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Kiwa made gospel music cool

By Vision Reporter

Added 3rd July 2008 03:00 AM

AT first, gospel music was a preserve of churches, crusades and born-again people’s radio sets. But when producer Jason Kiwa came onto the scene, gospel music became the in-thing all of a sudden.

AT first, gospel music was a preserve of churches, crusades and born-again people’s radio sets. But when producer Jason Kiwa came onto the scene, gospel music became the in-thing all of a sudden.

By Titus Serunjogi

AT first, gospel music was a preserve of churches, crusades and born-again people’s radio sets. But when producer Jason Kiwa came onto the scene, gospel music became the in-thing all of a sudden.

You could hear Judith Babirye’s songs blaring out of every open window downtown; you could hear Wilson Bugembe’s music playing off promotional trucks in town; you would even find revellers in a pub dancing to gospel music.

What is the secret behind gospel music’s secular crossover? Meet Kiwa, the prodigy who recorded such hits as Yesu Beera Nange, Mukama Njagala Kkumanya and Silver Kyagulanyi’s inspirational Olunaku Luno.

Asked about his secret ingredient for revolutionising gospel music, Kiwa says: “I believe the number one chart spot on every radio must belong to songs that praise God.”

He adds that he puts this theory at the back of his mind whenever he records a song and so far, it has worked.

In the past seven years, Kiwa has produced 28 albums, all of which have made it to the top of secular FM radio charts. And such is his fame that gospel artistes keep flocking his studio everyday to get that magic touch.

Kiwa’s mix is often an infusion of Lover’s Rock (Reggae) into soft guitar and keyboard melodies. The tunes not only nurture divine sentiments and quiet meditation, but they also leave space for the chorus to work its way into the listener’s head.

Thus, Wilson Bugembe’s Oyo Afaayo Nnyo Gyendi rose into popular obsession because listening to the song, one keeps hankering for more and more of that chorus.

Silver Kyagulanyi’s Olunaku Luno not only had the benefit of an award-winning songwriter but the live guitar tunes are just too beautiful to resist.

But, Kiwa’s talent is not tied to sentimental reggae. In Betty Nakibuuka’s Njagala Nkwagale, he adds groovy Afropop tunes to liven up this sad tale about a street child.

And in I am Free by the Rhema Singers, he punches in strong reggaeton bass lines to make for a most exciting and even danceable mix. Little wonder that this song has brought the Rhema singers back into the public consciousness after a decade-long lull.

But what can one expect from someone who has had the privilege of growing up on a balanced diet of both gospel and secular music?

Born in Maganjo, Kawempe Division, Kiwa started out by singing and playing guitars for the Scripture Union Club of Sam Kityo Memorial College.

The experience kick-started his stint as an instrumentalist and vocalist for Bunga Pentecostal Church and Entebbe Power Centre.

The resulting prowess at the guitar and keyboard instantly put him into the spotlight for secular artistes. In 2001, Jose Chameleone hooked him first to produce Njo Karibu, which became an instant hit all over East Africa.

He also produced Obulamu Bwensi Bunyuma Kiro, Mad Tiger’s sole signature hit till this date. It was only recently when he set up his own Three-in-One studio in Kabowa that he became a favourite of inspirational artistes.

And even as he sets up a new gospel record label, one cannot doubt that it will be a massive success.

Kiwa made gospel music cool

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