In dark sunglasses, she emerged from a Mercedes Benz at the National Theatre.
Supported by a walking stick, the 76-year-old Miriam Makeba looked worn-out. It was shocking.
The gig was meant to treat the singer to a series of Uganda music before she could grace the Warid Kampala International Jazz Festival.
Percussion Discussion sounded the Adungu, Endere, Madinda and Engoma, which were blended with western instruments.
Veteran artistes Juliet Ssesanga and Fred Masagazi paid special tribute to Makeba in the classic Nina Ow’omukwano nze Gwenjagala … Ye Makeba, (I don’t know the song title, but call it Ayululu!) before new age musician Sarah Ndagire thrilled revelers.
But who could imagine, the 76-year-old could still put up an energetic performance! At the National Theatre, she couldn’t stand for long. She was supported to climb the theatre’s steps to the stage. If you were at that time planning to buy a ticket to watch her, you would think twice. We expected her to perform while seated.
But that is Makeba off stage. She is a grandmother without the microphone and a timeless performer once on stage.
She surprised revelers at the festival at Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort when she stormed the stage without the walking stick.
From the moment she arrived on stage on a Friday evening, gravity relaxed its grip and the lakeside began to bounce. The wittiest, most musically savvy singer was in remarkable shape this time. Makeba was energized and there was not a trace of weakness as she jumped around the stage with her trademark voice.
She performed classics ranging from Live the Future, Pata Pata to Malaika. And there were no signs that she was about to retire. She kept going. She only posed to take a glass of water and got back to action.
The festival provided opportunity for local jazz musicians such as Isaiah Katumwa, Soul Beat Africa, Sundiata and Bakisimba Waves to interact with international legends.
Zimbabwean Oliver Mtukudzi was undoubtedly the highlight on the closing night. He came with a team of five who knew how to play the instruments, sing and dance. The guy on the Marimba and the girl on the thumb piano were outstanding.
The festival is set to become an annual event. And government is already optimistic that it will become another tourist attraction.
In Makeba’s Hapo Zamani, the Minister for ICT, Ham Muliira, played the keyboard to demonstrate government’s commitment to support the festival.
“It is fantastic and shows that Uganda’s music is mature. It is exciting because we don’t get to see this often,” said Sue Kelly of Baylor-Uganda Mulago Hospital.
Laura, a tourist from Canada, told The Weekly Observer that the festival was outstanding because of its diversity in music.
“There is slow jazz, funky, experimental, out of this world and more aggressive jazz,” Laura said.
But with few artistes doing jazz, Uganda has to depend on foreign artistes to feed the festival.
Yet there is need to include more performers to avoid having the same faces for the two days.