Monday October 23 2017

Carol Nakimera, a versatile artist

Mulindwa Muwonge, Winnie Munyenga

L-R: Mulindwa Muwonge, Winnie Munyenga, Carol Nakimera, and Sarah Birungi COURTESY PHOTO  

Those who attended the music shows held by Carol Nakimera in the 1980s and 1990s will recall the energy and creativity she put into her performances.

She was an enigma – a woman who was capable of switching from one vocal range to the next with ease. Not only that, she could also sing different genres of music.
Edward Ssendikadiwa (Eddie Sendi), managing director of West Records brands Nakimera one of a kind.

“I saw her sing several genres comfortably. In recording sessions, she knew what she wanted. So many of our musicians go to the studio and will never have an opinion on what direction their music should take.
Not Carol. She would walk into the recording studio and tell the producer how she wanted the bass guitar to sound. She would say, ‘I’m going to sing but at a certain point, when I begin chanting the words as if I am rapping, I want the keyboard to give of a specific sound.’ And she would play the sound.”
Andrew Benon Kibuuka, the president of the Uganda Performing Artists Association, still remembers the fallen musician as very talented.

“She had a wonderful voice. She had stage art. Some singers have a good voice but they cannot perform. Nakimera could interpret her songs and present them artistically. I first saw her when she joined the Emitoes Band in 1992. Most of the songs sung by the band leader, Umaru Katumba, were composed by Nakimera.”

Weaving through genres and bands
Such were Nakimera’s electric performances that she never lacked a band to perform with. “She sang in the Blues Band with an English man called Andreas and sang rhythm and blues,” Ssendikadiwa says, continuing, “She also teamed up with Ely Wamala to sing Genda y’Olabe, a slow love ballad.”
Ssendikadiwa first watched her performing with MT4 band that belonged to Hope Mukasa, at Half London in Kansanga in 1988.

“She was performing Omusujja, her hit song and she had the crowd eating out of her palm. In one show, she could run through all sorts of genres; rhythm and blues, reggae, afro pop, kadongo kamu, and jazz, all with ease. She had a commanding voice and could perform anywhere. She would perform at Sheraton Hotel and fit in with revellers of that class.

Then, she would perform at a dingy bar in Nakulabye and fit in with the people there. You will hear Juliana saying, ‘I get my inspiration from Carol Nakimera,’ but it is just the voice and in one genre only.”
Not many musicians are versatile enough to adjust to the locale where they are performing.

There are people who perform at Sheraton hotel and you can clearly see that they do not belong there. On the flip side, there are some who hold shows in down trodden bars and they never fit in.
Later that year, Nakimera worked with a Congolese band, Super Rockets Jazz Band owned by Martin Munyenga, which used to perform at a bar where the Galilaya Plaza now stands.
She also performed with Central Volcano, the resident band at California Bar on Luwum Street next to City Centre Complex.

In 1996, Nakimera joined Pride Band belonging to Bakayimbira Pride Production. “She was our lead vocalist, and was later joined by Fred Maiso,” Kibuuka says, adding, “In 1996, when we started the Abakazi si mmere shows at Ggaba Beach, Nakimera was one of the star female artistes.” Harry Lwanga, a musician and guitarist in Pride Band, has fond memories of his friend. “Carol was real. She had absolute passion for music and gave her whole to it. When she came onto the stage, she lit it up. The song we worked on together was Genda y’Olabe. She wrote it, and we arranged it together, sitting at Pride Theater.”
She later quit the band and went on to join other bands, such as, Afrigo Band, the Vibrations, and Jambo Stars.

On the flipside
“She was an artistic nomad,” Kibuuka says, adding, “She was always on the move.” According to those who knew her, the reason Nakimera moved from one band to another was because of her indiscipline. She was also a heavy drinker.
Ssendikadiwa says there is nothing unique about Nakimera’s indiscipline. “She was like most talented people.

That is why I do not get surprised by the things Chameleone or Mozey Radio do because they are very talented, but undisciplined. Carol would not attend band rehearsals. It was universally known. And she never kept time. But when she reached the venue, she would go onto the stage and do her thing and the crowd would just love it.”
However, despite this behaviour, Nakimera never failed to get a band to take her on once she parted ways with her current band, because she was too good to be left on the shelf.

“Carol was very unassuming,” Lwanga says, continuing, “Personally, I learnt how to be patient as an artist, from her. I learned to love my talent. She was loving, and a true artist to the core.”
Lwanga adds that Nakimera was the most versatile female artiste he has worked with to-date. “Only Angela Kalule comes close to being like her.” Indeed, although she died young, Carol Nakimera still remains in the hearts of her many fans. She only released one album, Gendayo.

Monster hit-omusujja

The opening lines of this song, written in 1982, are electrifying. Yogera no wooli, Ssebo; Bigambo tubitwaale mu maaso, Ssebo; Nze nkusaba omanye nti nze ndi mukazi wo omwagalwa; Ompe ekitiibwa, Ssebo…
“Omusujja came at a time music of the rumba genre was in a language we did not understand,” Ssendikadiwa says, adding, “But, all the same, people danced to them. When Omusujja came out, every good thing was in the right place. Rumba was the in-thing and here was a young, beautiful, Luganda-speaking girl singing in Luganda, in a Congolese band. That song was good to dance to, and Carol was a good performer and dancer.” There is still a dispute over the author of the song, but Ssendikadiwa says Martin Munyenga wrote most of it with the help of an old Congolese guitarist.

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