Uganda's Self-taught saxophonist Mr. Isaiah Katumwa shares his story with Suluzulu
Isaiah Katumwa is a Ugandan jazz musician and saxophonist. This self-taught saxophonist has stood side by side on stage with global icons like Jonathan Butler, Hugh Masekela, Jimmy Dludlu, Soweto Kinchy. He is credited for turning many people in Uganda into jazz enthusiasts.
Tell us about yourself?
I am a simple individual born and raised in Uganda with a humble background,a self-taught saxophonist, who loves God, my family and people.
Growing up, who or what inspired you to become a musician?
Growing up as a musical child , my guardian identified a lot of musical potential and helped to expose me to many musical instruments and many opportunities musically, especially through school music activities and according to him i showed extraordinary ability which reflected a bright future.
Jazz music is known for its instrumental vibe. Why did you choose jazz out of all the music genres?
As a self taught saxophonist, i depended on listening to saxophone music that i could get a hold of at that time given that there were no music schools. A saxophone is synonymous with jazz and the more i listened to saxophone music the more i was exposed to jazz and in the process i realised that jazz gives more liberty of expression giving me an opportunity and room for originality. It was also an opportunity to create something new on a Ugandan and East African market.
You are known as an inspirational saxophonist. At what age did you learn how to play the saxophone and why did you choose this instrument?
At 10 after i had watched a young Chinese boy on TV , who was playing a piano i was so challenged as to why i had never seen any african child do that, so i always wanted to challenge the status-quo so when i saw the saxophone the first time it looked complicated enough and such a good challenge for me to learn. I didn’t want to believe in impossibilities so the more i spent time with it as i taught my self the more i fell in love with it.
The Jazz platform in Uganda has recently been acknowledged and appreciated more. Why do you think it took this long to be recognized?
Jazz was always perceived as a foreign sound associated to the west. It had to take time and effort to expose it to the Ugandan and East African market fusing it with relatable rhythms and interpretations.
Musicians across Africa describe your type of jazz as African smooth jazz. What is your target group and what message are you looking to send out from your music
I focus on releasing music that i hear inside of me trying to do smooth jazz with my african perspective.
'All year summer' was in the top 10 best indie songs on smooth 97 oasis radio in California for weeks in a row. How does that reflect on you as an African artist in Africa?
There is a sense of hope that our music in Africa can also be appreciated on a global platform and its also a sense of for us African musicians to think globally
You have performed on several stages across the globe, how were you received by these different crowds? Your favourite crowd??
They always seem to be taken by surprise after listening to the music and fall in love with it even when they were reluctant in the first place. I love all my crowds but my favourite i think is the Ugandan.
You were recently nominated for the CEO global Titans awards 2016, what does that mean to you as an African musician?
Extremely humbling because whatever i do as charity i do under personal conviction so its such a great recognition
Your new album, 'This is me,' is out on CD and available on iTunes. Why did you name the album “This is me”?
I have always tried to be myself and to be true to my authentic sound. My music is upbeat because i believe Africans are lively , dancing people. We love rhythm and we love beats.We appreciate popular musicians from the world at large but we cannot be them, we have our own authentic voice.
Africa has many rural areas where some people have no access to download or CDs, how do you tap into that market ?
Thats a continuous challenge as we continue to introduce the genre to as many people as possible that may enjoy it using platforms like my tv show on urban and as far as jazz fm can go as for now.
Do you think of what you do as a business, a passion, or a moral imperative?
First its passion and i count it a blessing to be able to learn from what i love to do. And yes its eventually a business.
Besides music, what other projects are you passionate about?
I am passionate about charity. I love helping young people., I do inspirational and motivational speaking too.
What advice do you give upcoming jazz artists in Africa?
To keep belief and hard work and hope , because this is the time for Africa to significantly contribute to the global art and music industry.
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