for politics. These were Mathia Walukaga who became mayor of Kyengera. Dr Hilderman, he of the double bed mazongoto fame turned to music turned tables on Amelia Kyambadde for whom he had sung praises. Other artists who muscled their way to parliament were Geoffrey Lutaaya of the Nu Eagles, and Rema Namakula’s manager and Fifa-certified football agent Kayemba Solo

Politics is a different ball game. And dirty at the most. Popularity alone could not propel Jose Chameloene to the white hall as mayor of Kampala. Instead, he was savaged and given an unviable nickname Chief Beggar for going on his when receiving the car cars from President Museveni for swapping Cup for the NRM.  Not that he minds about the nickname one bit!

SALIM SALEH AND THE GULU FACTOR

When the second wave of the pandemic hit the country and shut down all things, especially those to do with live music, it dried up primary source of income for the vast majority working musicians, mangers and promoters. Like a farmer losing their crop. Famine struck. Things got tight.

Artistes made pilgrimages to Gulu to seek audience with Gen. Salim Saleh (Photo: file)

General Salim Saleh and government decided to help. He tried to give the workers and creators of music a support system such as how to monetize their music and help put in place structures that would help the growth of the music industry. He was instead savaged. History will be his best judge that he did contribute d to the growth of the music industry.

LIVE STREAMING  INTRODUCED

Previously Musicians preferred the interpersonal connection with audiences made that was at ‘real’ shows to live streaming. After Covid struck, the previously shunned technology of live streaming was in the spotlight as t got embraced by Bobi Wine Afrigo band, Eddy Kenzo and many others.

THE PHENOMENA OF TIK TOK 

As a musician marketing yourself is as important as making music. That calls for a big budget.  During the pandemic, many local musicians used Tik Tok as one of the best ways to get themselves out there and connect with their fans. Musicians such Liam Voice and Unknown had wild success.

The app helped them break into elusive corners of the music industry. They are reaching audiences that marketing platforms like TV and radio could not reach before.

THE GROWING MOVIE INDUSTRY

Previously, the movies and series that were made in Uganda were an ugly imitation of Nollywood.  The signs are good. The movie industry in Uganda is making slow but steady strides to the tops.  The girl in a Hello jacket, a Ugandan movie directed Loukman Ali (31) about a man who escapes a hostage situation and returns home to tell the story, made it on Netflix, the first Ugandan movie to achieve that feat.

Thanks to Pearl Magic, Ugandan Television owned by Multichoice. It’s dedicated itself to promoting Uganda, culture through television, film and music. We are seeing nicely filmed and scripted series such as The Honourables, Mizigo, Express, Sesiria, in the comfort of our sitting rooms.

Finally this is to hope. Hopefully the doors of the economy will be thrown open in January as President Museven promised. And that Uganda music will merge from this period in a better shape than before.

Of course, The mantra still is: The world will never be the same. Thank God, effective vaccines showed up.  Happy New Year!

 

 

 

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