The Angel of Mornings and the dive of Afrigo band
By Joseph Isabirye
Kanwekumire’ is a pop reggae flavoured song tackling issues of love loyalty and the celebration of love. Currently, the single is gracing the airwaves cutting across several radio stations in Kampala. It is effortlessly sung by the illuminating Angela Kalule who has recently released a diverse album of the same title filled with classic material. She is by coincidence also the Angel of the mornings at Sanyu FM, a pace setter in mid morning presentation all over Kampala’s broadcast area. She has a firm clasp on both careers and it was only proper that we found out how she does this.
Interviewing this radio star and local pop diva was supposed to be an easy task, for she is innocuous, humble, social and personable with every soul who passes by. What if I had known her for some time? It would be very simple. On the contrary, I rammed into difficulty while finding my way to her work place, on Sunday 20th June 2004.Sanyu FM 2000, located on Crane Chamber’s sixth floor opposite the constitutional city square is not accessible on Sundays for folk who do not work there. Even if like my self you had worked there for a while and left. The security had more than twenty-one questions on where I was headed and why the camera (which was to take studio captions of Angel). A call to Sanyu deputy program director Timothy Balamaze sent me up stairs faster than I thought I would overcome them guards. I met Angel.
Seated on a low chair below two elevated computers, one with sophisticated radio automation systems and the other with internet connection, she was winding her Sunday intimate connection show (which runs from 9 am to 12 midday). Pleasantries exchanged, I let her finish as Derrick hovers around ready to get into the play back of the Walt Baby Love countdown.
We seat in the lobby and Angela recounts a lot about her radio and musical life, which have made her one popular voice at the steeple of the pop scene in Kampala Uganda. Angela Kalule is one of the lead vocalists of the Afrigo band and her sister band Misty Jazz band. She is also the infectious heart throb Angel who governs mid mornings on a daily basis in Kampala on the hugely popular Mornings show (10 am to 1 pm) on Sanyu FM.She crowns her week with the highly rated intimate connection on Sundays. The night before Angela the workaholic had performed at Club Obligatto till about four in the morning and there she was at 9 am for her radio show.
Angela Kalule was born on 18th February 1977 in Mengo hospital Kampala and started her singing odyssey like many other musicians, in infancy and only became a commercial/professional musician in 1997.Her experience with belting vocals in nursery school at Aga Khan nursery school in Nairobi set the foundation for her entry into the professional music circles in Uganda.
It is often a daunting task getting kith and kin to approve of a career in the music industry and more the case where the industry is stereotyped as perilous for the sisters. A large part of Angela’s family was born again and would have been content with her pursuit of gospel, but the winds of talent pushed her beyond the limitations of a gospel stint. Finally she was accepted when it turned out that she was not one on to perversion rather a sister eking a living for her and themselves. Her father Captain Sam Kalule is a pilot with DAS air cargo and her mother Betty Wamala Kalule unfortunately passed away in 1997.On her mothers side she is the eldest with two brothers Timothy and Peter following respectively.
Angela started school at Aga Khan nursery Nairobi Kenya, from 1979 to 1982, before joining Spire rd primary school in Jinja between 1983 and 1986, then she went to Makonzi boarding primary in Mubende from 1987 to 1989 to attend high school, she went to Christ the King between 1990 and 1992,Nakasero SS from 1992 to 1993 and Mengo SS and Seven Hills schools till 1997.
Her real break through into the music field came through a friend of hers named Sekibala who was a member of the virtuoso group, Diamond Ensemble led by Kato Lubwama.Diamond has produced quite a number of local pop offshoots like Betty Mpologoma (of the Big Daddy fame) and Mesach Semakula who is a staple on our local pop diet. Angela joined Diamond as a back up vocalist and stayed there from 1997 to 1999, in the process transforming to lead vocalist. She released with Diamond, her ballad single ‘Akamuli’ that was a public announcement of her arrival at the helm. She then collaborated with Abby Mukiibi of Afri-Talent, on the ‘bulemezi’ songs.
After Diamond she attended to Light Rays band where her and the band spent more time on singing covers which according to Angela were very popular because that was a time that few people here appreciated their own local music. Her tenure at Light Rays was short before she was wooed back to Diamond where she met Betty Mpologoma who had also joined. At the second term at Diamond she released a six-track album with Diamond male vocalist Dan Kabenje titled ‘Akasisi’ where they both offered three tracks each.
Angela Kalule sought more exploration after Diamond, in due process working with Rachael Magoola’s band (Magoola had left Afrigo for a solo career). After three months with Magoola, she joined Splash band and unleashed on their volume one release the hit singles ‘Mbipinga’ and ‘Watali Sebo’
Her biggest break so far was the invitation to join long serving Ugandan Afro Jazz/rumba outfit The Afrigo band in late 2003.She was invited to sing in for Joanita Kawalya who had travelled out of the country. Her work was excellent and when Joanita came back, Angela was offered a permanent place in the band where she continued to deliver her lustre vocals. Her contact with the Afrigo hierarchy was through the Misty Jazz band where Moses Matovu and a number of Afrigo’s members also play. Angela is the lead vocalist of Misty which is mainly based at Kampala Casino where their allure brings droves. In Misty Jazz's ranks are seasoned musicians Frank Mbalire, Kaggwa Dan, Charles Busulwas and Ntwa Twa.
From her own voice it is easy to detect that she is more contented with Afrigo than the other bands she had worked with and without sounding offensive, she appreciates the unprecedented professionalism proffered by Afrigo. ‘Afrigo is more organised. It is serious, they really like what they do and try to keep the name of the band and its reputation going’ was her response. I was anxious to find out if that is the reason the band is full of youthful faces playing and singing purely adult contemporary stuff. She admits to this.
‘They may want to keep the band going. It is likely that they will come a point where they will want to stick to administration and direct the band while the rest continue what they started’.
She has not yet recorded with Afrigo, but she has a six-track solo album that is shortly to be released officially with four songs in luganda and two in English.
Angela as a singer has reached very great heights and may yet have a lot of material to offer through the passage of time. As her life script was being created radio arrives. She started radio in November 2003 as a presenter on Beat FM 96.3 mid morning show contact running from 10 am to 1pm.Angela had always felt the challenge to venture into radio.
‘I wanted to work in radio sometime back. I wrote applications to CBS, but it somehow did not work out. I had gone to do some music work at No-End entertainment and I found Beat FM auditioning for voices and Halima Namakula and Hemdee suggested that since I was in the studio which is also used for tests, I should try. I did and found myself on air’.
Angela claims there lays a big difference between radio and singing, though they are both expressive. Her opinion is that radio is of a wider spectrum than stage singing, though when a singer has recorded, it becomes possible for the voice to be played with the song and so a wide audience is reached through the media.
On the 31st of May 2004, she joined Uganda’s perennial and pioneering commercial FM radio station, Sanyu FM, which has a reputation for discovering the best English speaking radio talent in Uganda. On air, she is the intelligent, smooth flowing Angel who is steadily building a fan base for herself and for the radio station through her verve. Her willingness to set quiet goals and work on them to accomplishment has seen her grow into what she is today and will be responsible for her further growth.
Our confabulation returns to music and my concern is with her unique ability to strike a perfect balance between singing in English and in Luganda with all the complexities of linguistic articulation and sonorous intonation at play. Angela suspects, because she is a muganda, her luganda is OK and due to a good education background she is equally capable with the language of the ‘bazungu’. Her album is slated for due release and she is still in the process of talking to distributors after which she will release it officially.
As an individual, she loves slow mellow jazzy music, a bit of r&b and our contemporary music provided it is really appealing. Her chosen topics are love and I rushed to find out if that is a fantasy or she is in love. She responds faster than my speed of asking. ‘Yes I am in love. I am in love with Isaac Zimbe’. Isaac is a member of Afrigo band as well.Angela is not yet legally married but plans to do so and has stayed with Isaac for four years; they do have two children, Morgan and Felix.
Musically speaking, I am interested in finding out her opinion on whether the beat (rhythm) or the words (lyrics) determine what people like. Angela believes the music audience first listens to the beat and if the tune and beat moves them, if it is danceable, then they go ahead to listen to the lyrics.
On her influences, she counts the US r&b divas, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklyn and Gladys Knight as the main and locally she prefers the late Carol Nakimera.Angela thinks that there is a lot of local talent that has not yet been exposed that would be nice listening to. Despite studying in Kenya for her nursery stage, she doesn’t speak Swahili and only understands a bit of it. She is not scared of the Swahili wave of music doing rounds in East Africa, but is of the view that ‘it is good for Tanzania and Kenya and we must struggle to promote our own so that our songs are also played in their countries.’ With the on going negotiations for a workable copyright law, Angela says she cannot consider herself a keen follower of the debates but believes it’s a good development.
‘I look forward to the day no one will play my songs illegally without paying me royalties’.
Like anyone else, she has had career best and career worst moments. As a singer she lists substandard equipment as her worst nightmares whether on stage or in the studio. Her best is putting out her music material and the public respects and appreciates that material and all the issues it comes with. On radio her worst moment is if by mistake listenership ratings decide to decline, while her best is when the whole world is listening to her and the fans appreciate her.
The music industry is perhaps one of the most complex and making it could be as hard as finding a place in heaven if one did not follow the scripture. Angela emphatically states talent is necessary but is not all that.
‘You may not be well talented but you can still develop it through determination, never giving up. You need courage because one day you are appreciated, the next day you are shunned. You need courage’. She also suggests
‘Try to develop your own style and refrain from copying that is when people will appreciate you.’
Angela Kalule surprisingly cannot figure out her style because she says she composes what she feels. She believes her inspiration is drawn from what she has to present to her listeners and not necessarily what others would do. Her past time is through a game of netball or volleyball, though her increasing concert dates have hardly given her spare time for these. She reads all the mainstream newspapers and once in a while checks out red pepper to see if they have fabricated anything on her. She also spends time browsing the Internet for material for her shows with emphasis on lifestyle. On the dining table the preferred choice is Matooke and Meat/Beef.
Her performance dates are :Thursday evenings with Misty Jazz band at Kampala Casino and on Friday Sabrina’s pub and Saturday evenings at Club Obligatto. She is also on stage regularly with Misty Jazz. The bands also constantly do upcountry tours and perform at various functions to which they are invited. The most recent was the Ismael Lo concert where their stellar gig raised eyebrows.
Our conversation is finalised and I find it far easier getting out of the building than I did getting in.