After several years of waiting, fans of Ugandan jazz musician Isaiah Katumwa are rejoicing at news of a new album, This Is Me. According to the artist the album will be launched in Los Angeles, USA on Friday 15 April.
Katumwa last released an album in 2011, the 14-track African Smoothie. Speaking recently to Music In Africa, Katumwa explained that as a self-taught saxophonist and an independent artist he depends on his passion and the constant pursuit for excellence and originality - that’s why it has taken him seven years to put together this album, which is his tenth. “As an artist it takes time and resources to put out new work," he said. "I feel I have nearly got them together and now I can say ‘this is me’, as I improve my craft day by day. Arrangements are underway but for now I can only confirm that the release party will be in Los Angeles, California on 15 April 2016."
With titles in Swahili and English, the 10-track This Is Me opens with the song 'Pamoja' (together) and also includes a bonus track, 'Special Feelings'.
The artist notes that the new album is a genuine expression of African smooth jazz, encompassing his African personality, smooth jazz influences and the theme of love. "I am playing music I hear within me, not being afraid to be myself. I think of myself as an artist and therefore a creator. I don’t just have to create a song but I can also create a style - and in this album I have expressed it best so far."
Even though he has been on the music scene for more than 20 years, Katumwa broke onto the international scene at a time when jazz in Uganda (and in East Africa in general) did not have a significant following. At the time, a solo performance or recording by an instrumentalist was unheard of in the region. In 2006, he released the breakthrough album Sinza, the title track of which earned him widespread national and international recognition.
Today jazz is on the rise in Uganda and there are more and more artists emerging who pursue this kind of music. Regarded as a pioneer of Ugandan jazz, Katumwa acknowledges that his musical boldness and his success so far has contributed towards influencing young artists (and fans) to take an active interest in the genre. His TV show, ‘Jazz with Isaiah’, broadcast on Uganda’s Urban TV, has contributed significantly to the growing appreciation of jazz in his country. He has hosted the show since 2011. He is also part of the new radio station 106.1 Jazz FM, hosting ‘The Isaiah Katumwa Show’, where he plays songs by the world’s most renowned jazz artists, as requested by listeners.
Besides hosting radio and TV shows focused on promoting jazz in Uganda, Katumwa has since 2014 run the Talanta Music Mentorship Program, where he mentors young people from different parts of Uganda, who live together while learning and practising both singing and playing various instruments.
His efforts are complemented by initiatives by other Ugandan jazz enthusiasts such as Tshaka Mayanja, who has staged the annual Jazz Safari festival since 2008, and Elijah Kitaka, whose weekly jazz radio show has also contributed a great deal to the recent development of jazz in the East African nation.
Katumwa continues in his noble quest to improve the skills, creativity and professionalism of Ugandan musicians - and ultimately the quality of the music itself - not only in terms of jazz but also African music in general. Building on his background in traditional folk music, he has successfully developed a sound to express his East African identity, his smooth jazz influences and his spiritual passion.
This Is Me is available for purchase at CDbaby and at Nakumatt stores in Uganda.