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Sebunjo and Keita bring African sounds to Kampala

Friday June 17 2016
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Joel Sebunjo Live in Concert, featuring Sebunjo on the kora on June 9, 2016 in Kampala. PHOTO | LAWRENCE OGWAL

After a three-year absence, Ugandan singer and instrumentalist extraordinaire Joel Sebunjo in collaboration with Malian musician Aly Keita treated his fans to a night of unforgettable African rhythms tinged with modern sounds at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel Gardens recently.

The show dubbed Joel Sebunjo Live in Concert, featured Sebunjo on the kora (a 21-stringed West African traditional music instrument), and Keita on his famous balafon (a kind of wooden xylophone or percussion idiophone which plays melodic tunes, and usually has between 16 and 27 keys). Keita was a special guest.

Sebunjo was accompanied by Congolese guitarists Charmant Mushaga and Musenge Mwatshy and Roy Kasika on drums.

Speaking to The EastAfrican, Sebunjo said: “I had not held a concert in Kampala since 2013. It [the concert] was just timely as this is also the tenth year of my music career.”

Sebunjo is one of Uganda’s prominent young music exports. As a singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, his repertoire has been described as a cross of Ganda-Mande music, specialising in the kora and endongo (a traditional Ugandan eight-stringed bowl lyre).

He plays modern African music with a touch of jazz, R&B and other modern rhythms. His instrument repertoire also includes the engoma, amadinda-xylophone, kalimba, akogo (thumb piano) and endingidi (tube fiddle).

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Sebunjo and his Sundiata band also play the endongo, calabasse, djembe, guitar and bass, fusing the sounds of Africa with those from around the world.

So far this year they have performed in Addis Ababa, Kigali and Goma (DR Congo). Next month they head to the Czech Republic to play at the Colours of Ostrava Festival, one of Europe’s big music events.

Sebunjo studied the kora with Manding greats such as Alagi Mbye and Jalibah Kouyateh in the Gambia. Currently, he is one of the very few exponents of Djeli music, particularly the kora, in sub-Saharan Africa. He has performed alongside legendary artistes like Salif Keita, Miriam Makeba, Yossou N’dour and Oliver Mtukudzi, among others.

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