Sunday, 29 July 2012 19:37
South Africa’s renowned gospel singer, Benjamin Dube, was in town, and would be performing live for the first time in Uganda at the Serena hotel on Friday evening. It was an exciting message; this is a man I have been listening to for quite some time now ever since I landed on his 15-track album, The High Praise Explosion.
That is why it did not surprise me that it was a highly billed concert; Shs 100,000 for a silver ticket, Shs 250,000 for a VIP ticket and Shs 2.5m for a family table. However, what surprised me was the lukewarm publicity for the concert. There were hardly any billboards in town or newspaper advert. The only television that carried the advert was Channel 44.
Like they say, you reap what you sow; the attendance was also lukewarm. For a concert meant to start at 6pm, by 8pm, Victoria hall was struggling to attract numbers. Even the reserved tables for sponsors were all empty apart from Ps Imelda Namutebi Kula’s, who turned up early in company of her husband Tom Kula and colleagues.
By 9pm, the emcee of the night, Big Sam, had no choice but to roll out the concert with a spirited performance from the church choir. With their coordinated moments on the stage, the mass choir led by a single male vocalist exhibited how much untapped talent there is in church. This was before Judith Babirye came on.
Wearing a yellow dress, it felt like a spiritual encounter as she belted out Gwe Wanonda, Omukisa and Maama before leaving the stage to Ps Wilson Bugembe. Casually smart in jeans, a purple shirt and a slim-fit black coat, Bugembe brought down the house with Tumuyita Yesu Waffe, Omwaka Gwa Mukama and Biriba Bitya.
He amused guests when he told Ps Namutebi: “Pastor tonnanfuuwa (You haven’t tipped me yet)” prompting the Liberty Worship Centre senior pastor to respond with cash. By this time, all the sponsors’ tables had occupants and the hall had come to life with a sizeable number of guests. Dube’s team then took to the machines; two keyboard players, a female bassist, a percussionist and drummer, plus three backup vocalists.
They first backed two of Dube’s trusted men. First up was James Ukou, a Nigerian living in South Africa, another great performer and worshipper, one that will keep you on your toes. However, the guy who came after him, percussionist Don J Stephen, should keep to the percussions. Dube came on stage at around 10:30pm and started his performance with a worship session where he said he wanted his guests not to focus on things around them but on the one above them.
He had changed his instrumentalists from a female bassist to a male one who is without doubt one of his core instrumentalists. He tried something groovy in a track titled, When I Think of Jesus (and the things he has done for me), on which he pulled out the Michael Jackson in him with those spectacular dance moves.
Dube continued to shine brighter with songs such as Through You, You Brought Me Over and In Your Presence, where he reflected more on the troubled time in his life when media reports said he was divorcing with his wife.
With sixteen albums under his belt, eight of them still selling highly, Dube is a visionary, anointed singer/songwriter, music producer, pastor and a great source of inspiration to both gospel and secular artistes in Africa.