Seruwagi from Sweden
Sweden based Ugandan musician and actor Seruwagi has just released what I find one of our greatest albums in recent years. Released early 2005, in Stockholm Sweden a few days before he came to Uganda on a familiarization tour, the album is worth every length of your listening. Titled ‘racing the clouds' drawn from a line in one of the songs ‘miyo' it proposes that the need to take up new challenges ‘trying my wings and fly'
I met Seruwagi when he was here between the 12 th of June and the 21 st of June 2005 mainly to publicize the album, introduce it and get the people to know him as an artiste. Though he did not perform because of limited time he was privileged to appear on television: WBS, and radio stations. He hoped to schedule performances after seeing how the CD would be received
The album was released on his own company Kaigoma productions, which so far has only one artiste, signed to it, himself. A versatile artiste, Seruwagi produced the album and played all the instruments live on the album including the Karimba, Guitar, Piano, Congas.
He revealed that though we hear beautiful music on the project, it was not easy producing it. Because he works as an actor he had little time to complete the songs but after they were done it was not regrettable.
The process from writing to release of ‘racing the clouds' is estimated to have taken donkey years. Starting with the first song ‘Maria Magdalena' that was astonishingly written in 1982. Other tracks were spread out between 2005, 2003, 2002.A long period of effort the intensity towards completion took the last three to four years.
Whereas many diasporic musicians record for pleasure, Seruwagi has been able to perform the songs live quite a number of times before and after the release of the album.
While practicing his craft in Sweden , he shared the view that there seem to exist more opportunities for legal protection than in other parts of the world for example Africa . ‘In Sweden we are much protected in terms of copyright' he said.
In spite of this he does not omit challenges of working as a musician in Sweden ‘it is not easy to survive doing African music in Sweden . It is a struggle. You have to get a lot of concerts, and yet there are a lot of bands and music over there'.
Out of curiosity, I was interested in finding out if he knew about the continental Koras. In fact his music sounds what I would classify as Kora appealing material. He was very familiar with the event particularly the fact that his theatre school colleague Geoffrey Oryema got one in the mid 1990s.Seruwagi who maintained a long time contact relationship with Oryema until a few years back studied with the latter in Abafumi theatre company under the late great Robert Serumaga. He speaks highly of Serumaga. ‘Robert Serumaga was a great man; he made us what we are'.
Seruwagi first went to Sweden in 1978 after living in Kenya for two years. He has three children in Sweden one of whom is a musician. Despite his absence from the Ugandan scene for all this long he speaks well of the people as ‘always been developing both musically and otherwise. There is a sense of capitalism and the sense of going forward.'
In Sweden he was able to meet the late Philly Lutaaya before he died, but unfortunately did not do any music with him. Lutaaya became his idol. He describes the late as a ‘gentle loving person who cared for his country and his kids. The album he made about Aids showed what kind of heart he had' .He has also been in working with ace musician Sammy Kasule a good friend of his with whom they have done some TV series Seruwagi has made. Seruwagi is also in touch with another Ugandan luminary in Sweden Gerald Nadibanga.
Being an actor, Seruwagi is engaged in a diverse range of theatre from conventional theatre to physical theatre. He has also been able to link the processes of theatre to his music because he believes all artistes create in the same way. The source of creation is the same. Before leaving Uganda Seruwagi did music with Afrigo band including phenomenal musicians Moses Matovu, Sekyanzi, Dede Majoro (RIP), and Mike Luzinda (RIP). He left when Congolese music was still a major force in Uganda .
Seruwagi seems lost for words when it comes to describing his current style. He divulges that he composes these songs with no thought of them in terms of style but just, mere compositions .He leaves the analysis to other people who place them according to what they hear. In his past time he listens to: Folk, Jazz and Symphonic music and all types of music within his reach.
To Seruwagi, his listening is on purpose because he is inspiration for his work by listening to what others do. ‘Most musicians make the music they like to listen to and they are the first to listen to themselves'. He argues
He keeps his ears open for sounds of the music industry in Uganda . He listens to a lot of music from here and from his analysis he detects a lot of potential and is ‘happy that Ugandans have started appreciating their artistes and that is nice. It means the artistes in Uganda are doing a very good job to get the public to listen to them and that is great.'
Thematically Seruwagi on ‘racing the clouds' embraces quite an array from loving your self, enjoying life, taking care of your self and look into the future and love what you are and know that life is very short and whatever time you have is precious. This is heard all through out the tracks on the album.
As we close our conversation he directs me to where his CDs are sold locally at Kato Lubwama's Power Music House in Kampala : 077542030
He finalizes with a wonderful quotation:
‘Music is the food of the soul. I bring you this food for the soul and I hope it will fill your souls with happiness as it did to me when I was making it for you. Enjoy it please.'
To contact Seruwagi
Phone: +46703982954 Sweden