Thursday, May 25, 2006

the show: Ngoni

Do I rave a lot? You better let me know now because I’m about to go on one of my binges! I can’t contain this and Lovely Amphibian is to blame. Well, not directly but he started me on this scent way back when we were slaving for one of the meanest bosses you can ever have the misfortune to work for this town. Holla for the Sunset days! That fat assed bastard…okay, anyway, back to one of LA’s greatest moments of searing insight, prophecy, whatever you’ll call it.

The year was 2004, late 2004, September, October, Decemberish. Nobody knew it but I was tired of Makerere University’s shit (The One you’re not alone!) and I wasn’t going to take it anymore. Kampala had just been through the tidal wave called Eno Mic by some Tanzanian based singer strangely and appropriately named Ziggy Dee and the few times I got to hang out with Ernest I was trying to get him to explain how such a shyly retiring effeminate guy could produce one of the most suggestive macho songs shocked and delighted Ugandans had ever got to listen to. Not since the glory days of a band called Afrigo had a musician pushed the limits like this!

The deceptively revolutionary Ragga Dee had just begun to play for the aisles truncating Red Banton’s witty new rhyming scheme in Ugandan music, a trend that musician was never able to reverse (shall we blame his shallow educational background?). Jose Chameleone was KING and Bebe Cool was still trying to figure out how a skinny, hungry vagrant he had housed in Nairobi had superseded him. No one thought Alex Ndawula could ever be bumped off the Capital FM Morning Crew or that Seanice Kacungira would one day abandon Sanyu FM for greener Nairobi pastures or be sufficiently replaced by Melanie. You would have been deemed a political naïf if you declared your faith that ‘President’ Kizza Besigye would one day return. “Black Mamba” was a yet to be coined phrase. The signs were there but we were not reading them.

National Theater, opposite Parliament Avenue, was the place to be. LA was the editor of The Sunrise newspaper (a newspaper that had been threatening to shut down for four years but never quite could bring itself to). I was a columnist in disgrace under a pseudonym. LA was the editor I could never impress who would not have raised an eyebrow if the Ugandan Parliament had been blown up by Osama Bin Laden in person. Until THAT afternoon!

The afternoon he came garbling about something called Goodenuff. Half repeating the phrase, seated deflected at his desk like someone had stolen something from him (his unruffle-able blasé virginity) and the same time given him reason (faith) to persist in a job he had been planning for months to quit and aggressively chase the Museveni shilling. “Goodenuff, Goodenuff,” was all he could keep repeating. Now we know what he was all about. Now I know.

Have you heard a song called Nasiima Gwe by a group called Ngoni from Goodenuff Studios? Goodenuff is a studio that belongs to the Ngoni duo where they produced this stroke (and I don’t use this term lightly) of genius called Nasiima Gwe. Ngoni are not exactly obscure in Uganda right now. 2005 and Digi can never be separated. You have to understand that in 2004 when they approached LA there was absolutely no reason to believe that their potential (Saint CA, Red Banton, Michael Ross, Dorothy Bukirwa, Lyrical G, Klear Kut, Chagga, Extra Miles where are you guys??) would be translated into actual accomplishment. Writers for newspapers see everyday deserving talent neglected and you have to be a buffalo skinned motherfucker to keep in the game. Big E’s writing his opus on this.

I was going to say that there was absolutely no reason for LA to believe in Ngoni. Then I realized that events have proven me wrong. Digi was a monster hit (not that LA would have approved of the subject matter! I largely ignored the phenomenon when I wasn’t trapped in our coffins-on-the-road-taxis and never suggested to my new editor in 2005 we interview them) but with no one breathing down my neck and largely thanks to LA’s intro and DJ Dino of Blue Africa now I can’t spend a day without listening to my Nasiima Gwe fix.

Nasiima Gwe is a song about a phase of my life and some of my closest homies (holla O.B.D. for those fly MUK Uni girls!) and all the poor, lucky S.O.B’s in love for the first time on the rack of unrequited affections. Nasiima Gwe is a song about being young and feeling it even when your youth is past you, taking you back. Like Biggie authentically rapping, “I know what it feels to wake up fucked up,” I know what it means when Ngoni to softer beats declares because of this unnamed girl, “I know you’re blessed with divine looks … This is why I work so hard to win your heart…That is why I bother you with my phone calls...Although you never pick up… I have written letters you only tear up… “ So been there!

One day when its funny to me too, I maybe be able to tell you how Ngoni were not in the least bit exaggerating when their scorned lover pitifully and comically complains how for this stone-hearted girl, “I waited for you the other day and you were nowhere to be seen…mosquitoes that night bit me waiting for you, Police arrested for being idle and disorderly...” Wandegeya Special Hire Taxis stage standing soaking in the rain Wednesday night after Evening Classes waiting in vain for a glimpse of her. God! LA knew all this two whole years before Ngoni swept all before them! And he tried, inarticulate for the first time, to explain it all to droopy-eyed me who was only interested in getting out of him if the miser bosses had finally added me onto the list that qualified for fare-back-home money or should I rent my usual lugabire for the trek on foot back. Saving up on shoe soles you know. I wasn’t listening then. I’m listening now. R.E.S.P.E.C.T, LA!

in my headphones: IF I HAD: Eminem


savage said...

Some time in 2003, when I was still active at, I received Ngoni's "Be Mine" CD which was mostly RnB and hip hop with songs like "be mine", "whatchu smoking" and a zouk cut "angenoir", I knew right away that these guys were onto something.I had always dismissed efforts by Ugandans doing that kind of music, but Ngoni struck a cord with me.

By then they were still in the U.K and Aydee told me, he needed to come down to Kampala to tackle the music business politics in Uganda because anyone not named Ragga Dee, Bebe Cool or Chameleone was finding it hard to get airplay.

During that time, Steve Jean was the go to hitmaker and I was getting tired of his sound. When I heard Ngoni, I knew Aydee was the next hitmaker because he is versatile. With Steve, when you hear a song by any artist he has produced, you can right away tell it was produced by Steve Jean, while it's not the same with Aydee.

I am even more excited that Ngoni/ Aydee is working with my favorite Ugandan artiste, Benon Mugumbya, he of the Benon and Vamposs duo( "nsazewo"). Them dudes are gonna blow you off ya ass.

Omar Basawad said...

Very informative! The kind of music that is sweeping East Africa these days, are not my kind at all!

jkb said...

Savage, great comment. My enthusiasm for Steve Jean's touch wore thin 'centuries' back. Just like P. Diddy, Baby Face, Keith Sweat et al. you'll know a hit produced by Steve whilst snoring away in your bed!

Now, Ngoni and Benon? I am dreaming fast I suppose...ain't they winning Vamposs over? I wish...

savage said...

@Jkb, It's not that Benon is abandoning Vamposs. What I mean is that in the begining Benon and Vamposs were working with Steve, but now they are working with Aydee of Ngoni as their producer.Actually artistes like Mosh, Michael Ross who used to work with Steve have pitched camp at Good Enuff.
So exepect great things from that partner ship.

CountryBoyi said...

i applaud the fact that the ngogi are doin well makin music of their own as well as producin other artistes. 'nsiime gwe' is mellow to the ear [no doubt about that]. problem is -aftr listenin 2 the hit more than twice, i got tired that everytime it plays on radio, i find my arm reachin out 2 change the station. this to me, implies that like most local musicians, we still are far & far from producing timeless music. if only napoleon of 'no money' fame hadn't frazzled out as quickly as he had come, he would be the sensation apparent!

savage said...

@Dennism- Don't talk about Napoloen-His was a fluke.

jkb said...

I am responding to your earlier comment on my blog. The idea of having a blog for such a honourable project is great. Bring it on.

baz said...

Bebe Cool sucks ass.

Degstar said...

@ Baz,
wacha wewe,
Bebe Cool ndiaye mfalme.
dats my word.

Iwaya said...

@Savage, i totally agree with you about Ngoni but Benon and Vamposs, no way, those kids still have a very long way to go before they win me over. and let them stop wearing those shameful shorts in their videos. they are disgusting!

@Denis, boy what's wrong with you? u got wax in them ears or what? sikutegela! (clap! that was supposed to be luganda)

@Omar, you're not alone in fining it hard to discover a singer you can not only admire musically but also look up to.

@Baz, i'll whup ya ass, if you go on abt Bebe Cool like that again! to quote richard "shaft" roundtree, "don't let your mouth get your ass in trouble!"
(you guys who missed the amakula film festival missed!)

@jkb, i'll be dropping you an email very soon to get this project off tha' ground.

pest said...

eyo wag way'gwan mayut. rudebwai fi let yah kno dat bebe cool fi batman. yah had dat.

den every tin fi be cris.

jah bless

big up ol em culture men.

pest said...

bebe cool fi king, he a fi culture man. he a com en sample ol em ugandans.