Pulsating sounds at Ganda Mandingo Syndicate concert

Tuesday October 11 2022
Joel Sebunjo and Habib Koite

Joel Sebunjo (left) playing the thumb piano, Habib Koité on the guitar and a band member on keys at the National Theatre in Kampala, Uganda, on September 30, 2022. PHOTO | EDGAR R. BATTE | NMG


Alliance Française Kampala presented Habib Koité, Joel Sebunjo and Aly Keïta in a unique concert titled “Ganda Mandingo Syndicate” at the National Theatre in Kampala on September 30, 2022.

With more than 20 years of experience and touring the world, the three artistes offered a show that was energetic and innovative. After spending a week in residence together in Kampala, they created a concert where their West African and East African music merged to create new sounds.

At the pulsating explosive one hour and 49-minute concert, the audience experienced the unforgettable rhythms of flamenco, blues, jazz, traditional music and more from West and East Africa presented by the three internationally renowned magnificent artistes.

Koité playing the guitar opened the concert with his hit Kharifa accompanied by his band with Keïta on the balafon and Sebunjo on akadongo (thumb piano/akogo/kalimba/mbira/sansa/likende).

Sebunjo on vocals and endongo (a traditional Ugandan eight-stringed bow-lyre) gave the show a local feel with his song Empale Ya Kadde off his 2015 album I Speak Luganda.

On his spectacular swirling balafon, Keïta mesmerised the audience with his songs Farafinko and Marie danse. His enthusiasm was visible with how the mallets in his hands seemed to dance over the chime bars.


The three artists then did the final act when they returned to the stage with the rendition of the original popular love song Malaika by Tanzanian musician Adam Salim that has also been redone by Fadhili William, Miriam Makeba, Osibisa, and Boney M, among others.

As to what the traditional Ganda and Mandingo rhythms have in common, Keïta said: “Traditional Ganda and Mandingo rhythms are at a crossroads, because music has no borders, and traditional rhythms in Africa remain one of the richest and strongest in all current music.”

According to Sebunjo, the Mande people of West Africa and the Ganda of East Africa share a lot in common in regard to the contextualization and position of music in the society.

“For decades, music, instruments and musicians have been at the forefront of shaping these two empires. The delis or Jalis among the Mande, the Badongo ba Kabaka in Buganda for centuries have been regarded as the prophets, advisors, thinkers and not forgetting the custodians of history and literature.”

“So in our diversity as two extreme cultures, we share a lot as far the significance of music is concerned as seen the variety of repertoires. I have been lucky to experience, learn, live and discover music from these two beautiful traditions over the years,” Sebunjo added.

“This is my third time in Kampala, and I like the people of Kampala, it is relaxing and lively here. I discovered Ugandan music for the first time through Oryema Geoffrey, of course in between two generations with Sebujo’s, and it is a very rich and really melancholic music,” Keïta says.

Keïta, Koite and Sebunjo also presented a trans-African journey of folk/blues and funk at Alliance Française, Nairobi, Kenya on October 4, 2022.



Habib Koité, who was born in Thiès, Senegal, in 1958, is a Malian musician, singer-songwriter and griot based in Mali. He grew up among the griots, and then enrolled at the National Institute of Arts in Bamako. After becoming a teacher there, he started his career and quickly became known as a prodigy in his field.

Koité is known primarily for his unique approach to playing the guitar by tuning it on a pentatonic scale and playing on open strings as one would on a kamale n’goni. His music is also influenced by traditional Malian sounds, but also blues or flamenco. His work and his band, Bamada, are recognised worldwide.


Joel Sebunjo is a Ugandan musician and one of the most visible figures to emerge from the Anglophone. Sebunjo is one of a handful of Ugandan folk/world music artists. The multi-instrumentalist’s latest album United Slaves of Africa is rooted in pan-Africanism and negritude aspirations, and is spiced up with bits of Ugandan folklore rhythms.

Alongside his Sundiata band, Sebunjo has performed around the world and shared a stage with international artistes like Salif Keita, Miriam Makeba, Yossou N’dour and Oliver Mtukudzi.