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Makerere University

Referred to as the “Harvard of Africa” in the 60’s, Makerere University is the largest university in Uganda. Dr. Justine Tamusuza chairs the music department, which has strong links with traditional music from all parts of Uganda. On July 7th, I visited the music department where I recognized some of the faces of piano students, including my brother, with whom I had worked six years ago.

The workshop was attended by thirty students. It began with an introduction of various traditional instruments like the tube fiddle, drums, African xylophone and a thumb piano. A group of ten instrumentalists and four dancers skillfully demonstrated these instruments using a Baganda (central Uganda) tune about a social gathering. Another student demonstrated the edingidi (tube fiddle) by playing and singing a Basoga (eastern Uganda) song about thieves. Afterwards, another student demonstrated the akogo (thumb piano) using a Teso (eastern Uganda) song about parties and local brew.

The next phase of the workshop was most exciting. We created an ensemble featuring the western piano, traditional African instruments and a conductor. Using the Baganda tune Tweyanze tweyanze we achieved the remarkable goal of infusing a western instrument and traditional African instruments, creating a composition that enabled everyone to improvise a solo.

We concluded the workshop with piano music. Although the instrument was not in good working order, the students managed to demonstrate their musicality and technical ability. Stephen Kaleebu, Dan Sempereza, Michael Mubiru, William Nyende and Benon Kasirye (my brother) were the pianists whom I worked with. Among the elements discussed were articulation, pedaling, shaping of melodic lines and careful observation of dynamics.

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