Sharing the spirit of jazz
Posted Thursday, September 5 2013 at 01:00
Time check is 11am. I arrive at the Krystal Klear Studios Kololo where Isaiah Katumwa is doing rehearsals for the Jazz Experience Charity concert slated for tomorrow at the Kampala Serena Hotel.
He warmly welcomes me and introduces me to his band members. They are in the middle of rehearsals so I take a seat and watch. The saxophone maestro is rehearsing with a full live band.
The coordination, energy, and the way the entire band members move to the rhythm makes it seem like they are actually on stage for the concert.
I do not know whether it is just me, but the songs sound perfect but Katumwa and the entire band are making suggestions, what key to use somewhere and how one can get back on key in case they went off.
The resilience in this band is amazing. Decisions are made as a team without looking down on anyone.
An hour has passed and the band has so far performed over seven songs. It is evident that this band is making its final touches as almost everything has been grasped. The rehearsal comes to an end, and the band leader conducts a prayer. The spirit and love among this band members depicts how organised this concert ought to be. Right after that, I catch up with Katumwa for a light interview.
You have been quiet of late, what have you been up to?
I travel a lot between USA and Europe for concerts and other businesses and besides, I’m not the type of person who seeks attention. I always like to go to the media when there is something reasonable I have to say or present. I go to the media for a good cause.
Do you think being off the scene for quite some time affects your popularity?
I do not seek cheap popularity. I just want to do a good job, something dear to my heart and to make a great contribution to my country. So irrespective of being off scene or not, it zeroes down to what one has done for the country. I don’t think being silent for some time affects my popularity, no.
Where do you see jazz music in Uganda going?
It is amazing. One of the things I’m celebrating tomorrow is introducing new young versatile jazz artistes. My prayer when I was starting was to create a jazz scene through making music people can relate to. I’m a very original person, I do not want to be an American, I’m Ugandan. So I’m imparting the originality to these new jazz artistes. They are Brian Mugyenyi, Michael Kitanda, Joseph Kizito and Robert Aduba.
How often do you rehearse?
I rehearse everyday with this live band. Over four to five hours a day.
Are there any new compositions by Isaiah?
Most definitely, they are so many. Just come tomorrow and witness.
Do you think the jazz market in Uganda is low?
Well, first of all it’s evident jazz music is for the high people, the well-travelled. One may think the clientele of jazz is low but when you compare it to any other concert, having a crowd of 1,000 people is equivalent to having a crowd of 100 people in a jazz experience.
I am glad Ugandans are beginning to appreciate jazz I think this is mainly because of the originality my jazz pieces depict. I do not have to be like an American to be talented. I always love to record pieces that my own people can relate to. Today when non-jazz fans listen to my pieces, they can easily relate to and enjoy [them]. That is the evidence that our jazz market is growing.
What does it take to prepare for a concert of that kind?
It takes hard work, team work and above all, the will of God. I like to outdo myself. Every time I organise a concert, I like to start from where I stopped from the previous concert. I look at what mistakes I made in the last concert and how best I can take it higher. I give it my all because I always like to give my fans the very best.
What is going to make this jazz experience outstanding compared to the ones you have previously held?
First and foremost, I am introducing new individual saxophonists and at the same time, it is a charity concert; I am giving back to the school of the disabled in Kakunyu, Masaka. When I visited this school, I wept because of the sorry state these children are in.
The worst thing is that they are children with disabilities and have no access to clean water. So through my Isaiah Katumwa Foundation, I am going to construct a state of the art spring, it will have a push button to ease the process of fetching water. This will not only benefit these disabled children but also the community at large.
Finally, what should people expect tomorrow?
I am always passionate about doing the best. It is a concert that I’m outdoing myself on (from the stage setup to the content of the music). I always like to think of how I can contribute to the music industry so I am working with the best service providers in the industry, unselfishly without thinking about making a lot of money.
This is not a thing you don’t want to be told how it was, it is not a concert, it is an experience.