On Thursday last week, one of
Uganda’s most prolific singers died. Paul Kafeero was always an enigma to me and when he passed on, I was hurt in more than just the usual way that one is affected when one of the thousands of musicians dies in the country.
Needless to say, those who’ve heard his songs will agree that he was one strange guy. The lyrics he dropped in his songs were not what you would expect him to write, especially after you had seen what he looked like. The poetry was just beyond him.
My folly was procrastination. I planned to interview him for two years. I waited too long. Thursday proved he is so gone. I am never going to hear from his own mouth what drove him.
I used to write on the entertainment beat. Now back in the day, the hip subjects were not the likes of Paul Kafeero or Fred Ssebatta. One editor actually told me to drop my plans to write about Mariam Ndagire because the readers of the section were more into Michael Ross and J Kazoora. I thought Ndagire was very talented, what with the plays she writes and the deep songs
she sings…used to sing!
I came close to doing that interview. I met Kafeero at one of the monthly Jam on the Greens at the National Theatre and wanted to do it then. Unfortunately, he was clearly inebriated and I knew I had to die another day.
He was an interesting character, that one. He turned to me and smiled throughout when I introduced myself, like he was dreaming a continuous sweet dream. His permed hair was badly hidden under a black cap and his unruly beard was in those days truly coming into its own.
He was standing alone, without any hangers on like he was an alien in the community. It was a community of musicians but he seemed to be misplaced. He sipped on his beer and waited for his turn to go upstage and do his thing.
Paul Kafeero intrigued me because of the things he sang about. He was always looking ahead of time, peeping into the future and telling the world what he saw. That he was a skilled wordsmith was only a bonus. He was first a prophet.
One day in a taxi to Ntinda, as I tried to ignore the annoying chick next to me who sat like it was her lounge at home and not a scrappy old taxi, I heard his hit, Walumbe Zaaya for the first time and I fell in love with Kadongo Kamu. That’s when I started listening to others like Ssebatta and Matiya Kakumirizi. I discovered that these were the words of wisdom from a time long gone but they were still very potent.
Because i waited, i’ll never know.