Watching the Nabagereka Sylvia Naggindaâ€™s videotape recently in a Kampala video hall, singer Fred Nkambwe was surprised to find his song, Ssangalyambogo, featuring prominently in the tape.
It had never occurred to him that his song deserves to feature in Nabagerekaâ€™s video coverage, which gives her accent of autobiography. Neither did he, as far as he could remember, have Nabagerekaâ€™s agents to commission him to do a song for that worthy cause.
â€œI was mesmerised and thrilled at the same time to see my song and myself doing a round in Nabagerekaâ€™s video.
It was a surprise finding my music there. It made me proud,â€ Nkambwe says with a wide smile.
The track, Ssangalyambogo, is on Nkambweâ€™s fourth album, which is a dedication to Nabagerekaâ€™s daughter and it raises for her tolerance towards the baseless and malicious rumours, which the prophets of doomâ€”heartless people showered on her before she gave birth.
But who is this Nkambwe? The 25-year-old Kadongokamu singer is not the kind of person you would pick out in a crowd. He is an ordinary man with a simple personality.
You could pass him by without acknowledging him. He looks more of a small scale Kikuubo businessman. But his voice and lyrics contradict his appearance and size.
Nkambwe is a composer, singer, instrumentalist, actor and dancer all rolled in one.
His first and biggest break came when he released Cool cool bar album, which was the talk of town and sold like hot cake in 2002. That was the time most music lovers discovered him.
â€œWhen we heard about him and his music, we were very impressed by his amazing vocal talent, rich vocabulary, creativity, artistry and his charismatic stage personality.
â€œWe thought he would be an asset to our band, and so we decided to hire him,â€ says Charles Senkubuge, director of the Pride Band to which Nkambwe belongs.
Senkubuge says Nkambweâ€™s voice and inspiring lyrics have endeared him to many, and because of him, Sam and Sophia Gombya and Manyimatono, today, Pride Band is one of the most sought for music groups in Kampala.
Nkambwe says he was inspired by his late father, Benictor Waswa, who was a traditional musician and used to play the flute.
â€œThe old man taught me to be proud of my culture. But what I treasure most is the gift of music that he passed on to me before he died,â€ says Nkambwe.
He says he used to accompany his father to weddings, burial ceremonies and public rallies where he would introduce his music, which he played to the accompaniment of various traditional instruments.
Nkambwe remembers his father as a storyteller who put his tales to music. He would pick on a traditional epic and narrate it while strumming his instrument. He would take a traditional rite and explain when and how it was carried out.
â€œNo wonder Nkambwe has picked a leaf from his fatherâ€™s book. Essentially, he is also a storytellerâ€”prove it by listening to his first album, Nakamate (1998), his second album, Protector (1999) and his third one, Neighbour (2000). These albums clearly demonstrate his ability to story tell,â€ says Senkubuge.
Those who have seen Nkambwe on stage describe him as an entertainer with a sensuous stage presence that always attracts an audience to join him.
â€œEvery time he gets on stage to perform, he is received enthusiastically with warm applause before the crowd hushes up in mesmerised silence to listen to his inspiring lyrics,â€ observes a fan who often attends his shows at Pride Theatre on Namirembe Road.
On his part, Nkambwe says he uses his music to raise social awareness and rehabilitate deviant youth, a responsibility that, he says, he owes society as an artist.
â€œBacking other musicians for years is what has established me as a singer. Needless to say also the merger with Pride Band has also proved most fortunate for my career. My image has also changed,â€ says Nkambwe.
Nkambwe, who has since acquired the title â€˜Doctorâ€™, has had his music go accross Ugandan borders. You must have seen his latest and fifth album, Omulugwala Kyandiru, doing rounds on EATVâ€”Channel 5.
Robert Mulokole and Moses Kasajja Junior produced Kyandiru, a six-track album released last month.
Namex studio and Kasajja and Sons Studio in the New Taxi Park are marketing the album.
The opening track (Kyandiru) is a love song in praise of a girl from Arua who is black-beauty, courteous, self-respecting and loving. Other tracks on the album are: Teweibala, Omwenge, Nakangu, Mpâ€™obulamu and Bamulekwa.
The music is laden with a mix of reggae, zouk and quick rumba beats.
Why do your fans call you â€˜Doctorâ€™?
â€œYou can get the answer by listening to my musicâ€”the way I play around with the vocabulary,particularly in the Cool cool bar and Protector albums. They say much about me,â€ boasts Nkambwe.
Listen to his music and judge for yourself.
Nkambweâ€™s budding era