Oscar played jazz, his friends danced

Oscar Kihika entertained a full house at Serena Hotel’s Victoria Hall. Photo by Faiswal Kasirye

Charity, a star-studded cast and passion were what defined Oscar Kihika’s second concert, Oscar & Friends— The Party, at the Kampala Serena Hotel last Friday night. The concert was also the official launch of Oscar’s second album, The Journey, so named because its eight songs reflect his musical journey.

Kihika, as you’ve been told in every review you read about his music, is an accomplished Kampala lawyer with a passion for music, especially jazz music. He is also a member of the Rotary Club, the reason why he gives the proceeds from his concerts to charity. (Like his first concert in 2010, the proceeds from Friday’s concert will be donated to Jjianyi Primary School on Entebbe Road).

Kihika’s music is Afrobeat jazz that bends slightly to incorporate other forms, often with pleasing results: he opened with a cover of Yanni’s new age Standing in Motion. Even when other artistes came on to perform—the autistic Zimbabwean saxophonist Ceaser Kajura (my, how he wowed), Benon Mugumya, Suzan Kerunen, Michael Ouma, Qwela Band and a very uninspired Jackie Chandiru—there was a six piece band ready to complement them.
Whereas the most renown and celebrated jazz musicians are those who master an instrument, coaxing it to heights mere mortals can only marvel at—think Coltrane with his saxophone—some of the best jazz music, because it’s variable and representative, is the type that’s made by bands. It’s a big, rich, piquing and often jubilant sound, and the music at this concert was no different.

Apart from Kajura’s performance, there were two other standout performances. Isaiah Katumwa, described in the programme as the “best saxophonist in East and Central Africa,” lived up to his huge billing, earning calls for an encore after his performance. But the most engrossed performance of the night was when Kihika performed the title song, The Journey, from his album. A keyboard-led smooth jazz song, it was where he stamped his authority the most, his movements betraying why he dedicates so much time to making music; it gives him joy.

Inevitably not all acts lived up to the promise the night held, but those that did, more was compensated. At the beginning the audience was being implored to make it the party it was supposed to be; by the end they had no reason to sit glumly in their seats.