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Pianist Shafic Kawere set to do research at Cape Town conservatoire

By Mathias Mazinga

Added 15th May 2016 10:24 AM

Kawere, who is also a teacher of piano at the International School of Uganda (Lubowa), Aghakhan PS (Old Kampala) and Word of Life School (Kajjansi), will do his research at Cape Town Conservatoire.

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Pianist Shafic Kawere. Photos/Mathias Mazinga

Kawere, who is also a teacher of piano at the International School of Uganda (Lubowa), Aghakhan PS (Old Kampala) and Word of Life School (Kajjansi), will do his research at Cape Town Conservatoire.

Shafic Kawere, a 25-year old Muslim classical pianist based at the Kampala Music School has plans to go to South Africa, to do further research in piano studies, ahead of his Diploma examinations next year.

Kawere, who is also a teacher of piano at the International School of Uganda (Lubowa), Aghakhan PS (Old Kampala) and Word of Life School (Kajjansi), will do his research at Cape Town Conservatoire.

“I aspire to become an internationally acclaimed piano-teacher and concert-artiste. So, I opted to do research at Cape Town Conservatoire, which is evidently an internationally acclaimed music education institution.  I have the dream to teach at international institutions like Guild Hall in London. I also see myself performing with great ensembles like the London Symphony Orchestra.”

Kawere will be completing his Diploma Studies in Piano, in 2017.

Who is Kawere?

Shafic Kawere is arguably one of Uganda’s most talented budding pianists, with the potential to perform with the world’s most celebrated ensembles. Kawere, who has been doing piano with Paul Luggya and Kiggundu Fred Musoke at the Kampala Music School, recently completed Grade 8 of the Associated Board of The Royal Schools of Music and passed with flying colours. He then advanced to the Diploma Level, which he will also complete next year.

Further to teaching piano, Kawere has also made several flamboyant appearances at the annual Kampala Music School High Scorers’ Concerts and the Consieurs Concerts. He was also chosen to play Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in B Flat and Chopin’s Nocturn in C Sharp Minor,  during the requiem service of Reiner Koehler, the founding chairman of Roko Construction Company at All Saints’ Cathedral, Kampala, in 2013.

Kawere has special love for romantic composers like Chopin and Listz, whose music, he says, gives him freedom of expression, further to unleashing infectious harmony. Currently, he is working on Listz Consolations, a work that he also wants to record. But Kawere also has plans to write and record his own musical works. He has already written a 7-minute piano piece, Elspeth Dream in C Sharp Minor, which he dedicated to Elspeth, a social worker from Europe, who encouraged him to remain committed to the piano.



Shafic Kawere is the son of Hajjat Nur and the late Issa Kawere Kiddawalime, who was a devout Muslim. Subsequent to the death of his father, in 2003, Kawere, then aged 12, got problems with school fees and dropped out of Katwe Primary School.

But because of his passionate desire to study, he joined M-Lisada Brass Band, which had been formed by former street kids. The band, which was then based in Katwe, a suburb of Kampala, used to do public gigs, and use the proceeds to pay school fees for its needy members.

Kawere used to play the trumpet for the ensemble, of which he was also the drum-major. He also did acrobatics for the ensemble. Kawere later got the opportunity to do formal lessons in trumpet music, when MTN offered to sponsor the music education of the ensemble at the Kampala Music School.

Turning point

It was at the Kampala Music School that Kawere made the preferential option for the piano. He dropped the trumpet and started to study piano with Paul Luggya, after completing S6 at Pride Academy. He later did the final grades with Kiggundu Fred Musoke.

Personal Testimony

Kawere says that the beautiful sounds of the piano enticed him to go for it.

“I first saw the piano when I went to the Kampala Music School. It sounded so beautiful. I was also fascinated that it was being played with two hands, on two scores, the treble clef and the bass clef. So, I made the resolution that one day I would learn it.”

“Initially I taught myself, on the electronic key-board that had been donated to our band by one European friend. I would use the trumpet score for the right hand and the tuba score as the bass clef, for the left hand. One day, Bortollus Mitchell, a social worker from Europe visited our premises at Nsambya Ave Maria. She got interested in me and offered to sponsor my lessons at the Kampala Music School.”

 ianist hafic awere  practicing Pianist Shafic Kawere practicing

What people say about Kawere

Kiggundu Fred Musoke (Director of Kampala Music School, one of Kawere’s teachers)

Shafic Kawere is a very hard-working, talented and musical. He has managed to achieve much in a very short time. He has come from 0 to Grade 8 in just three years. This achievement could take other people nine or ten years to attain. As a performer, Shafic also has a sensitive touch and a great power of improvisation. He also grasps easily whatever he is taught.

Bosco Ssegawa (founding leader of M-Lisada Brasss band)

Shafic has a solidly positive attitude. He is also strong and firm in his conviction. As a kid from a devout Moslem family, Shafic was discouraged from joining our brass-band, to play music, by some of his family members. But because he had the conviction of what he wanted, he defied all opposition. As a member of our brass band, he was very versatile. Kawere was also always full of life and joy as he performed.

Could Kawere be making history?

Certainly, it is not usual to find a Muslim pianist who plays typical western classical music.

Jamal Mohammed, a popular Pennsylvanian born jazz pianist, was originally a Baptist Christian. He just converted to Islam in 1956 and subsequently changed his name from Fredrick Russel Jones to Jamal Ahmad.

Abdullar Ibrahim, a South-African jazz and bebop pianist and composer also just converted to Islam in 1968. He subsequently changed his name from Adolph Johannes Brand to Abdullar Ibrahim.

Ahmad Ayiham, the youthful Syrian winner of the Beethoven Piano Prize, 2015, played “songs of Yarmouk,” not immortal classics.

So, I can arguably say that Uganda’s Shafic Kawere could be in the pipe-line to make history as the first Muslim pianist to play professional classical music.


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