What you need to know:
- The musician is described on Wikipedia as famous for his “melancholic soft tenor voice, emphatic and emotive dance moves, as well as his unique blend of contemporary and traditional Congolese music genres including Congolese rumba, soukous and ndombolo”.
- In a music career already spanning two decades, some of Mr Fally Ipupa’s notable titles include Associé, Amore, Nzoto, Un Coup, Nyokalessé, Maria PM, A Flyé, and Eloko Oyo.
It had rained earlier in the day and the Kampala Sheraton ground was damp. The night was breezy and refreshing.
The half-moon glanced at the revellers filing in from early evening.
Fenon Events had set up a gigantic podium from which multi-hued lighting dazzled downstage right, centre and left and illuminated the skies to announce an awaited show by Congolese music legend, Fally Ipupa N’simba.
Soon the grounds filled with concert-goers massed body-to-body.
Huge screens beamed the on-the-state images, enabling the closest of impersonal interactions between the legend and latecomers distant from the stage.
The unfolding moment was nostalgic for fans, many having paid and yearned for the ecstasy in 2019. That year, 243 Events announced it was flying in Fally to stage concerts in Arua and Kampala on December 13 and 14.
The crooner was a no-show yet admirers purchased tickets while fanatical ones secured all-white sets to imitate one of Fally’s signature attires on-stage.
Thus, there was doubt whether he would turn up this time, prompting some revellers to delay buying tickets until the very last moment.
As fate would have it, rival prompters; Yannick Mbala and Jonathan Buta, on September 26 asked police to arrest Fally Ipupa on arrival, claiming he took their Euros65,000 (Shs256m) for a 2019 concert that never was.
How the impasse was resolved remains a mystery. Nonetheless the Congolese artiste jetted into the country, staging an energetic performance in Arua in West Nile, bordering Fally’s native Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC.
There, like elsewhere, Fally Ipupa is a megastar. The wildly cheering crowd was an acclamation of a homecoming for the artiste than a maiden foray into the unknown.
West Nile was added to Uganda only in 1914, having been alternately part of present-day DRC and South Sudan as vended by colonialists. So, the Fally concert drew merrymakers from within and outside the country.
But it’s the behind-the-scenes work involved that signposted pleasure and pain: a hastily crafted partnership, a plane ride to Kinshasa and a sudden death of the initiator and co-organiser.
Jeanette Buga Tazita, a businesswoman of Ugandan-Congolese extraction, broached the idea to events manager Solomon Moloa, seeking guidance on how to bring Fally for concerts in Uganda after the failed December 2019 attempt by 243 Event.
The duo worked out the preliminaries. It was evident Tazita did not have at hand the cash required for a down-payment.
Then Mr Moloa proposed a partnership with Malembe Lifestyles, whose founders Keith Asaba, Joseph Mwima and John Kalanzi Masembe proved their pedigree by stringing home the Boyz II Men to perform here in June.
They agreed. The parties inked a partnership and in July lifted off to Kinshasa where they met the Congolese crooner and worked out contracts with his legal and management team.
They flew back to announce the planned concerts. As each side worked overdrive to ensure a clinical execution, Tazita died suddenly in Arua on September 12, leaving a lifetime dream and lucrative deal in the pipeline.
The Arua concert, in which Fally honoured her memory by introducing her daughter Natalie Naina, like he did in the capital, was a harbinger of the stellar display at Kampala Sheraton Hotel on Sunday night.
At the Sheraton gardens, a public open space taken, maintained and managed by the hotel, the deejays worked the controllers and mixed the tunes to the delight of revelers who either chorused or hummed.
Some, however, heckled whenever non-Congolese music blared on the speakers for an extended time.
Then at the stroke of 10pm, the stage lights blinked, sketching silhouettes backstage. Brawny men led a column of humans in via the VIP section. A powering of downstage right lights revealed it was Fally Ipupa ambling forward.
The crowd went wild. The yodeling was deafening. Merrymakers held mobile phone handsets aloft to capture the epic moment and the galaxy of phone lights illuminated like stars in the skies.
The neon lights beamed and an outline of a Fally in a shiny black suit, whose jacket he wore without an undergarment, formed alongside his male dancers and vocalists clad in black suits and white -shirts/t-shirts.
Backstage were guitarists/instrumentalists while the queen dancers wore pink hot pants and white tops. The crowd surged forward, with the inertia of the push-and-shove leaving some merrymakers suspended in the air.
The excitement had hit a crescendo by the time Fally let out the words of the first of twenty-six songs he performed, with hundreds singing along effortlessly.
He briefly went backstage with vocalists, emerging in black t-shirt and trouser and green shoes while the male dancers all dropped jackets --- for an all-out dance.
The crooner himself was at his best with his waist-wiggling and suggestive strokes, spreading sensational currents as the crowd exploded full-scale into zestful swings, turns and gyrations.
The jinx of Fally no-show had been broken, perhaps permanently, after he announced he would perform in Uganda every year going forward.