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Kafeero: Enigma who was ahead of his time

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Left to right: Prince Job Paul Kafeero, Charles Senkubuge and Meddie Nsereko entertain Bakayimbira fans during the
Ziribazzayo show held at Nakivubo stadium in 2000. PHOTOS/FILE

Singing to a soothing delectable solo guitar, Prince Job Paul Kafeero, who died in 2007, sorrowfully repents to the Lord in what appears to be an Afro-soul song. Kafeero later opens up that his heart is pained, but can only share the pain with God and whoever wishes. He further casts a vote of no confidence in Uganda’s judicial system, accusing it of corruption and unfairness.

This emotional account is part of the lyrics of his song, Ebisigalira bya Baffu. This is loosely translated as “remains of the dead”.
Andrew Jedidiah Ssebaggala, the production manager of the Uganda National Cultural Centre, shares that the song is Kafeero’s real-life story. It followed a publication by a local newspaper that human remains had been found in Kafeero’s home in Kabalagala, Kampala.

Kafeero, who asks God to take his life in the song, shares his side of the story, posing a number of questions towards his alleged offenders. He painfully asks why the police chose to invade his home at night while he was abroad, manhandled his children, and walked away with a generator. He then expresses shock towards the motive of the newspaper that published the story without waiting to listen to his side of the story.

Thriving on a prominent bass line that adds depth to the track, making the soundscape more immersive and captivating on a solid foundation, Kafeero’s deeply personal account evokes emotions as hints at blackmail and other nefarious motives.

The four-minute track has an extraordinary Subito where the direction of music suddenly changes as Kafeero sings to the Almighty in the last verse, asking God to deal with offenders. This is before he signs out with the Lord’s Prayer.

Death-themed songs
Whereas Ebisigala bya Bafu is presumed to be Kafeero’s sadddest song, most people who followed his music are not in doubt that Walumbe Zzaaya stands out. During his 36 years, Kafeero recorded more than 20 albums. It is, however, his horrific hit Walumbe Zzaaya that is immortalised in the Kadongo Kamu folklore. The 1994 masterpiece was an attack, lamentation, and effort to give death a human face.

Prince Job Paul performs his song Mpeddemu Essubi at a theatre in Kampala on June 21, 1997

In Walumbe Zzaaya (loosely translated as “death, the destroyer”), Kafeero deals with the dreaded subject in a lengthy yet conversational manner. He uses a richness of words to portray a deep-seated sadness.
According to the book, One Little Guitar: The Words of Paul Job Kafeero by Kathryn Barrett-Gaines, aka Omwana W’Omuzungu, it was this song that led to Kafeero being christened the Golden Boy of Africa. This was after winning the gold medal from the Institut d’Etudes Théâtrales at the Cairo Music Festival of 1994.
Arts journalist Moses Sserugo shares that the song tackles default statements about death using his signature country kind of music.
“The song is not just emotional but it tackles a real-life issue to the fact that by the time of its release, I had lost my uncle,” he explains.
In the visuals associated with the song, Kafeero is seen singing besides a grave. He narrates how death can be brutal to the fact that it takes the rich, poor, young, old, the weak and the powerful.

Nsonda Nya, a song that Kafeero speaks to a journey of no return when one is lowered into the grave, also shows the artiste’s obsession with a death theme. Kafeero sings about parting from life and getting tucked into a doorless hole, leaving his hard-earned wealth to strangers.
In his lyrics, he glorifies finding solace in music and dance while encouraging people to enjoy life to its fullest.

Beyond the love for his rich storytelling technique that is depicted in his music, Kafeero’s music was also educative. It would hardly be an offence to liken him to a philosopher. Ssebaggala suggests that his evergreen music not only offered life lessons but was relevant during his time and the future. He was in a sense ahead of his time.

“Besides giving life lessons to children, women, youth and leaders, his music was packaged with rich Luganda literature to the fact that one would pick a new word in each of his songs,” Ssebaggala explains, pointing out the prophetic nature of Kampala mu Kooti that predicted that the Ugandan capital, Kampala, would be afflicted by the issues that currently ail it—insecurity, street children, vendors, and hygiene concerns, among others.

Who was Kafeero

Paul Job Kafeero, also known as Prince Paul Job Kafeero, was hailed the Golden Boy of Africa after his 15-minute song, Walumbe Zzaaya, won the gold medal from the Institut d’Etudes Théâtrales at the Cairo Music Festival of 1994.
In 2003, his hit song Dipo Naziggala, in which he sees the light side of the drinking habits of Ugandans, won a Pearl of Africa Music Award (PAM) for best Kadongo Kamu single.'

Born in 1971, Kafeero attended Nkokonjeru Demonstration Primary School before completing his O-Level in Ngogwe in 1984.
The proprietor of a local music label Kabuladda Drama Actors, which later dissolved to start a musical group, Kulabako Guitar Singers, Kafeero became a household name when he released his first album, Muvubuka Munange, later Ekijjankunene and Abatunda Ebyokulya.
In the year 2007, Kafeero, 36, died of acute malaria in Mulago hospital.