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Wednesday,September 30,2020 13:30 PM

40 years of Bulegeya’s sax

By Vision Reporter

Added 24th January 2002 03:00 AM

Mansur Akiiki Bulegeya, the spice behind Afrigo Band’s smooth melodies has cause to smile

Mansur Akiiki Bulegeya, the spice behind Afrigo Band’s smooth melodies has cause to smile

By Elvis Basudde Club Obbligato stage was almost dark, only lit by dull coloured lights. Afrigo Band’s old but sweet music was reverberating through the cool, evening air. It was the kind of music that brought back memories of happiness and probably sadness for more than a few fans who existed in the 1970s, music that many of us had not heard anywhere else in a very long time. But this was not another of the Afrigo shows. It was a special show and the band actually wanted it to be a very big deal. One of the longest serving Afrigo Band’s members, Mansur Akiki Bulegeya, was celebrating his 60th birthday and 40 years in music. Probably an explanation for playing mainly old music. Fans had thronged the venue to congratulate Mzee Bulegeya, one of the best saxophone players Uganda has ever known. The smartly dressed Bulegeya emerged from back stage, walking majestically with the saxophone, that has made him a household name. He could not hide the excitement in the face of the thunderous applause from his fans. Candles were blown and a huge birthday cake was cut and shared out. James Wasula, the executive director of Afrigo Band described Bulegeya as a saxophonist without comparison. He said Bulegeya was Uganda’s number one saxophone player and a very rare man because he does not keep his talent to himself. “The list of people Bulegeya has taught in this country is endless. Almost all Ugandan saxophonists have gone through his expert hands including Sayidi Kasule and our own band manager, Moses Matovu,” Wasula told the audience. Matovu, also a renowned saxophonist, said he could not find words enough to describe and thank his mentor. “ He did not only teach me how to play a saxophone but he also taught me music. I am happy to witness his birthday,” Matovu said. However, if you asked Bulegeya who the best Ugandan saxophonist is, he would mention Matovu. But ask Matovu and he will tell you that his mentor is the biggest name around. Bulegeya seems to derive a lot of happiness from his instrument, something he is quick to share, “Music is my life. The saxophone is my weapon. I do not know how I would be without it.” Bulegeya, the first out of eight children was born in the western town of Fort Portal on January 18, 1944. As an active choir member in Kitumba primary School Choir, Bulegeya achieved fame through awards as an outstanding drummer and singer. On dropping out of school in P6, the highest class in primary education then, he took up an apprenticeship as a carpenter but he soon abandoned it. He started his musicalcareer at the age of 14 in 1958 when he joined the Comets Band, a group that had come from Kenya and stayed in Kitumba village. He started as a ‘stage boy,’ carrying musical instruments on stage. Whenever there was a community do, or fund-raising for the church or an amateur contest, the Comets Band were always there, performing sometimes free of charge. But Bulegeya was not to be a stage boy for long. He had some informal training from some good-hearted band members and within a short period, he had grasped the basics of singing on stage and playing drums. In 1962 when the Comets Band put up their maiden show in Fort Portal town, a music promoter and the proprietor of Tolino Band spotted the youthful Bulegeya. From then onwards, Bulegeya was on the threshold of an exciting career. His fame spread and the invitations came in to perform with the top most bands in the mid-sixties, a thing that inspired him more. He became a household name as a drummer. In 1965 Bulegeya got a contract to join the popular Kampala based Melodic Band which used to play at the Satellite club in Ndeeba. Before long top bands started scrambling for and signed contracts with him. In 1966 he played in Kololo Night Club (now Angenoir), also had a stint with the Top Ten Band before joining the Police Band in 1967. “While with the Police Band, a high ranking officer in the police called Fox spotted me. He asked me to take the saxophone career seriously and also offered to train me,” recalls Bulegeya. In less than six months, he had displayed a profound understanding of the instrument and he was on stage playing it. The merry-go-round began to spin at that point of his career, and it has not slowed down for a moment since then. In 1971, Bulegeya joined the famous Suzan Band and two years later, he teamed up with the Rwenzori International Band which had an excellent line up of several top Ugandan musicians like the late Eclaus Kawalya, Fred Kanyike, Fred Masagazi, Hadija Namale, Frank Mbalire and Fred Kigozi. In 1988, he joined Afrigo band where he has been a tenor sax player alongside his former student Moses Matovu. With this success so far, Bulegeya has certainly earned himself a place in the top bracket of the showbiz league. Needless to say, the merger with Afrigo Band has proved most fortunate for him and his career. A happily married man with eight children, Bulegeya admits that one can live on music throughout his life. “I have changed cars more than five times, I have a house in Fort Portal, I have my own house where I stay now with my family in Lubaga. I have land in Maya and recently I bought land in Namuganga on Mityana road,” he says with a smile.

40 years of Bulegeya’s sax

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