The story of Kenneth Mugabi, like many others started on TV, with a talent show Rated Next.
He did not win and neither did he make the top four.
For many aspiring musicians that go through talent shows, this is usually the end of a music career.
Some win and still do not go on to make an impact on the music industry generally.
Yet, for some reasons, Mugabi may not have become a mainstream star or released numerous hits but has curved a career that has taken a path he has dictated.
Taking a route of Afro-Neo-Soul as his preferred music genre as compared to the known pop bubble gum that is common on radio stations.
“I tried doing the popular music and I personally did not like how I sounded and thus chose to stick with what I do,” he once says in an interview.
A vocalist and guitarist, Mugabi confesses that while in school, he was forced to be in the school choir but kept leaving because he found them very strict.
And yet this never deterred him from keeping his eyes glued to a musical ambition – for many Ugandans, he is probably known as the guy that sang his heart out for one village girl Naki.
On the Serena Hotel stage, during the Qwela Junction, Crooners edition, he sang for a Naki and for a moment, the audience went mute, they let him and the music be.
Of course, some thought he had arrived, but he did not, instead, he continued doing regular gigs, opening for Maurice Kirya, appearing at the different Pearl Rhythm activations and on other days, showing up as a member of Appegio Band – a collective of instrumentalists that consisted of Mugabi and classmates of his at the school of Music Dance and Drama in Makerere University.
A day to Uganda’s 56th independence celebrations, Mugabi came of age with a maiden concert, ‘Strings of My Soul at the National Theatre’.
A show curated between a concert of Major Lazer, a celebrated American electronic dance music trio and Patrick ‘Salvado’ Idringi’s Africa Laughs comedy showcase – one would have believed Mugabi was up for a debacle.
He though proved many wrong by not only packing the National Theatre at Shs50,000 but putting up a spirited performance.
Opening his set at about 7:30pm, Mugabi choose to entirely own his show, of course, he had planned to have a supporting cast of artistes like vocalists Shifa Musisi, acapella band Canaan Gents and dancer Prisca Atite but the trick was to make sure none of these stole his thunder.
Thus, he started and ended his show, the supporting act either performed in between his set or collaborated with him.
For instance, he had joined the Canaan Gents to perform one of their ballads and later, oh, he did join Shifa Musisi to put the tube fiddle on Owoluganda to bed.
The two over the years have created a chemistry that makes their duo an amazing one, last year, they dazzled audiences as they did mash ups of their songs during the weekend long Aka Dope edition.
His performance at the auditorium was broken into three segments that kicked off with slower songs most of which appear on his debut album Kibunomu.
These were songs like Amaso g’otulo, Omusheshe and his latest, Nkwegomba he started off his second session with a dance routine that featured Atite in a white dress, occupying a big part of the stage with Mugabi playing the keys and singing Ileng.
The best out of the entire show though was towards the end especially when he sang some of the audience’s best songs like Nambi, Wenyenye, Rita, Janzi and Neyanziza, most of these were not just a spectacle but they hand the audience singing along.
Of course, because he had such a bankable band, he was rarely afraid of trying out things in a performance – he was working with a team that he understands and they too understand him.
Aloysius Migadde on the lead guitar, Happy Kyazze on the saxophone, Lawrence Matovu on bass, Ronnie Bukenya on keys and Sheba Mwiza on the backup vocals all had a good day on stage.
The show of course ended with a session that was mostly done by the audience, the performance of Naki, this did not get the entire audience on its feet but it had all of them singing word for word of the song.
Mugabi announced he will be releasing his second album next year and will feature collaborations with Canaan Gents as well as some of his collaborations with Irene Namubiru among other artistes.