Richy Kaweesa : a worthwhile debut

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Though young R&B singer Richy Kaweesa has been active on Kampala’s urban music scene since 2009, only a few people are quite familiar with this uniquely talented vocalist who can be seen live often accompanying himself on the guitar.

Richy’s sabbatical from music for the greater part of 2012 only further obscured his figure, but this is sure to change with the timely digital release of his personally titled debut album, My Words, earlier this month. Once you listen to him sing, he will leave a considerable impression.

Produced by Trophimus Odie of Kish Records, Allan Wasswa of Kono & Ddyo and Michael of Fenon Records alongside the singer himself, My Words is a tour de force.

The quality of songwriting on My Words, coupled with the impressive production, makes this an important debut on an R&B scene strangled by poor musicianship that is covered up with heavy post production. In this regard, he joins recording artists, like the inimitable Naava, who have raised the bar of what R&B should sound like in Kampala.

He starts off with an introduction named for the album. A laid back session in the studio with a dissonant guitar while he tells the story of how the album came to be that leads to the opening song.

Because of the first two tracks ‘True Love’ and ‘Mama’, you get the feeling My Words is a Reggae album, but through the course of the album’s 13 tracks including ‘You Are’ and ‘Loving You’ Richy surprises the listener with his ability to switch from Reggae to R&B to Hip Hop and back again.

However, it is ‘Mercy’–a simple plea from three musicians: Babaluku, Richy & Phila–which sets the tone of the album with the simple message of crying out to God for an end to corruption, poverty and war.

The track’s creativity centers around African drum rhythms cleverly fused with Reggae and Hip-Hop. Babaluku does the Luga Flow, Phila does the Reggae while Richy sings the chorus and pulls one more trick from the hat by rapping in the final verse. One would have to listen a few times to recognize his startling flow.

The Afro-styled track, ‘Ebiro Byaffe’ (Our Nights), sang entirely in Luganda is groovy with funky guitars. It will make you dance while offering words to think about. ‘My Song’ is another dance track in which Richy explores Afro-House, a genre of urban dance music. Then he goes back to R&B on ‘Beauty of Life’.

Compared to many contemporary singers on the market today, Richy sounds flawless, and this is most apparent on the acoustic track ‘I Promise’ stripped down to voice and guitar where you really hear the young musician’s vocal ability enhanced by the dazzling accompaniment of jazz guitarist Myko Ouma. Feeling at home, the singer takes us to church in ‘Belongs to You’, the kind of deeply spiritual song you could hear performed by a praise and worship team.

My Words is an album that is full of surprises taking on a range of styles and approaches. Because the singer’s work is at such a commendable standard, if he did more tracks with Luganda he would no doubt make a lasting impact on the local scene.

However, it is a sonic journey that could do without the two Reggae tracks even though they sound accomplished. Richy should try to do less of this genre for now as it has such a widely historical relationship with heavily political subject matter.

Though he makes a good attempt at approaching the political on this album’s standout ‘Mercy’, the young singer doesn’t have the kind of charged gusto for Reggae as yet. However, these elements will come naturally to him as he grows with experience.

For a debut, this album makes you look forward to more music from Kaweesa. The quality of writing, performance and other artists’ contribution making it worth owning a copy. But with such quality, Richy also has the potential to export our kind of R&B to the global market and thus further exposing Uganda’s music industry.

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