Nothing better could have sealed the month of August and ushered in September like the 38 year anniversary of the Afrigo Band at the UMA Exhibition Hall. Except for the show starting a bit late, everything was literally flawless at this red carpet affair.
The emcees of the night, Ruth Kalibala and Aloysius Matovu opened up the show with their comical command of the stage. It was not long before Afrigo Band took over the stage and did what it does best - deliver great music. The Abaana B’Afrigo arrived with songs like Afrigo Batusse (both versions), Amazzi G’enyama, Silikusula and Ekitobero which saw the generations (old and new) get on the floor and do it in the spectacular olden way. Their dance strokes were clear proof that the old musical broom sweeps the dance corners better.
84-year-old Richard Majoro, a South African musician who’s been in Uganda since the 50s and also sang at Ssekabaka Mutesa’s birthday delivered his Zulu musical presents for the lively audience. (You never find an 84-year-old who can sing and dance except at an Afrigo concert). Eddie Yaawe showed his vocal prowess as he did his two songs, Mu Kayembe and Kati Onooba, rich in lyrical content and beautiful instrumentation.
Rachael Magoola was still as stunning as ever as she did her various songs in Lusoga accompanied by amazing dancers. And when Joanita Kawalya got on stage, she was evidence that nothing lasts longer than Afrigo band, her timeless song, Jim Wange, specially done for the ladies brought back memories.
In between, the Afrigo Band Executive Director James Wasula came around to take us through the history of Afrigo, talking of clubs like Suzanna, and places like Capetown where Afrigo’s performances used to take place. He gave us the meaning of Afrigo as Africa Go Forward explaining that Afrigo as a band aimed at liberating Africa through good music. He could not help but throw a few jibes at those who refer to themselves as the grandfathers of Ugandan music out of nowhere.
Moses Matovu, the clay that has kept the Afrigo bond was impressive on the saxophone, lead guitarist, Frank Mbalire a peak performer with Bamuleete and percussionist Herman Ssewanyana, a master at his conga. Edmond ‘Ed’ Ganja, Sammy Kasule, Joe Tabula, Peter Bazanye, bass guitarist, Charles Busulwa and Isaac Zimbe on the drums, were, but a reflection of shining musical gods. Whoever says dancers can’t stand out on the traditional platform should have seen the likes of Jacinta Wamboga and Sarah Namiyonga.
Cliff Keys Mutebi (son of the late Peterson Mutebi) did his Bigambo bya Ssanyu as one of the last performances of the night. The night also had the famous Lord Kitchener song- Qualified Physician perfomed, before Afrigo summed it up with Sikulimba that got everyone irrespective of age on the dance floor.
Was the Shs100,000 worth it? It paid for more than it’s worth, in a world of auto-tune and CD crooners, live music does not come cheap and grand. For a live band that has been in existence for 38 years, it’s one that is yet to be rivalled; its music makes you recall those nostalgic moments, not forgetting that it has 21 albums with a single album not going anything below six songs. And for this night, Afrigo came, performed and conquered the audience. It was a bow on the package that made us long for the moment to continue indefinitely. For that group that left Cranes Band in November 1975 to form Afrigo Band, that breakaway has done good service to our ears over the years.