Afrigo, Uganda’s oldest jazz band, attributes its success, longevity to quality

Band revered in Uganda, among Africans in US and Europe, where it goes every year to perform

Godfrey Olukya   | 29.04.2022
Afrigo, Uganda’s oldest jazz band, attributes its success, longevity to quality


Every first Saturday of the month, all roads lead to Club Ambiance Kampala on the outskirts of Uganda's capital, where the Afrigo Band performs.

According to the club management, they booked the jazz band to play there on that day as it is the most popular band in the country and attracts many revelers.

"And indeed the band does not disappoint the management and the people who turn up. The club has a capacity of about 3,000 people, but it fills to capacity whenever Afrigo plays in this place," John Kapo, one of the workers at the club, told Anadolu Agency.

Since 1975, Afrigo has been in the business of entertaining Ugandans of all ages and classes.

"It is rare to find a jazz band in East Africa that has stayed together for over two decades," said Stanley Jagwe, a music promoter in Uganda.

"The band was formed in 1975 by a group of eight musicians led by myself," Afrigo's leader Moses Matovu said during a media interview.

Matovu, a vocalist and alto saxophonist, continues to lead the band. He is also the only surviving member of the eight original founders. He said that they replace whoever dies and also often recruit new young musicians and dancers.

Matovu said that apart from a big fan base in the country, the group tours regularly in Europe and the US to play to Ugandans and other Africans in the diaspora.

Key to band's popularity, longevity

Most jazz bands in Uganda do not live to see their 20th birthday. Among those that tried to stay together were Masagazi, which lasted 30 years; The Eagles, which survived 29 years; The Tames band, which were together for 19 years, and The Cranes, which lasted 15 years.

"The good quality of music played by our band is attributed to its success and longevity. Since 1975, our identity has been in the quality of the music we play. We perform songs that music critics can appreciate without even knowing the lyrics," said Matovu.

According to Ugandan music analyst Yusuf Sebowa, Afrigo has managed to stay so long in the field of music thanks to good leadership and professionalism.

"The band has good leadership which sticks to professionalism. Unlike other jazz bands in the country, Afrigo employs musicians on a permanent basis and they get a monthly salary. They also stick to professional standards put in place by the band's leadership," he told Anadolu Agency.

One of their fans, Rebecca Namuli, said: "Whenever I watch Afrigo playing on stage, I get excited because of their good music. The way I hear their music on the radio and in clubs is the very way in which I hear them playing live music."

Apart from performing at Club Ambiance Kampala every first Saturday of the month, Afrigo also plays at clubs, functions and wedding parties.

"They have maintained a standard that many musicians in Uganda have failed to do," said Doreen Nakanjako, a Kampala secondary school music teacher.

"The fact that one of the band members is a member of parliament and the rest have diplomas and degrees in various fields also makes it a respectable and cherished jazz band among many Ugandans," according to Jackson Kibenge, a retired police officer who said Afrigo is his favorite band.

Racheal Magoola, a teacher by profession who has been in Afrigo for over 20 years, is also a member of parliament representing the Kigulu constituency in the eastern Ugandan district of Bugiri.

After being in the field for such a long time, with respected band members and many fans, it is therefore not surprising that Afrigo is often hired to perform at high-class functions, including those of the state.

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