How Basudde showed up barefoot for his first show

Herman Basudde defied his humble background to make a mark in Uganda’s music industry. Photo | File

What you need to know:

  • Herman Basudde created a name for himself in Uganda’s music industry, yet his incredible music career was never as flowery as one might expect, writes Gabriel Buule. 

Besides the unique sound of the guitar in his song Bus Dunia, Herman Basudde used the intro of the song not just to celebrate himself, but to literally paint a picture that he was a distinct musician who will never be replaced.

He mentions his idol, Eclas Kawalya, who people tried to emulate, but never matched. Indeed, Basudde is an irreplaceable music story given the uniqueness of his art and approach to life to the fact that many have always referred to him as a music prophet.

A semi-literate village boy from Bubondo in Masaka, Basudde defied his humble background to make a mark in Uganda’s music industry that, 27 years later, lives on.

Basudde’s friend Ssalongo Ssekidde explains that after the Luweero Bush War, Basudde was wrongfully accused of illegally owning a gun and detained by security in Bubondo, his home village. After securing bail, he went off the scene and sought refuge in Kalububbu, a neighbouring village in Masaka.

Ssekidde says Basudde’s music dream got shuttered after most of his friends never wanted to associate with a person who was rumoured to have a gun.

“The situation was tricky, arrests had become normal and everyone was in fear,” he explains.

Then, Ssekidde recalls, when a famous music band led by Matia Kakumirizi and Dan Mugula, Entebbe Guitar star singers showed up for a performance in Mateete, he sought for an opportunity to perform with the band.

“I played an acoustic guitar during the band rehearsal and Matia Kakumirizi, the band leader granted me an opportunity to join them,” Ssekidde tells Sunday Monitor.

Ssekidde briefed the band leaders that he had a friend, Basudde, who was better than him and he requested that, instead of him, they take Basudde who was unemployed at that time. Moreover, he added back then, Basudde was a better singer.

“I walked miles to find Basudde and I failed to locate him,” he recalls, adding, “A villager told us to wait in the evening and hear the sound of a guitar and that is how we located him. He would isolate himself in the evening just to sing by himself.”

Career nearly ruined by shoes

In Kalububbu where Entebbe Guitar Star Singers had another performance, Ssekidde, who was with singers Charles Ssemakula and Vicent Muwonge, located Basudde in a grass-thatched bar where he was randomly performing for drunkards, who paid him in tips.

“He was glad to see us and even more delighted to learn that he would get an opportunity to perform with the band,” Ssekidde remembers.

In the pre-performance rehearsals, Basudde sampled his then unrecorded songs, Mukyala Mugerwa, Milly Nanyondo, Bigumba bya Mpuuta and Ensi eno engenze walala. Ssekidde says whereas most band members were impressed, artiste Suleiman Mayanja rejected them outright. Reason? Basudde did not have shoes and Ssekidde was poorly dressed in old shoes.

Ssalongo Ssekidde, friend of Basudde. Photo | Courtesy

Luckily, the performance was called off after the power generator got a mechanical problem and the band proceeded to Patel Sharmji Hall in Masaka. Even though the band had resolved to allow Basudde and Ssekidde to perform at Patel Sharmji Hall, the van was so small that Basudde was left out. Ssekidde shares that Basudde endured a long distance on foot in the night and by morning, he was at the venue.

At the show time, both Basudde and Ssekidde were allowed to perform together. Uncle Dick Mulima Ssempaka, the event’s MC, however, refused to announce them on stage because Basudde was barefooted. Ssekidde showed up alone on stage and Basudde played the guitar behind the curtain. Later, Ssekidde gave his shoes to Basudde to show up on stage to perform as the barefoot Ssekidde played the guitar.

After the performance, which Ssekidde claims was amazing, the band asked the audience to select one of the performers who would join the band and the audience selected Ssekidde over Basudde.

“They shouted saying that Basudde was a good performer, but his looks were not for stars,” Ssekidde remembers.

In a twist of events, Ssekidde’s guitar was stolen and he declined an opportunity to go to Kampala. He instead opted to look for his guitar. This allowed Basudde to take up his position.

“When Basudde arrived in Kampala, his career and life changed forever, but he never forgot me … he returned the favour by changing my life,” Ssekidde explains.

 Basudde the prophet

Music promoter Sula Buyondo shares that Basudde can be regarded as a prophet given the fact that he used his lyrics to talk about things that are happening today, especially corruption. In the song Ekyaali Mu Ssabo, he uses love to paint a story of two co-wives who attempt to use witchcraft to kill each other over a man. Buyondo shares that the song is prophetic not least because witchcraft is rife today.

Basudde’s prophetic abilities were further exhibited in songs like Abakukungubazi where he reveals the dishonesty of mourners who never feel sorry for families of the deceased.

In his song Africa, he explores a wide range of issues like religion as he warns the Black race about the motives of donors, including their bad agendas for Africa.

Similarly, in the song Ebintu bizibu, alias Ekiryo N’omuwaffu, he uses literature to talk about science, predict a twist in human rights while discussing equality. His songs like Bus Dunia mirror the current political situation in Uganda and Africa.

In the song, Ekiwuka Ekyaga Muntamu, Basudde used a simile to speak to the HIV/Aids epidemic in Uganda. In the song, the narrator dreams of a lizard-like insect invading his home and despoiling life, food, and sex.

The Basudde you didn’t know

When Herman Bassude’s father Eria Kizza Katende returned from the Second World War in late 1945, he came with an acoustic guitar, reportedly gifted to him by his friend—Mr Brown—as a souvenir.

Later, his son forged a worthwhile music career on a guitar whose strings had started getting damaged at the time.

 It is understood that before using the same guitar to compose his first single, Mukyala Mugerwa, in 1986, the self-taught musician used the same guitar to do live performances in Bubondo, his home village in Masaka.

Herman Basudde was born on December 5, 1958, to Eria Katende and Dimitiria Namyalo.

He attended Kibanda Primary School and Kitenga Primary School.

He is believed to have not gone beyond Primary School.

Basudde died on June 11, 1997 in a devastating car accident.