The sixties were a magical time for Uganda’s music industry. In this first article of “Back in Time series”, we take you down memory lane to an era that mothered and shaped today’s popular music – with the emergence of the first all-black bands.
Simon Musasizi profiles Clyde John Luzige Bakaluba Mayanja, 71, a great vocalist and dance maestro at the time, and one of the pioneers of the second all-black music group in Uganda.
Two years after Uganda’s independence, Mayanja and his associates noticed the entertainment industry, which was dominated by Asians, was yet to be liberated. Together with Sammy Kawuma and Tony Ssenkebejje, they in 1964 sat at Uganda Television, now known as UBC, staff quarters in Nakasero and discussed the idea of starting an all-black Ugandan band.
After days of deliberations, they agreed on the band’s name as “The Cranes band” but this remained in words until January 1965 when they recruited fellow youths and started practicing at the Uganda Police band headquarters in Nsambya.
On Saturday, May 1, 1965, they launched it at Old Kampala Sports Club hall, becoming the second all-black Ugandan youth musical group after The Sparrows.
At the time, Mayanja had just joined UTV as a slide operator in the control room under the engineering department headed by the notorious Bob Astles.
Astles, whose wife Mary Ssenkatuuka Astles was a minister of culture and antiquities, had no knowledge, let alone qualifications in audio and video broadcasting and telecasting, but due to his political inclination to UPC, he planted himself firmly at UTV, according to Mayanja.
In 1966, Mayanja left UTV and devoted himself to organising and promoting The Cranes band, a duty he served well until 1978 when the band disintegrated following the insurgency caused by the Ugandan invasion of Tanzania. Before its disintegration, The Cranes had become a resident band at Silver Springs hotel, where it nurtured talents including Moses Matovu, who later formed Afrigo band.
L-R: Moses Matovu, John Sentamu and Mayanja presenting a dance show on UTV at Nakasero in 1970
Mayanja was the band’s lead vocalist. He dominated the then UTV music charts at a time when Elly Wamala was the station’s entertainment director. His single, Omukwano Gw’Abavubuka, was a favourite for many people. Yet Mayanja remains seldom heard of outside the circles of musicians of his era.
In fact, for the days he camped at The Observer offices to have an input in this special project, few people could recognise him. Many wondered why I was hobnobbing with this grey-haired man. Mayanja carries himself in a simple way that you will hardly notice that he was one of the names that influenced Ugandan showbiz in the sixties and seventies.
Mayanja’s exposure to music is remarkable and was nurtured at a tender age. He developed interest in stage entertainment while in senior two at Mahmood High School, inspired by cowboy film stars such as John Wayne, Roy Rogers, Kirk Douglas, etc, plus music stars including Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
He participated in dancing activities at Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), before becoming a co-founder of the Uganda National Youth Club at the National theatre. Through this club, he teamed up with Ssenkebejje, Kawuma, Billy Mbowa, Charles Kamaanyi, Frobisher Ssenkubuge and Francis Odida, who was the stage manager of the National theatre.
Together they formed a dancing cabaret group of the Uganda National Youth Club called The Crazy Gang with Mayanja as their lead dancer and trainer. In early 1962, The Crazy Gang joined veteran singers Israel Magembe and Eclaus Kawalya with their Kampala City Six band as a dancing group – with their first gig being the wedding kasiki of then prime minister Apollo Milton Obote at his residence at Nakasero.
As The Crazy Gang, they visited and entertained different schools on Saturdays as they were also still students. The love for dance saw Mayanja become a ballroom dance trainer with ‘dancing professor’ Christopher Kato (RIP) at Sebalamu’s nightclub in Bwaise.
Interested individuals would pay Shs 2 each for five days (Monday to Friday) when classes would be conducted in the evening. This became one of his sources of income for his school upkeep.
From 1961 to 1963, Mayanja joined the journalistic world, becoming a news reporter with Uganda Eyogera newspaper of Omutaka Kabazzi Miti. The newspaper’s offices and printing press were located at KibuyeKatwe, next to Kakumba Complex building. The original building still stands although it is now a bar and lodge called Rest Inn.
When The Uganda Dancing Club in 1962 organised an East African Ballroom Dancing Competition at Lugogo indoor stadium, Mayanja’s The Crazy Gang emerged overall winners in the cabaret dancing category.
“It was a great achievement for the group,” Mayanja recalls.
Those days, teenagers’ love for music and dance was divided into two camps: those of USA king of rock-n-roll singer and dancer, Elvis Presley, who had the majority fans, and those of Great Britain’s Cliff Richard. During holidays, teenagers flocked to Old Kampala Aga Khan Sports club hall (now housing Uganda Revenue Authority) to attend ballroom dances.
After his senior four, Mayanja got employed as a book-keeping account as well as typist of a petrol station in Kampala. In August 1964, he quit the accounting job, joining UTV. While at UTV, Mayanja left his father’s residence and hired a room at Mulago on Gayaza road (near Pastor Kakande’s church) where he would pay monthly rent of Shs 2.
L-R: The Cranes band’s Rock Luganzi, Mayanja, Tonny Ssenkebejje and Rizz Bagenda arrive at Kericho studios in Kenya in 1968
One evening as he ironed his clothes at 8:45pm, a married lady abruptly showed up in his room, choosing to sit on his simple bed. Conversing with her – mostly answering personal questions about himself, which the lady wanted to know, her husband returned home at 9:30pm and spotted his wife seated in Mayanja’s room.
With a bare chest and wielding a shining panga, he banged the door, threatening to cut Mayanja into pieces.
“This chaos attracted everyone’s attention and thereafter a kangaroo court, which by midnight had ruled in my favour,” a smiling Mayanja recalls.
“They said I was innocent but instructed me to vacate the village to avoid bloodshed.”
Mayanja went back to his father’s home where he stayed until 1968 when he got engaged to Aisha Naamala with whom they had their first born, Frank Luzige. Thereafter, he settled at Kibuye on Busaabala road where he had his second son, Richard Bakaluba, with Valeria Namukasa in 1972.
In 1996, he got engaged to Annet Oyesigye with whom he still lives with four children: Nsigo Beckham Bakaluba, Naamala Sheena, Mirembe Patra Bakaluba and Baagalana Flash Bakaluba. Mayanja has given them good education – with Richard graduating at Makerere University with a master’s degree in Food Science and Technology.
As many musicians, Mayanja was a party animal. Some of the most memorable events he witnessed were live performances of Tabu Ley Rochereau in Kampala in 1964 and 1973, and Franco’s performance at Lugogo indoor stadium and Nakivubo in 1980. He remembers watching Super Mazembe band perform their song Kasongo at Delite cinema opposite the railway station in December 1979.
When The Cranes disintegrated in 1978, Mayanja turned into a professional ballroom dancing, whereby he was hired and moved with then President Idi Amin’s army bands and prison band with which he staged his dance shows in different parts of the country. In 1981, he formed his musical business, recording and selling music on tapes on Market street before moving to City Council’s lockups at the Old taxi park, South street in 1986.
In 1997, Mayanja was seconded by Moses Matovu to an Indian, who was the owner of Little Flowers bar, to become its manager. Among the big events he handled here was the live performance of Madilu and his Madilu System. After a spell at Little Flowers, Mayanja in 1998 rejoined the electronic media at Pastor Joseph Serwadda’s Impact FM in Ndeeba, presenting “Music-to-remember” as well as being a news reporter.
Mayanja dressed like a crested crane takes lead of The Cranes band at Nile hotel in 1972
From Impact FM in 2000, Mayanja teamed up with veteran broadcaster Uncle Dick Mulima Sempaka at the newly-formed Star FM of Radio Uganda and started presenting programmes such as Music-to-remember, Star FM Disco Party, and Kiwamirembe. In 2007, UBC assigned Mayanja to start a sports FM channel, which they named Magic.
Mayanja brought in his personal professional music decks to beef up the music bank of the radio station. Being an audio technician and good presenter, he was assigned to train newly-recruited presenters in audio and mixer technic application and voice technic presentation and people including David Otti, who is the manager and sports presenter at Magic FM, are some of his products.
In 2008, Mayanja joined Dembe FM where he served up to the time of its sale to Aga Khan. He has currently devoted his time to research and writing.
Born April 25, 1944 to Eacuteclair Namulindwa and Kupuliano Kiwanuka Nnabikaanyuula.
Studied at Aggrey Memorial primary school.
In 1960, he attended African Tutorial College School in Nyanama on Entebbe road.
In 1961, he was transferred to Mahmood High School on Balintuma road in Mengo where Ndejje University stands today.
In 1963, Mayanja obtained a grade III Cambridge school certificate, an equivalent of today’s UCE certificate.
Source : The Observer