Reviews & Profiles
My life with Paul Kafeero: One woman tells her intriguing story
Posted Sunday, January 20 2013 at 22:00
Although Paul Kafeero never married Kathryn Barrett-Gaines, commonly known as Omwana W’omuzungu, the two were very close and lived together. In her book One Little Guitar, she tells the story of how they met, fell in love and how he remains in her reverend.
On January 13, Professor Kathryn Barrett-Gaines, known to many Ugandans as Omwana W’omuzungu launched a book, One Little Guitar, in tribute, to the famous Kadongo Kamu singer, Paul Kafeero. The book that costs Shs50,000 documents all his music and in lyrics; both in Luganda and English.
It is also enriched with lots of photographs, most of them never-seen-before, of the musical prince, right from 1989 when he cut his musical teeth, to his shows here and in the Diaspora.
If music is food to the soul then Paul Job Kafeero’s music provided more than just a meal for local souls. He provided food for thought too, in his clever, elaborative and unadulterated lyrics that make him one of the finest musicians to have graced the stage.
He has been gone from the scene for a good five years, but Kafeero is ironically more influential today than when he lived.
At only 38, he was a musician in the sense of the word- a gifted vocalist, lyricist and guitarist, three musical traits that made him an undoubted gem of his time. From his base in Lweza, off Entebbe road, he penned witty songs with punch, songs that cut through.
Kadongo Kamu is to Uganda what Genge is to Kenya, Kwaito to South Africa or Bongo Flava to Tanzania. This is Uganda’s native music genre, possibly the oldest mainstream music genre in the country. Like the name suggests in the Luganda, kadongo kamu means “one little guitar”.
Music certainly defined Kafeero’s life and he gave it his all.
In a song like Walumbe Zzaya (Mr death, the destroyer) he deals with the dreaded subject in a lengthy yet conversational manner using a richness in words to portray the sadness.
In fact, it was for this song that Kafeero was christened the Golden Boy of Africa, after winning the gold medal from the Institute d’Etudes Theatreales at the Cairo Music Festival of 1994.
His love for the bottle
Most of his musical contemporaries and friends acknowledge that he was a gifted singer. Of course they knew his love for the bottle. He was easier to hang around when he had a bottle in his hands and was sipping its frothy content. He admittedly sings as much in his 2003 hit song Dipo Naziggala, a song that won him recognition back home, at that year’s Pearl of Africa Music (PAM) Awards for best Kadongo Kamu single.
In the song he goes on and on about the woes of alcoholism using idioms, sayings and proverbs.
But that is what Kadongo Kamu allowed this artiste do, use music accompanied by a single instrument or two to talk about the ills in society, share his love stories, deal with domestic issues, advise the parentless and tackle real life issues.
In an enthralling and deeply emotive 10 and half minutes, the maestro goes on to talk about the agony of betrayal by those close to him, loneliness in a dark house with no family or friends and the lies and misjudgment that would be told and made about it.
On May 17, 2007, death robbed Paul Job Kafeero of a life in which he had painfully sung about the ultimate end. The news of his death swept Uganda like a wild bush fire in Uganda and among Ugandans in the Diaspora as well as other music lovers who knew or had heard of him.
“I had 17 missed calls on my cell phone in the US on the morning of May 17, 2007. Because of the time difference between Uganda and America, Kafeero died while I slept,” Barrett-Gaines recalls.