The Ganda Boys are a UK-based, African fusion band. Its members include: Ugandan singers, Denis Mugagga and Daniel Sewagudde, formerly, the Da-Twins, along with UK musician, arranger, record producer and film composer, Craig Pruess. In their productions, the Ganda boys explore their ganda culture and share it with all the audiences all over Europe.
The Ganda Boys was formed in 2009 through an award-winning collaboration on the BBC television drama series, Moses Jones. It was nominated for a 2010, British Academy Award for “Best Original Music Score” produced by Craig Pruess. Pruess is an American multi-instrumental musician. He is an award-winning composer, arranger, gold and platinum record producer. He guides the recorded sound while all the members work on song writing. According to Mugagga, the Ganda Culture isn’t new to the British because both cultures have enjoyed a blend since the colonial times.
However, musically or artistically, there hasn’t been much of a blend.
He added that they embarked on a 20-year journey to find this blend and he believes that they have covered some ground in this regard. Mugagga said most of the norms and ways of the Ganda culture fascinate the British.
He observed that, “colonization didn’t promote the wealth and wisdom of our culture, most of the British have a different version of who we are as a people. Our traditional chants hit through the barriers of language and connects through to the wide British audience. We have stayed true to our culture and we have kept our art authentic with a fine blend of the British culture, which makes our fusion outstanding.”
Craig Pruess is a British/ American world music specialist with a wide experience in scoring television shows and movies. Mugagga explained that Craig picked interest in them after working on a Prime time BBC drama, Moses Jones. “He was quick to identify the beauty in our cultural chants. After the TV show was concluded, we decided to team up and bring the two worlds together. We have never looked back ever since,” he notes. Mugagga also said they had to learn and unlearn many things in music.
Their interpretation of the American/ Jamaican pop styles was a huge stumbling challenge for them during the time they were identified as Da-Twins. Explaining that they nearly missed out on the BBC drama participation, Mugagga notes that in order to collaborate with another culture, they learnt that they needed to identify with their own unique culture and come from a space of originality and authenticity. However, they were lucky that world music had been introduced to them by Fr. Damian Grimes at Namasagali College.
For them to join the drama, they had to adjust immediately, and fortunately, they succeeded and got onto the show. He added that, adapting was not a big challenge because of their education background. The Ganda boys have a fair understanding of both cultures and their journey is less hectic now.
The group has over the years managed to establish an audience, and have had various major talent TV shows approaching them for appearances and participation.
Being able to speak good English has been an added advantage for them. However, speaking English was not enough for them at the beginning, because the language they spoke was slightly different from the language being used on the streets in Britain. The phrases, accent and humour varied a lot. They had to put themselves forward for the challenge and posed situations where they learnt through research and sometimes the hard way.
After their appearances on various British TV stations and their music being played on various Films, Dramas and TV shows, they got introduced to the main continent. Mugagga said, “Europe was more open to different music cultures than the British. The British audience was so much set in its ways and choices.” In 2013, the Ganda Boys played at the world cultural festival in Berlin to a global audience of over 90,000 people. The audience received them warmly. Since then, they have played across different cities of Europe and despite the language barrier; Mugagga said they are always appreciated.
In their productions, the group uses other African musical instruments to enhance their music, like the “adungu” which Mugagga says is magical. He could not hide his love for the instrument, which he said connects them directly home, from whichever stage they are performing at. He said the “adungu” fascinates the audience wherever they go; its rawness and the animal skin raises so much intrigue. We display it on stage before the show, which makes the performing job easy.
The audience becomes eager and interested in our performance every time the “adungu” is on display. He noted that the calming sound from the “adungu” and their chanting makes a beautiful blend, giving audiences across the world, a first time experience of listening to the sound. “We learnt from the exposure of different countries we have visited that playing an instrument that is local to you sets you apart and makes you unique. We learnt to appreciate our culture, fashion and languages. So, we resorted to picking up the ‘adungu’ and nanga, Daniel Plays the adungu well. He started playing it at 7 years as part of his primary school music lesson at Kyagwe Road Primary School. I first experienced the ‘adungu’ at different schools during entertainment weekend shows,” he explains. He added that, they always tell their audiences that adungu brings Joy and the feel of summer during winter.
Luckily for them, they have never experienced any kind of racism or bullying during any of their performances. They said they try hard not to attract any kind of racism. They dress in Ugandan attire while playing Ugandan songs. This he explained fascinates the audiences who are wowed by the beauty and originality of the Ganda culture. Mugagga added that the differences in colour, norms and culture can heal the misinformation around race.
For the love of their culture and tribe, the Ganda boys teach the British Luganda songs. Mugagga concluded that, “it’s a gold mine, Europeans love to learn and it’s through learning that they have dominated other cultures. They sing our language and appear proud and satisfied that they know another language at least.”
“We usually share with them during performances that we can speak your language very well and we can speak our language very well too. So, if we were to use ignorance as a measure of permittivity, who is primitive in this case? They burst out into laughter while we quickly switch to another song.”
By Irene Lamunu
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