By Dennis Asiimwe
Kenneth Mugabi was something of a breakout artiste about four years ago, so much that I was convinced he was a fad. I struggled to buy into the idea that a folk musician had become a mainstream artiste, headlining events like Blankets and Wine. But in the end, he proved to me and any other doubters that he was the real deal, and in hindsight, it really should have been obvious.
First of all, he is an incredibly gifted songwriter, writing lyrics that have a glossy syrupiness to them without
being corny. Then, you cannot ignore the fact that the man can compose – the melody for Nkwegomba is both catchy and touching.
But mostly, there is something earthy about his music, something that appeals to the DNA of his audience – there’s a familiarity about his music, a sort of instinctive call-back to who we are.
But all of these things take a back step when it comes to how Kenneth approaches his production – he
seamlessly merges traditional and modern instruments on Nkwegomba – this is probably what made it easy for him to mainstream his material.
People recognised this was folk music, but they related to the musicality of what they were listening to, because of the modern elements.
This might also be a good time to mention the fact that Kenneth can sing, and then some. I have heard him
sing live – heck, I have heard the pleasure of playing while he sings, and he has eerie voice control. Because of this, he is able to throw inflections at his music that are almost… otherworldly, and hauntingly beautiful.
And few songs depict this like Nkwegomba, which, I am pretty certain (in spite of my poor Luganda), is a love
Taken off his album – Ugandan – this song really helped define who he was to his audience. It still does that,