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Sammy Kasule back after 30-year sojourn in Europe

Saturday December 22 2018

Veteran musician Sammy Kasule of Uganda.

Veteran musician Sammy Kasule of Uganda. PHOTO | COURTESY 

AMOS NGAIRA
By AMOS NGAIRA
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Veteran Ugandan musician Sammy Kasule, who made a name in Kenya in the 1970s and the 1980s, is making a comeback to the entertainment scene.

The versatile artiste returned to Uganda from his base in Sweden three years ago, and has been busy creating a new band in Kampala.

Speaking to the Saturday Nation early this week, Kasule said he was planning a comeback-tour of Kenya. “I want to stage shows in Kenya, where I built my musical career from the 1970s until I left for Europe in the mid-80s,” he said.

Other Ugandan musicians who have made a name in Kenya include superstars Jose Chameleon and Bebe Cool.

ROAD TO FAME

His Kenyan fans will remember Kasule’s melodious voice and his distinctive bass guitar on songs such as “Riziki”, “Uzima” and “Marie Wandaka”. The still popular “Marie Wandaka” was dedicated to his Kenyan-born wife. Marie and his children have been living in Stockholm with him.

Kasule was highly regarded by Kenyan, Tanzanians and Congolese musicians in the then vibrant showbiz days.

When he arrived in Kenya in 1973, his first stop was Mombasa, where he joined Les Noirs band, known for the hit song “Tchiku”. Kasule played the bass guitar on another Les Noirs hit song “Sikia Souce”, which enjoyed massive play on radio then.

Les Noirs was among the first multinational bands to be based in Mombasa from the 1960s. It was based at the Bristol Club. The group featured Mzee Chuza Kabaselleh, Kajos, Kuka Matthew, Dedos and Roje, among others.

Later, with Les Noirs, the deep-voiced Congolese star Moreno Batamba sang on “Tchiku”, which would become a massive hit. Versatile drummer Lava Machine was at his very best. Veteran singer Djo Djo Ikomo and guitarist Roxy Tshimpaka came over with Bana Ngenge in 1975 from Kampala, Uganda.

This was also at about the same time an Arusha-based band moved to Mombasa and transformed itself into the Simba Wanyika.

This was the era of the great influx of Congolese musicians into East Africa, including Baba Nationale led by Baba Ilunga wa Ilunga (Gaston), Super Mazembe, Les Kinois and later Orch Virunga.

Nairobi’s major attraction was its superior recording studios.

Buoyed by the desire to make it big in Nairobi, Kasule joined Special Liwanza Band in 1976. He featured as a bassist and singer alongside Jimmy Moni Mambo, Frantal Tabu, and Ali Magobeni.

AFRO-FUSION

In 1978, Kasule was in the forefront during the formation of the Somajeko International Band alongside Eliud Adonga, Shaban Onyango, Ali Magobeni and Festus Okonda.

He was then known for Swahili songs like “Uzima” and “Marie Wandaka”. Other popular songs by Somajeko band were “Riziki ni Kama Ajali” and “Nimevumilia”.

Most of these songs were popular on Voice of Kenya (VoK) and, later, KBC Radio.

In 1978, Kasule was among the founders of the Makonde Band in Nairobi that was led by Greece-born Taso Stephanou.

The Afro-fusion group is famous for songs such as “Mola”, “Soseme”, and “Asante”. In 1979, they toured London and performed with Cameroonian saxophone maestro Manu Dibango.

On returning to Kenya from London, Kasule would team up with Kenyan singer Zembi Okeno to release an English version of “Shauri Yako”, the hit song originally by Congolese legend Nguashi N’timbo and Festival Du Zaire Band. Other cover versions of the “Shauri Yako” were done by Orch Super Mazembe and an English version by Tabu Ley.

The composer of “Shauri Yako” was Panga Brazzos, a solo guitarist with Tabu Ley’s Afrisa International. According to Mekanisi Modero, the then Afrisa manager and saxophone player, it was Brazzos who later shared and sold the lyrics to Nguashi.

Kasule later penned another Swahili love ballad “Kukupenda”.

When Somajeko suffered a split, Kasule teamed up with Ali Magobeni, Vincent Otieno and Shaban Onyango to form the Jambo Talents Band.

Kasule’s biggest breakthrough was in 1985, when he co-founded Orch Vundumuna Band, which was based at the Carnivore Restaurant in Nairobi. Its members included Mofranck, Tabu Ngongo, Frantal Tabu, Kelly Kanku and Nsilu wa Basilu “Manitsho”.

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