At a tender age, Cliff Keys Mutebi started teaching himself how to play the keyboard, thanks to his father, the famous Peterson Mutebi. Ever since he passed away in 1992, he became determined to walk in his footsteps. He talked to Mathias Mazinga about his music career
Ugandan musical legend Peterson Tusuubira Mutebi shone immensely in the late 1960s and 1970s. The maestro of Ugandan pop music would work up his fans with captivating cabaret shows, which he staged in the city’s popular night spots. This included Norman Cinema, Peacock and Silver Springs.
He also played at White Nile, Bristol Bar (Nateete) and at Kamulu’s Bar, Mengo. His hard-hitting songs, which also rocked Radio Uganda’s airwaves, included Solome, Kabinubinu, Weekend, Sarah Nninze, Ebiwala by’emmamba, Kanvugenvuge and Nyongera ku Laavu. Mutebi’s musical career was also characterised by unrivalled innovativeness and creativity.
He was the first local artiste to cross over the limitations of cabaret entertainment; he went out of the night clubs and hotels and staged concerts in open venues like halls and sports grounds. Mutebi also became popular for his stage dress-code. He would dress differently for every song.
But alas, Mutebi died at the pinnacle of his musical career, in 1992. Since then, his music has not been played much, which is why the contemporary musical generation does not know much about him.
This is where Cliff Keys Mutebi, 32, Peterson Mutebi’s son, comes into the picture. Cliff has taken the initiative to bring back the memory of his father through a dynamic and versatile musical career. A talented key-board player, percussionist and vocalist, Cliff is the founder of the popular Jeckacki Band, which has often accompanied big artistes like Jose Chameleon, Iryn Namubiru, Juliana Kanyomoozi, Bobi Wine, Bebe Cool, Nazizi and Necessary Noise.
In addition to his part-time work with the Afrigo Band, Cliff also does freelance music production with studios like Soul Records. Cliff’s most outstanding achievement is probably the project he has undertaken to rejuvenate the music of his late dad.
He has re-done the popular hits of his father. Recently, he staged a successful memorial concert, which attracted his father’s fans and musical contemporaries. “The sweet comments that were made about my late dad by reputable artistes like Diplock Ssegwawa and Moses Matovu inspired me. They described him as an exemplary artiste with good leadership and ethical standards,” Cliff says.
But is the young man succeeding in his endeavour, in the face of the ever changing musical trends? I put the big question to him and this was his response: “First of all, it gives me great joy to see that even after two decades of my dad’s death, his name is still big in the hearts of many of his fans. In fact, our decision to re-do the songs was based on the many requests we received from the fans.”
He says the re-produced songs have been well received and when Jeckacki Band is on stage, fans beseech them to play them. Cliff says although he has financial challenges, he will continue to bank on the support of his late father’s fans to reproduce and popularise his music among the contemporary music lovers.
Born in 1980, Cliff attended Mengo Senior School, before joining Lord Fred Ssebatta’s Matendo Band in 1999. Interestingly, he never had formal music lessons. He learnt to play the musical instruments by himself.
“Dad gave me the inspiration to do music. When I was a kid, he would bring home 2-octave keyboards and guitars, which I would use to teach myself.”
From Matendo Band, Cliff founded Jeckacki Band, with artistes like Aziz Azion, Jemba and Geoffrey Ddungu, in 2005. The band has been instrumental in developing the performance skills of artistes like Eddie Kenzo, Little Tammy and Maurice Hasa. Cliff also has big things in store for his fans and those of his late dad.
“I am dying to set up a sound studio. I also intend to do international musical tours, to showcase Ugandan music to the international audience,” he says.
Further to his musical activities, Cliff also manages his father’s estates in Makerere-Kavule and Salaama. It is good Mutebi has taken the bold step to revamp his late dad’s music. But the fans will have to cope with his husky, albeit sweet baritone, which does not really match his late father’s tuneful super-refined tenor.
Cliff is also inclined to modern musical genres like Afro-pop, reggae and zouk. You can get a feel of his musical touch at Labamba Club, Nansana, where Jeckacki Band has a gig every Friday.n
First published in Discovery Magazine (Sunday Vision) June 17, 2012: Vision Group Resource Centre