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Wednesday,August 12,2020 21:09 PM

Afrigo band bigger than its stars

By Vision Reporter

Added 13th September 2001 03:00 AM

There has often come a time in the affairs of the Afrigo Band when it seems to have its very popular back against the wall, when nay-sayers announce its imminent demise.

There has often come a time in the affairs of the Afrigo Band when it seems to have its very popular back against the wall, when nay-sayers announce its imminent demise.

Amigo Wawawa and Tony Sengo left. Dede Majoro died. But Afrigo lives on By Kalungi Kabuye There has often come a time in the affairs of the Afrigo Band when it seems to have its very popular back against the wall, when nay-sayers announce its imminent demise. Time and time again, things happen that threaten the very existence of the band, but time and again it pulls itself up. Just like the legendary phoenix, the band seems to rise from the very dregs of its seeming fall. According to Egyptian legend, the phoenix is a rare bird of gorgeous plumage of which only one of its kind lives at a time. It is fated to live for about 500 years in the desert, before consuming itself by fire, only to rise again from the ashes with renewed vigour to start its life again. As goes the phoenix, so does Afrigo. Throughout the years of its existence, the band seems to have the phoenix-like ability to be consumed by the fires of its own success, only to rise again stronger than ever. Its time has come to face those fires again. Last week, popular Afrigo lead singer and dancer Rachel Magoola announced that she was leaving the band. And the public went ballistic. If opinion is anything to go by, this is the end of Afrigo Band. Can Afrigo be there without Magoola? But Afrigo has been along that route before, and it is still here. The origins of Afrigo can be traced to the early 70s, when local bands arguably commanded more respect than now. One of the leading bands of that era was The Cranes. In this band, there was a collection of the best musicians Uganda had to offer. People like Jimmy Sewava, the late Jesse Gitta, Tony Senkebejje, Charles Sekyanzi, Saidi Kasule and Moses Matovu. They rocked Kampala those days like it has never been rocked. But The Cranes were soon consumed by the fires of their success, and in 1974 they disbanded, just after releasing their most memorable album, Ten Hits. Sewava took off for Germany, where he eventually formed The Afrigo Waves. Senkebejje also left and ended up in Mombasa. The rest stayed and formed the Afrigo Black Power, but the fires were not done yet. Bassist Gitta was killed on Idi Amin’s orders, over a girl known as Sarah, who was later to marry the general. Then, all the band’s equipment was looted during the 1979 war. But the phoenix that was Afrigo eventually flew again when the band moved to Little Flowers on Bombo Road in the late eighties. There it enjoyed a revival that has not happened again in Uganda. By that time Senkebejje had re-appeared, and a host of new members had joined. Dede Majoro was there and Joanita Kawalya joined, as did a young girl from Iganga known as Rachel Magoola. People like Fred Kigozi, Tony Sengo and new find Amigo Wawawa from Congo brought a flock of new talent, and Afrigo soared. For several years after that, hit after hit came from Little Flowers, culminating in arguably the band’s best album, Volume 8. Just like The Cranes, however, Afrigo could not contain the fires of success. Again the band split. Senkebejje left again, while Saidi Kasule found new grounds with Wawawa. The band struggled after that, and moved to Fairway Hotel, trying to survive the ashes of its success. It eventually moved to House of Entertainment, and there again experienced a revival. They changed their appeal from solely Baganda to a wider audience. It was easy to find people from areas as diverse as Kabale, Mbarara, Arua, Mbale, Rwanda and even white folks jumping and yelling their presence as Matovu serenaded them on his saxophone. Apart from a failed move to Kajansi, the band’s revival culminated in their move to Club Obbligato on Old Port Bell Road. So, here we are again. Rachel has left. A few years ago, one of the best composers in the country, Godfrey Mwambala, died. Along the way other band members have joined and others have left. Wawawa left, as did dancer Sarah Namulondo. Will this be that legendary fire again, consuming the band before a painful re-birth? The core of the band is still there, and the conventional wisdom is they will go on doing their thing. Sekyanzi is still there, all the way from the ‘70s, just like band leader Moses Matovu and the man on the sax, Mansur Bulegeya. Herman ‘Omwana w’ensenene’ Sewanyana still plays the congas. Frank Mbalire now plays lead guitar, just as he did for The Cranes main rivals The Tames back in the ‘70s. In the words of long-time Afrigo fan Mukwaya, “Afrigo has stood the test of time, and they will still be there at the end.” ends

Afrigo band bigger than its stars

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