As one drove to Kati Kati gardens last Friday, there was little indication that there would be a concert.
With no traffic and the parking lot deserted, it looked like an ordinary Friday night where patrons had come to grab a few drinks. Yet that wasn’t the case; renowned gospel artiste Judith Babirye was launching her album Wanjagala.
At the entrance, Uganda Police, the sponsors, relaxed the security checks, and most people simply walked in without passing through the metal detectors.
Personally, I was carrying a camera but no one bothered to know what was in the bag or even took the time to ask, which left people wondering whether they were safe with the terror threats still high.
Inside the gardens, the VIP section was almost empty and a handful of fans sat in the ordinary section.
The huge stage had no decorations, was terribly lit, the sound was bad even before the first artistes could hold a microphone, while the projectors never relayed any images.
Ironically, despite it being a gospel concert and Babirye’s previous shunning of events sponsored by beer companies, there were beer stalls on the sidelines and fans didn’t hesitate to empty the crates.
But luckily there was no one in jaw-dropping outfits like is the norm at most concerts. Around 8:45pm, the emcee stepped onto stage and, as if on cue, the stage lights went off, leaving us with only the Kati Kati security lights providing light.
Apparently the lights power cable had blown and there was no emergency cable. Luckily it was fixed and the show started with new Ugandan girl group Destiny’s Child – no relation to the one Beyonce belonged to. They tried out their luck though they still have a long way to go.
Other curtain raisers came on and unlike Ugandan secular audiences who are usually passive, the gospel crowd is different; they cheered every artiste who came on even if they didn’t know them.
As the clock wound down, there was still hope that maybe Kati Kati would be half full by 9:30pm, but that didn’t materialize. The numbers never grew and the VIP section remained vacant; a shocking fact for an artiste of Babirye’s popularity and the number of hits she has.
Eddy Kenzo and Rabadaba who can barely come close to Babirye’s vocal or lyrical abilities had the place filled to the brim when they had their concerts. So, what hadn’t Babirye done right?
First, the publicity was extremely low; apart from the few posters on the streets, there were hardly any radio and TV adverts. The public is also just coming from the festive period which emptied their bank accounts and the early rain scare before the show must have also changed people’s minds.
But even with the low turn-up and junky sound, the show had to go on. Samalie Matovu went back to her church days and performed a number of gospel hits, before Pastor Wilson Bugembe threatened to steal the show with Ani.
Shortly after 10pm Babirye got on stage but she could not hold back her anger with the sound people.
She opened with Eno Mbaga, and other tracks off the album. But no matter how hard she tried, the microphones kept going off. The band members also tried but had to resort to a CD because the tunes couldn’t come out.
Babirye often stopped to lash out at the sound people, which meant that even the few people in attendance started to walk out. But there were a few diehard fans who stayed until she performed Maria and Wanjagala. She restricted herself to the new tracks and didn’t perform any of the old favourites.
At 11:30pm, she called it quits and the show came to a close. For someone who has been doing music for a decade, there was no excuse for the disaster that was her show.