Although Suisseman was a vocalist and dancer, it was his dancing skills that earned him a lot of fame and endeared him to teenagers, especially at the height of teenagers’ dances era in 1968-69, 1970-73.
By Nuwa Wamala Nnyanzi
In 1994, I had the privilege and honour to organise a music concert Back to 60s, dubbed The Hot Show, which featured 25 of Uganda's legendary musicians and dancers, including Suisseman Ngoy, Fred Masagazi, Freda Sonko, Christopher Sebadduka, Margaret Nakibuuka, Christopher Kato (the dance wizard) and his youthful dancing partner Night Flower Namusisi. Others were Andrew Kyambadde, Kamparo, Hadijah Namale, Mary Nattima, Louise Bagenda and Simon Berunga.
The show was sponsored by Kampala Bottlers and hosted by the Sheraton Kampala Hotel. Kampala Bottlers was owned by Amos Agaba, now deceased, a true music promoter who owned Waka Waka Band led by Amigo Wawawa aka Walusimbi Ow'Effumbe.
He put it at our disposal for the entire duration of the month-long rigorous rehearsals and show. During an interview for the show catalogue, Mzee Suisseman told me he was born on October 3, 1939 in then Congo Leopoldville, later renamed Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo).
He was married and had children, one of them — Ola — went on to become the first Miss Uganda, when the beauty pageant was revived in the 1990s.
He started dancing in 1954, and the first band he joined was Mario Jazz based in the then Zaire Republic. As a vocalist his first song was Janine. He came to Uganda in the late 1960s. I first saw Suisseman in 1969.
Asked what his favourite song was, Suisseman named two, Omusujja sang by Carol Nakimera of Super Rocket Band (he was the band manager), and Muziki Ya Mboka by the Vipers Band led by Raphael Kawumba.
His favourite vocalist and dancer was Aurlus Mabele, while the musician he admired most was Luambo Luanzo Makiadi aka Franco of the Mario fame by OK Jazz Band. As we wound up our interview, Suisseman had this message for his fellow musicians and fans: "Unite and persevere; you will prosper."
Suisseman, who passed on at 79 at his home in Lungujja, Kampala on, Saturday morning, will be remembered for introducing and popularising Congolese aka Zairean contemporary dances in Kampala in the 1960s and 1970s at New Life Night Club aka Ewa Kamulu e Mengo, where Sir Apollo Kagwa Primary School is located today.
New Life Night Club was later renamed Economic Night Club after the expulsion of Asians in 1972, who since the arrival of the British colonialists had dominated Uganda's commerce and trade.
Among the dances he introduced, while at the Vipers Band were Soukous, Kiri Kiri, Toyota, Yeke Yeke, Apollo 11 and Embalasasa.
Although Suisseman was a vocalist and dancer, it was his dancing skills that earned him a lot of fame and endeared him to teenagers, especially at the height of teenagers' dances era in 1968-69, 1970-73.
The Scotch whiskey brand VAT 69, was cheekily interpreted as Very Active Teenager in 1969.
Suisseman Ngoy's dance strokes freeze forever Suisseman (encircled) in a group photo with other musicians who participated in the Back to Sixties, Hot Show in 1994.
His dressing, singing and dance styles influenced Ugandan teenagers of the 1960s and 1970s.
The daytime dances were subsequently banned by the government, with the claim that youngsters were getting wasted.
Unfortunately, the folly of it was that, youngsters ended up sneaking into night clubs after bribing their way through the gates with favours both in cash and kind.
Building a following
Uganda Television (UTV) which was the only television station in Uganda (owned and run by the government) did a lot to promote Suisseman.
He would get invited to perform at their studios and the shows would be aired every weekend. His agility and fluidity earned him many admirers, especially among the youth. He was a sharp dresser, flamboyant and instantly recognisable because of his height and dress style.
Most of the time he would be seen in bell-bottom trousers, slimfit silky shirts with broad collars, scarfs, sombreros and stiletto shoes, waving to cheering and adoring crowds on Kampala Road, especially on Saturday mornings.
He was a fashion icon and a trendsetter. For the trendy teenagers, Kampala Road was the place to be every Saturday morning. They would walk the entire street between Bombo Road and Jinja Road before boarding Uganda Transport Company (UTC) buses in the afternoon and head to White Nile in Katwe or New Life in Mengo to get down on it.
Many teenagers, especially those living within Kampala and its environs, would watch Suisseman perform on UTV, then attend his band's performance for a real-life experience. Unfortunately, those under 18 years by law were not permitted into night clubs.
Those upcountry settled for the silver screen. Many a teenager emulated his dancing and dress styles, including yours truly.
I would later introduce the same in Nairobi in 1971, where we performed with the late Henry Dede Majoro — the legendary talented instrumentalist. Dede was the Kawumba and yours truly the Suisseman of some sorts.
Music of choice
From then on Congolese (Zairois) music took root and was later to become increasingly popular and by the end of 1979, had become the music of choice. Thanks to resident Congolese bands such as Le Noir, Le Kenoir, Baba Gastro, Les Wanyika, Mangelepa, Virunga and occasional visits by Congolese music maestros such as Luambo Luanzo Makiadi aka Franco, Tabuley and Sam Manguana.
Suisseman Ngoy was born on October 3, 1939 in then Congo Leopoldville later renamed Zaire, and present day Democratic Republic of Congo.
He started dancing in 1954, and the first band he joined was Mario Jazz based in the then Zaire Republic. As a vocalist, his first song was Janine. He introduced dance styles such as Soukous, Kiri Kiri, Toyota, Yeke Yeke, Apollo 11 and Embalasasa in the Ugandan entertainment.
New Life Club was the place to be every weekend in the afternoon for teenagers and at night for the grown-ups. Mzee Suisseman's name is permanently etched in the history of Uganda's music and dance.
May the Almighty God grant the family, fellow artistes and friends the grace to deal with the loss. May Suisseman's legacy be the source of inspiration for the betterment of the creative industry at a time when it is encountering serious challenges.
His 1994 message remains relevant to date "Unite and persevere you will prosper." Over to you.