We celebrate Uganda’s music legends

By Elvis Basudde

Between the 1950s and 1960s there seemed to be a steady flow of fairly young creative musicians who were
made their impact felt on Uganda’s music industry. They included Andrew Kyambadde, George Kakoma, Senoga Zake,
Fred Masagazi, Fred Kanyike and Minsuselea Segamwenge.

Today, most of these are the forgotten yet they brought glory and international acclaim to Uganda. They were great
teachers whose talent in composing constructive and meaningful songs was a force to be reckoned with. Their lyrics carried meaning thanks to their
melodious music.

Music in Uganda has come a long way, and it has since been undergoing several modifications. Gone are the days of
the authentic kadongo kamu (one-man guitar music). Music today has evolved. But why has it changed?

According to Andrew Kyambadde, a veteran composer, it is because of love for money. Some changes have come in because of the desire to attract big audiences and some changes are simply an outgrowth of current social and economic developments.

Prof. George Kakoma

George Kakoma was a professor of music. The first trained professional composer of East Africa, an accomplished singer and a distinguished author, he tops the list of Ugandan Independence heroes. Kakoma composed Uganda’s National Anthem.

Rev. Canon Polycarp Kakooza

Rev. Canon Polycarp Kakooza

Polycarp Kakooza was described as a  man endowed with many outstanding talents. He was a distinguished author, musician, sportsman, sports administrator, artist and teacher. Most importantly, he composed the Buganda anthem in 1939 at age 25.

Stanley Kamparo

He is one of the early singers of the 1960s with a 40–year career in music. He is the only established
Kadongokamu musician from Ankole. The then youthful Kamparo used to enchant his listeners with Irida, a very
romantic track. The song is a mixture of Runyoro, Rukiga and Luganda. It is about the marriage between Kamparo
and Irida, a Muganda girl.

Minsuseela Ssegamwenge

Ssegamwenge had an impact on the whole of East Africa after independence. He is one of the pioneers of Kadongokamu music. Some of his popular songs include Ssekono Tawanyizika, Bamugamba ng’anyooma, Akusigula takugula, and Kyusa kumpisa.

Elly Wamala

VERSATILE: Elly Wamala performing at one of his shows
A man with a “million” lyrics and musical notes to his credit was a musical genius of our time. Before his demise, he had composed, written and sung for over 40 years. His contemporaries used to clamour for him to write for, or even just sing with them. Wamala recorded music back in 1955 which is still relevant to date.

His music is timeless. By 1957, he was already a singing star. Wamala’s first composition that put him in the limelight was Nabutono. His music is refreshing, entertaining and educative and often played on Radio Uganda. Poetry is evident in most of his songs like Sacramento, Viola and Ebinyumu byaffe.

Eva Nanyonga,  born 1933


A woman guitarist, referred to as a “guitar wizard” by her ––fans. Nanyonga had a chance to perform live on
October 9, 1962 (Independence day).

“Playing a guitar is a woman’s game. But this brave woman stands no nonsense. When she gets hold of a guitar, she literally makes it talk. She glues her fans to their seats when she starts playing a guitar while singing,”

Tom Nduga, the MC during the 1995 Music Back to 60s event said of Nanyonga. She composed a number of songs including Eriso Lyo Mwana, Ndikuwa, Tabitha and Mukama Rukiddi Akanoba . The late Sir Edward Muteesa 11 gave her a new electric guitar in 1963 when he invited her to the palace.
In 1970 she started her own band called Mwalingo.

Fred Masagazi started singing in 1955. Some of his songs were played on the BBC music charts in the 1960s. His top hit Atanawa Musolo made him a household name. The song was released two years before Independence Day.
It was followed by Osaana Okole in 1961.

Freda Ssonko

Freda Ssonko

She is one of the most celebrated female musicians in Uganda. Her most popular songs Olupapula si Mupiira and
Wambuuza, hit the East African and BBC music charts in the1960s. Her singing career started in 1940 when she was 10
years old. Ssonko was inspired by her brother, Charles Ssonko, who was already a household name in East Africa.

One of Freda Ssonko’s most unforgettable hits is Bye, genda ne Scooter Yo which she sung with Daudi Kabaka of Kenya.
Others are Laba Laba owange andesewo and Mukwano Nzirika.

Christopher Ssebaduka, born 1929 Christopher Ssebaduka is the oldest and arguably best folk music singer, revered as Jjajja w’abayimbi (grandfather of Ugandan singers) with thousands of lyrics on his record. He started kadongokamu (solo guitar) Cultural Society in the 1960s where he recruited and trained musicians. He was one of the few musicians to perform on Independence Day at Kololo airstrip.

MULTI- TALENTED: Christopher Ssebaduka

He was also the main entertainer when Uganda National Theatre was being inaugurated in the late 1950s. People described Ssebaduka as Uganda’s Kenny Rogers. He recorded his first songs in 1955, Omukazi Malaya and Nakawama. His second song, Eddame lya Chwa recorded in 1957 was an instant hit. It earned him a big reward from the Kabaka.

In his mid-life career, Ssebadduka played significant roles training musicians and defining what kadongokamu music is in Uganda today.

His music is still relevant to date although it was recorded many years ago. Some of his greatest hits include Nantondo, Kodikodi and Tereza owebina eddene.

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