By George Wabweyo
When you admire the butterfly(Kipepeo), don’t you ever disrespect the caterpillar; a review of Eddy Kenzo’s Made In Africa.
I am not an Eddy Kenzo fan. I am not an Eddy Kenzo hater. I have mostly listened to his music in passing; never seeking it out. That said, I have always been awed by his life story and I respect his grind because I am one of those guys who believes that NOTHING BEATS A GOOD UNDERDOG STORY.
This album is no ordinary album; I have had various discourses with a number of people about what drives the best of the world’s creatives to achieve personally unprecedented levels of creativity. I have always argued that it is a result of being broken and humiliated to a point the creative is being extraordinarily creative for the sake of vengeance or proving a point. And in the last two years, Ugandans have really disrespected and humiliated this man, perhaps on account of his Kwanjula songbird babymama’s travails and the influence she has over Ugandan women(and Ugandan women are unknowing de-facto gatekeepers of stardorm and hit music out here).
This album right here sounds like the love child between proving a point and having vengeance; the caterpillar has morphed into a butterfly. Hate him or love him, the man has superseded our gimick-built greats; Chameleone, Bobi Wine and Bebe Cool. None of them can boast of an album this sonically cohesive and prolific, after all, their albums have mostly been “best-of-my-last-year-in-music” compilations.
It’s 21 songs deep, each offering a new kind of delight with the instrumentals and arrangements whose influences drift from East African, West African and South African music. On this, you’ll sample dashes of Zouk, Rhumba, Ugandan Kidandali(as if it is even an official genre), S.A Afrohouse, Afrobeat and whatever it is those ingenious Nigerians call the infectious sound they put out today. It surely does fit its Made In Africa title.
I dare say, this is the first ever contemporary Ugandan Music album that can be a contender at the Grammy’s( I don’t understand the validation value around the shit-award show, though, but it does seem very important to artistes). Leave what the Abayudaya did and trash Big Trill and Crystal Panda’s wishful thinking.
A quick run-through
The Missounwa and Moni renditions were refreshing, and definitely surprise appearances considering that they are African classics. He butchered Philly Lutaaya’s Born In Africa and like Bebe Cool, perhaps he should have stayed away from it. That was sacrilege. Tugende, Omoyo, Kimuli, Pili-Pili, Nobody, Twetale and Aaye are all great tracks. The rest felt like skippable fillers.
What this album reveals:
1. Ugandan music bloggers and more so those invited to this album’s launch are shit reviewers and they are definitely not as influential as they think they are…otherwise…this joint should be allover Uganda right now. They do need training to write for music.
2. We are still too emotionally immature to appreciate good art from people we don’t have much regard for. Hate him or love him, despise him or respect him, this is solid work.
3. How Ugandan’s and especially those with international platforms embrace this great album will possibly determine how this album rocks for the rest of the year. Best believe that West Africa and Europe have got him even if his own people reject him.
4. Perhaps it is time to starve ourselves off payola pushed hit songs. In fact, we should give up on the religion of hit songs with the shelf life of a bug’s life span and embrace music that transcends time…like what’s on this album.
5. We need to accept a prophet at home. Buy or stream this…if not for the love of music, for patriotism.
6. Ugandan radio will not give this much notice which only goes to show that well…they are shit. But ask for Cardi B.
7. This album is possibly a blueprint for Ugandan artistes to follow if they want to conquer Africa and the world. While it skews the Ugandan sound, it does open room for Ugandan artistes to experiment or own a ton of African sounds from across the continent.
I am not an Eddy Kenzo fan but even I have to admit that this is a musical coupe; a one man revolution that will attract anyone who speaks and understands the language of music. May Eddie Kenzo be rewarded tenfold for the heart, soul and hardwork he has put in this album.
I predict a Grammy nomination and possible win.