I would have preferred that the late EllyWamala’s familycommemorated the 10th anniversary of his passing by way of a stage musical instead of the mostly tacky renditions of the evergreen maestro’s songbook the bulk of which border on desecration. I hope he is not turning in his grave at this. May be the family didn’t know better. A one-off over-priced concert was probably the best way they knew how to remember their musical patriarch. Pity it will be quickly forgotten as soon as the music instruments are put away.
The bubble gum treatment to most of Wamala’s songs alongside the cotton-candy singing on the tracks will also be quickly forgotten as soon as the radio music schedulers drop them in preference for the originals. That I’m cocksure about! It could be that the family wanted to make a quick buck for something as noble as a erecting an Elly Wamala Museum. I’ll cut them some slack there for any initiative that will break the monotony that the annual National Theatre memorial lectures have become. Beyond the drone from artistes extolling Wamala attributes like his musical finesse, punctuality, eloquence and impeccable dress sense, it would help of the family shared some of his artefacts and memorabilia like LP sleeves of his first records, pictures from his workdays at national broadcaster Radio Uganda and UTV or sheets with his handwritten lyrics.
That said, I still feel a Broadway/ West End-style stage musical, despite being harder to pull off logistically than a “kivulu”, would have been a worthier tribute in much the same way Nigerian social consciousness artiste FelaKuti is now immortalized in a Broadway musical. I’m thinking a six-month run at a Kampala playhouse and Wamala’s songs are strung around a love or social-consciousness story. Perhaps come his 15th memorial in 2019, the Wamala family will think beyond hiring a backwater music producer and engaging cotton candy artistes. Hopefully, his family will push the envelope and puts on a full-on production that incorporates music, imaginative dance choreography and the kind of drama Wamala conjured up in his songs. Picture Kama Katono being played out on stage; a faint-heart wooing a lady and after a lot of hesitation, he finally blurts out those three silly but enduring words. It had better happen in my living years.
Text: MOSES SERUGO