Kigali Jazz Junction marks three years in June this year. During this time, the signature monthly jazz gathering has trotted the breadth and length of the continent, bringing Kigali jazz lovers in contact with different musical sounds and experiences.
Acts from East and West Africa have been some of the dominant faces on the jazz unction stage, with Uganda leading the pack for East Africa.
This Friday’s edition saw Ugandan singer Irene Ntale, better known to her Rwandan audience for her break out hit Gyobera. Ntale has a couple of other love-themed ballads to her name –like Onoomwana and Staywithme, but none comes close in popularity to gyobera.
She was the main headline act, while the local headliner was Jules Sentore, who once again brought his Gakondo fusion vibes to the jazz stage.
This was a good enough combo, considering that this was the lovers’ month edition of the jazz junction. Even the décor inside the venue brimmed with a touch of red and black.
The show kicked off with glowing tributes to two recently fallen musicians Hugh Masekela(South Africa), and Ugandan vocalist Mowzey Radio, with some of their songs being played to the delight of the crowd.
Described as the father of African jazz, Masekela is widely credited for inspiring a whole generation of young jazz musicians on the continent. He died exactly a month ago, on January 23rd 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Radio’s tribute also included the airing of a mini documentary detailing his life, times, and shortlived music career.
This time jazz junction curator RemmyLubega, who usually doubles as MC on the show besides his numerous other duties chose to lie low, leaving the MC-ing role to MC Tino.
As usual, it was the Neptunez Band that set the ball rolling for the first hour of the show, before giving way for Sentore.
As for Ntale, it was only her second time performing in Kigali, having performed the first time at the launch of the Junction Bar and Lounge in Remera last year.
But it was the first time she was performing to a live set.
It was one of those jazz junctions where people come to simply sit back and watch the show, as opposed to dancing. Both artistes had a field day trying to raise the crowd adrenaline, just like MC Tino in his role as Master of Ceremony.
Jules Sentore had to dig deep into the musical archives, belting out a medley of Jean Paul Samputu’s Nimuze tubyine, and it worked, as the crowd response was instantaneous.
Later he struck a chord when he introduced Gakondo dancers draped in cultural regalia and dancing with so much rhythm and grace.
In all, he set the pace for the night’s main act. And who knows, maybe Sentore is the Rwandan artist the Ugandan songbird promised to do a song with, seeing as she promised to leave Kigali after recording a collabo.
After belting out her first song, Ntale drifted off into tribute mode, paying her respects to the late Ugandan singer Mowzey Radio.
“He was Uganda’s own, Rwanda’s own, East Africa’s own,” she said, before asking the crowd to pull out their phones and wave them in the air.
The crowd responded well, joining in a sing along session as Ntale belted out Neera, one of Radio’s hits. She also sung Loveletter by Bebe Cool, one of her earliest musical influences. It was a night when she relied on belting out a fair share of cover songs to compliment her own growing repertoire.