INTERVIEW: Meet Uganda’s Best Saxophonist Isaiah Katumwa

Isaiah Katumwa is Uganda’s Jazz Pioneer whose innovation has inspired and sensitized many to jazz. He is a self-taught saxophonist.

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He has released so many inspiring albums ever since he went solo and they include; Will Worship you in 2001, Saxo Hymns in 2002,  We three kings in 2003, Sax Worship in 2004, Celebrate Africa in 2005, Sinza in 2006, Coming Home in 2007 and Another Step “Kitaffe Ali mu Gulu” in 2009

Ahead of Isaiah’s Jazz concert on Thursday September 5, the Red Pepper Online team got involved in the question answer session with Isaiah

Give us a brief background of your musical career?

I would be celebrating 13 years since my first album in 2000. I am a self-taught saxophonist who has not studied it in any way. I have a traditional folk music background from school as well as singing but professionally I celebrate the fact that I have almost played all types/genres in Uganda since 1995 when I started out with WAKA WAKA band.

Why did you choose to be a jazz musician/saxophonist?

As a saxophonist and artist this gives me the liberty to express myself musically since the main ingredient of Jazz is improvising.

What are your most memorable shows?

My 2012 concert here in Kampala was special, Performing in Washington DC 2years ago was also very memorable because the audience was predominantly American and loved it so much and I think Denver Colorado last year when I performed with really powerful guys in US.

What do you do in your free time?

I like working out, I play badminton but I also love charitable work.

What is the secret to your huge success?

I attribute it to God mainly and of course being myself in my creativity- I try to be African and relevant.


What would you say about your fashion sense/style?

Well, I love being presentable, descent and unique in a subtle way.

Are any of your siblings into music as much as you are?

Not at all. None of them is but I think most of them are really talented especially my brother.

What is the best song you’ve composed?

I would never know because I give all of them my best. When one becomes more loved or appreciated than the others then that assumes it is the best but for me the latest song would be the best.

What else would you have done with your life apart from music?

I have grown up as a multitalented person so that would be hard to decide on but I think I would have been a sportsman.

How do you manage to balance your musical life and family life?

Learning prioritizing is very important I think for some of us who end up in this kind of status, fame. Learning what is first is crucial.

Any challenges with being a jazz musician?

I think mainly it is some people who do not understand the difference between being an artist and being a musician. To me, an artist creates, a musician plays music. The challenge is mainly negative jazz critics who want you to play the jazz style they enjoy and it is usually something foreign/American or old fashioned. I chose to create something original and real to me as African and in the today generation.

Advice to aspiring jazz artists/saxophonists?

Do your thing as long as you enjoy and you keep practicing, listening and improving. Don’t do something to please people, first enjoy it and others will. If you can try to be original in your playing, the better but enjoy yourself first.

I would encourage them to also be African if they can.

Any Last Words for your fans?

I would love to invite all my fans and everyone who can to my concert on 5thSeptember, 2013. I choose to do my best in setting standards for myself and try to beat them and this time is one of them where we are shooting higher. It is an experience that you wouldn’t want to miss. In addition, you will also be contributing to helping create access to water for kids in Kakunyu School who are physically and mentally challenged. They need help, so having fun while giving a hand makes a difference.

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