Why they made the cut
By Dennis Asiimwe
In terms of his presence and acknowledgement as a monarch, the Kabaka of Buganda is the foremost cultural leader in Uganda. This is probably highlighted by how frequently he is acknowledged in song, and is a result of several social and political dynamics that we won’t bother delving into.
As we roll around to the 28th anniversary of his coronation as the King of Buganda, we decided to list the top five efforts to pay musical tribute towards Ronald Mutebi, the Kabaka of Buganda. We also outline why each song makes our shortlist.
No. 5 – Ziwuuna Engoma, Ziwuuna – Sammy Kasule
The late bassist loved to experiment, and his exposure to various musical styles set him nicely for this one. Ziwuuna Engoma, Ziwuuna captures the percussive signature of Ganda drums while marrying them to the Afro pop genre in an undeniable mash up that is electric and impossible to deny. This percussion was a hall-mark of the coronation function and indeed, any ceremony with his presence, and because the track adopts this so neatly, Ziwuuna Engoma, Ziwuuna made our top 5, slotting in as the fifth song. It’s wonderful how Sammy works the bass on this one, isn’t it? The song has a lovely, cosmopolitan feel to it, which is probably inevitable because of the road that Sammy took with regards to his musical career, but you cannot deny the royalty and presence of those drums.
No. 4 – Omwana Wa Muteesa – Mesach Semakula
The rich tapestry of music that is Omwana Wa Muteesa comes in at No. 4. This song makes our list because it brings a full force of the musicality of traditional Ganda music to the fore: the percussion, the call-and-answer format, the gorgeous harmonies, and the wonderful instrumentation that traditional Ganda music had to offer, including xylophones and flutes. Omwana Wa Muteesa celebrates the Kabaka of Buganda in a powerful way, recalling his origins and riding on the high of richly varied music and percussion. Mesach Semakula outdoes himself on this one.
No. 3 – Kabaka Wange – Dr. Hilderman
There is a simplicity to Hilderman’s Kabaka Wange that enabled it to make this list. The song avoids the technical emphasis on percussive instrumentation or even the melodic instruments like the xylophone, but instead uses his lyrics to hail the Kabaka of Buganda in a potent and lyrical celebration. The song does break into a percussive groove that taps into that Ganda groove that traditional troupes have made a household sound, but it’s Hilderman’s decision to build the song around an approach where he is hailing the Kabaka for his attention that helps it work best.
No. 2 – Nyimbira Kabaka Wange – Bobi Wine
He was always going to make this list, eh? Bobi Wine’s Nyimbira Kabaka Wange follows a simple, Afro pop format. The melody isn’t exactly memorable, but he lends the song a simplicity and potency either way – he had already developed a knack for social commentary in his musical career two years ago, and so when he dropped this track as part of the Kabaka’s coronation anniversary celebrations at the time, it certainly had its fans. He keeps things simple on Nyimbira Kabaka Wange – no percussive tribute, just a simple sing along song that celebrates the Kabaka.
No. 1 – Ensonga Ssemasonga – Hope Mukasa FT Juliana Kanyomozi
We top our list with this pearl of a song from the silky-voiced Hope Mukasa, where he features Juliana’s dulcet vocals. Hope can call the Kabaka family, something he is modest enough not to do in public. This track received much less airplay than it deserved – its pop/flamenco groove is delicious, and both Juliana and Hope showcased their innate singing ability with sumptuous ease. The song discusses the five tenets that define the Kabaka’s reign in modern times:
- Strengthening the throne and kingdom with its values;
- Federalism rule of governance;
- Protecting land and rights in Buganda;
- Hard work and economic growth in Buganda;
- Unity as Baganda
It sounds like a mouthful – but the song is able to deliver this message eloquently without affecting the musicality of the song. The song tops the list because of the potent message carried within its lyrics and because of the sheer vocal ability of Hope and Juliana, whose singing on this is heavenly.