Sunday, December 12, 2010

CD Review: Joel Sebunjo - Ganda Mande Crossroads

Sebunjo’s music cries out to go mainstream
Artiste: Joel Sebunjo
Album: Ganda Mande Crossroads
Genre: World Music
Reviewer: John K. Abimanyi

Ugandan musicians are accused of neglecting true music instruments for Frutty Loops and whatever other computer music programming there might be; hence why they hardly ever sell beyond the borders. Some acts have gone against that tide, producing raw rich African sound in the process. However, such music has remained inaccessible, like elitist music, which is shunned by radio stations (who only play songs on popular demand), and hence, kept out of reach.

Joel Sebunjo, at 26, is one of Uganda’s World Music lights. Gifted with stringed instruments, he employs his talents with the Kora, the traditional Endongo guitars and the guitar to pluck his way into your ear with every string. He’s got a lot of inspiration from West African musicians of the same genre like Salif Keita. Thus, even if the CD is meant to be a merge between Ganda and West African traditions, it comes off sounding more West African.

He is at his best when he lets the instruments do the talking. He not is a great vocalist and his few verbal infusions could do better as animations than as vocalisations. But his ability to create rhythm out of his strings is what makes Sebunjo worth the hullabaloo as is shown on lead track, Nakato and others like Papa Guitar, Kunsiko and Mbye Kunda.

Sebunjo’s music cries out to move into the mainstream; to get out of this elitist comfort zone and draw more fans on board with a song that can at least do time on a dance floor just like Salif Keita and Oliver Mtukudzi did with Africa and Toddi respectively. Imagine Bobi Wine’s Carolynah playing to his strings, and then you get the idea of just how different it would then all be.

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