Kasango takes Ugandan music, dance to London

Friday January 26 2018

Kasango (R) performs during one of his shows in

Kasango (R) performs during one of his shows in London, UK. Photo by Enock K Kimbowa  

By Enock K Kimbowa

On a lazy Saturday afternoon the sun lights up Trafalgar Square with sounds of African folk drowning in the hustle and bustle of London.
In a distance, a troupe of dancers, smartly dressed in the colours of the Uganda flag, wiggle to the soundtrack attracting my attention.

And as such I pick out a familiar sound from northern Uganda hummed by African Cultural Development Arts that is performing at the African on the Square Festival, a part of the Black History Month in UK.
Among the members is Yisima Kasango, a true performer with a particular liking for instrument, dance and singing.

For two years, Kasango has been living in London, UK and is part of the African Cultural Development Arts.
In Uganda, before leaving for the UK, Kasango curved himself into a seasoned traditional artiste performing in a number of music and dance troupes among them Ndere Troupe, Drumbeat of Uganda and Crane Performers.

Today he effortlessly trots on with a drum hanging around his neck as he sings his lungs out.
True to the saying art has taken Kasango places and he has met people he only dreamt of such as performing before Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, . His talent afforded him an opportunity to live the stage as part of a village ensemble in Iganga into a classroom of a city school.
Kasango was recruited to formally teach music at Kazo West Primary School before moving to Clevers Origin Primary School in Kitintale.

At Clevers he turned the school into a musical icon and helped to compose a song - Congratulations - in celebration of Uganda’s Independence Golden Jubilee. From here he moved on to London where, he says, he has been able to teach a vast community of all ages and backgrounds.
Since arriving in London, he has become ‘more famous’ making appearances on ‘international’ audiences at various events in UK, Kenya, Tanzania, Cyprus and US.

He has performed with a number of Ugandans including Sarah Ndagire, Seby Ntege, Ganda Boys, and Bantu Arts with whom he has put up show-stopping performances at festivals such as the Black History Month and African on The [Trafalgar] Square in London.
He has also performed at private functions such as weddings, corporate events [World Travel Market at Excel in London] and feature in productions such as Shaka Zulu.

Sharing talent
Kasango is also looking at sharing talent through which he can pass on his abilities to as many people as possible.
“In Busoga where I come from, art is part of the community. A boy is old enough to go to school when he learns to play an instrument and for a girl dancing without being shy is a milestone. I learnt to play [instruments] at a very early age and did not require training because it was part of our society,” he says. At the age of seven Kasango had mastered the art of playing the xylophone in a village ensemble but later took particular liking for the ndingidi (one-string tube fiddle). However, he can plays all traditional instrument in Uganda.
In London, Kasango together with Bantu Arts conducts workshops in schools and in communities with different backgrounds.

“My ambition is to become one of the best folk singers in the world, but along the way I want to share as much as I can and extend the reach of Ugandan music and cultural dance,” he says.
The two years he has spent in London, he says, have been a learning curve where he has derived satisfaction in “passing on knowledge, teaching culture to people from a different background”.

All-round artiste
Apparently, Kasango uses his skills to introduce art into communities away from the usual stage setting.
Kasango is an all-round artiste who charms audiences with wild and powerful performances.
He incorporates contemporary music in his stock of performance and is set to release a solo album that is a mixture of both worlds.

“I have also come to learn that there is diversity in art and that the two can co-exist. When you capture one audience then you can introduce them to the other world of music.”
And with his latest adventure, Kasango has in his fold an armoury that will broaden his career in art and endear him to various audiences.

Teaching cultural music
Kasango has previously taught music at Kazo West Primary School and Clevers Origin Primary School in Kitintale. He later moved to London, UK where he continues to teach music and culture to a vast group of people with different backgrounds.