It may sound a little farfetched drawing comparisons between our own Lilian Mbabazi and the quintessential British diva Sade. But if these two share anything in common, it is by way of possessing powerful distinctive voices and working with taut bands. Sade has been with her backing outfit for the past 30 years since hitting the global music scene with her sultry jazz soul offerings. Meanwhile, Lilian continues to anchor herself as a bankable chanteuse, running her band The Sundowners like a tight ship. One can’t really say like Sade, Lilian is also reclusive. Her music may not enjoy heavy rotation on radio for reasons best known to playlist gatekeepers, but her legion of loyal fans is okay with the apparent morsel that is her weekly gigs at Big Mikes on Acacia Avenue. The aptly themed “After Work Like it Should Be” sessions are the perfect salve for the Kampala Corporate that is itching to unwind ahead of the weekend.
There’s something of an aberration on the Kampala band scene where you have pretentious live acts, some of them not so aromatic, spewing out foul-smelling music at hangouts patronized by backpacking nicotine-spewing white trash. Honestly, how can a band, like the one that plays at some Bugolobi venue, be so lazy its musicians cannot even do “covers” well? Not so with Lilian who tweaked the bulk of her “covers” set last week taking revelers down memory lane to the early days of radio. That was two decades ago when the mystery surrounding genres was demystified. Many will equate the mid-90s with the Golden Age that was Radio Sanyu and Capital FM, one in which many were able to distinguish varied musical styles; R&B, soul, jazz et al.
With no one on the backing vocals microphone, Lilian left it to her fans; a blend of corporates, artistes and pseudo celebs to sing off the other bits of the songs for the better part of her tight two-hour set. She had us singing about “lovemaking, heartbreaking, soul shaking love” on an En Vogue classic, got us “weak at the knees” on an SWV track, and cautioned us against chasing “waterfalls” on that TLC cautionary tale. While most of this music arrived at the height of a sexual revolution, those were delightful pre-twerking days. Now that she is visibly in her third trimester, anticipating the arrival of baby number two, our Coke Studio Africa chanteuse has to take a well-deserved break if anything to bond with baby and watch her first born Asante connect with his new sibling. Lilian will take an extended break after her Thursday May 29th gig whose repertoire she said would be strictly African. She promised to feature as many of the artistes she’s collaborated with during her solo career. Who knows? Her beau Mowzey Radio may make an appearance on Danger, his sidekick Weasel on Vitamini, Rwandan vocal powerhouse Kitoko on Niwowe Gusa and also notable continental hip-hop act Keko. It’s a free gig, which is not to say that Lilian doesn’t put value on her craft. With a premium beer brand taking care of everything including the cover charge and band allowances, Lilian and The Sundowners only have to worry about leaving patrons on a Kawa Kawa high.
Text: MOSES SERUGO