What you need to know:
- He may have announced retirement but the audience proved Kirya is still needed.
In early December, Maurice Kirya stunned music lovers when he posted on his socials that he was quitting active performing.
At the time, Kirya had just released his last body of work, The Road to Kirya. He says a big part of the album was written and later recorded during the lockdown and thus was personal in many ways.
The message on the album is indeed telling, even though, in an interview after the show, he says the music he writes is multifaceted, and thus can be interpreted in various ways.
The opening song of the album is Entebbe, which most Ugandans easily relate to travel or transition. One could wonder if quitting music was a singer’s transition into something else around the arts business.
After a series of opening acts, Kirya opened the show with Entebbe and he indeed got the reception that was expected. Most of them were music lovers, which wasn’t surprising that they knew songs of Kampala’s less celebrated artistes that had performed earlier such as Ebrahim Souló, Aliddeki and Kenneth Mugabi.
The only opening act whose music the audience seemed oblivious with was Lulu from Malawi. The RnB artiste is a former member of Lucius Banda’s Zembani Band, he is a brilliant performer that managed to engage the Ugandan audience singing in Chewa with only the aid of a guitar.
He’s the first foreign act that has performed at Kirya Live which the artiste says has grown into a festival showcasing talent from Uganda and now Africa. This year, he also had Mugabi as the first artiste returning to the platform that has in the past had artistes such as Shifa Musisi, Body of Brian and Afrie.
“When we are choosing artistes for the festival, we don’t look at their genre. We are always looking for artistes that have something to say, we don’t have limitations,” he says.
His show on Friday was meant to capture bits of his old and new self. A mixture of songs that his audience has grown to love for the past 20 years or more. They sang every song from albums Misubawa, Book of Kirya, Mwooyo, Beyond Self, Free Dreams and the latest, The Road to Kirya.
Kirya has over the years released a number of singles outside the six albums which widens his catalogue even further. Eight of the songs he preformed such as the groovy My Woman, Lindako, Sejjiga, Yakutondela and Muse among others are all from his latest body of work. It may have been the only solo album that had the biggest of selections from the night.
Kirya’s music usually tends to say something, it is either about the society or something happening in his love life. Which probably explains why even his cheeky songs such as Muse, somehow hit a chord.
But there are critical songs that were a no show such as, I Don’t Wanna Fight where he sings about his dreams of making music because he wanted to say something. At a time when the music industry is fighting over non musical issues, this would have been an ode to the circus. But he performed Munonde, where he takes on the voice of a politician talking to an electorate he’s only intending to use. The song off the Beyond Myself album may not be as popular with masses but will probably be, especially in Uganda where transactional politics takes on new faces each day that goes by.
Most of these songs played out on a stage backdrop produced by ATS, one of the new kids on the block, show producers that leave no chance for era with their lighting and graphics departments.
Most of the lighting and effects of the night were on point and called for; the celebration of female Ugandan icons from different walks of life as Kirya and Myko Ouma performed Ugandan Girl was equally colourful, powerful and memorable.
But then there was a sound issue- for an artiste such as Kirya, what he says on the microphone and the way he says it is key. He’s a vocalist that people need to listen to, yet the microphone levels at times did not allow this.
Like most performers, the most anticipated songs usually come late on the setlist. For Kirya, these are songs such as Boda Boda and Busabala, whose popularity can be attested by the number of phones that were held high to record the action. But then there was a song that has to cap it all, Mulembe Gwa Kirya, a powerful song that only him can bring out the emotions of.
He sings about recording timeless music that people will listen to and tell those that will be there that they were there when those songs came out. Something he has achieved, and probably the reason he cancelled his own retirement.
“All I can say is that I was wrong about retiring. I noticed how music was important to me,” he says.
As he ended the show, Kirya told revellers that included singers such as Lydia Jazmine, Joshua Baraka, Jose Chameleone, Navio, Salome Basuuta and Elijah Kitaka among others that there is definitely another Kirya Live in 2024, because he’s still here.