Despite the cynical disposition many of us like to radiate on a daily basis, the idea of coming together in the name of giving someone else hope was very readily embraced this last Sunday at Jazzville, Bugolobi from around 5pm to 8.30pm. Every seat in the house was filled with friends, relatives and complete strangers to Johnson Agababyona. The shared sentiment of the evening was the desire to raise enough money to him in India for the completion of his cancer treatment.
The Sunday downpour may have deterred a lot of people from showing up on time including the artists themselves, but soon enough, the room was buzzing with excitement and anticipation. The warm ambiance of Jazzville exceptionally livened up the fresh-out-of-the-rain crowd and after a while the music got started. Joe from Qwela played the role of the laid back MC. He quite casually engaged the audience and kept the wheels rolling with his down to earth humor and his placatory reminders to us that we were present for two reasons; to have fun and to save a life.
Novell band was first on stage. Abaasa, the drummer wowed with his incredible dexterity on the percussions and consistent vocals. He easily sang Rihana’s “we found love” and later on, John Legend’s “We Just Don’t care” while playing the drums at the same time. For a first time Abaasa watcher like me (I know, where have I been?) the entire performance hit me hard on the impressive end.
The Band’s female vocals came from the young Melanie Kitongo. Among other songs performed by her, were Amy Wine House’s ‘Valerie’ and Adele’s ‘set fire to the rain’ which showcased the conventional harmony her voice offers to the band’s sound. Although she had a few pitchy moments, the audience was distracted by her skillful carrying of some of the more dangerous to navigate tunes.
Up next was Qwela. As expected from Veterans of the Ugandan live music game, they had us spell bound from the get go with their Afro fusion Jazzy sound. Using the calabash instrument and tambourine to make a more earthy sound, the electric guitar to add more zing, the saxophone to smooth out the jazz, and several of their original compositions; the audience was entertained to the max and ready to give, give and give some more.
During the course of the entire function, the reason for the evening was never out of our minds. Pledge cards were handed out to the audience and the projector screen was alive with various images of the life of Johnson Agabayona. Form his childhood, to his education, to his marriage and to his beautiful children. At one point, a brief connection was created so that we could see him in India and he could watch us here.
Although it lasted only a few minutes before it was severed, we had enough time to wave our greetings and he, enough time to watch the Qwela performance. Despite the foggy visuals, it was crystal clear that he was touched greatly by the show up and the fundraising effort.
Pragmo, the master key board player, and saxophonist Brian Mugenyi entertained the audience next. With the assistance of Ian Businge on guitar and Roy Kasika on drums, they played their individual favorites and crowd pleasing tunes like ‘Aisha.’ The combination of the two sounds crafted a mellow and sometimes upbeat jazz which pulled the evening together into a cozy and intimate affair.
The Guest Speaker was Dr. Orem Jackson K of the Uganda Cancer Institute. He was asked to talk about cancer. He started off by discussing the fact that cancer and other diseases are very much alike, because they all start out with one diseased cell multiplying into many others and consuming the body. The only difference is that with cancer, people find out about it when it has multiplied to precarious levels and treating it is difficult and sometimes impossible. He spoke of Johnson’s condition and how pleased he was to see a community response such as the charity concert.
The guest of Honor Hon. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda said a few words and auctioned a piece of art provided by Jazzville. The art went for over a million shillings. To sum up the event, multi instrumentalist, Myko Ouma performed a few songs from his latest album and succumbed to the audience demands for him to perform ‘flashback.’ Johnson’s father closed the fundraiser with a few words of gratitude to the audience, expressing his gratefulness to the donors, family, friends and organizers of the event.
The total amount raised was in the range of seven million shillings, which was indisputably a great move to the assistance of Johnson Agababyona and a real emblem of hope.