Unforgettable Moments at the Nile Gold Jazz Safari 2015

By Joel Ntwatwa

October 6, 2015

The Nile Gold Jazz Safari continues to be one of Uganda’s most prestigious events: The who’s who of Kampala’s music haute couture never miss. When you have world-class musicians coming in every year, there’s a palpable pedigree.  This year’s edition was memorable in more than one way;  we share what caught our attention.

Steven Keys the event into ignition

Steven Keys

It’s a big deal opening at the event of this magnitude. Previously, the likes of Michael Kitanda, Charmant, have opened and put up a very passioned display. Steven Keys is the only keyboardist we’ve had at recent shows to open. He tickled and teased the crowd with a medley of popular love songs like K-Ci and Jojo’s “All my life”, Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking out loud” and several great nostalgic tunes from the 90’s.

It was a great start as everyone was in the mood for some great Jazz Safari!

Gaetano a teenager again!

From the moment Karyn White came on stage, you realised Gaetano had time travelled. The visibly excited MC sang along to every song, pointing towards the stage and pulling those 1980 dance moves that he grew up on. Forget that overly careful MC material. Gaetano had come to have a good time, and he surely had one!

Can I get an Amen?

Kirk Whalum

At the end of Whalum’s performance, you were probably saying, “We’ve been tricked”, or “Hallelujah and Amen”! The Grammy-winning ordained minister decided to bring Jesus to Serena (where probably some didn’t expect to find him).

The humble looking easy going 57-year-old, dressed in an African floral print shirt and white trouser, played easily. He used carefully chosen love songs culminating in an emotional performance of Whitney Houston’s “I will always love you”, a song he used to preach about an eternal love. His “sermon” began with sax renditions of love classics like Maxwell’s “Ascension”, Toni Braxton’s “Breathe Again”, Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love to You” and “Falling in love with Jesus” which featured on his The Gospel According to Jazz: Chapter II album.

After his display, there was no more fitting reaction than, “Hallelujah, and Amen”.

“Find a song that ruins your lipstick, not your mascara”.

Karyn's Mirror

Many ladies will know the saying “Find a man that ruins your lipstick, not your mascara”. For Karyn White, it seems to be her music.

After every sweaty performance, Karyn White reached for her mirror, applied some lipstick and got back to performing. She did it so matter-of-fact that while at the start we thought it was for performance sake, we realised, Karyn loves her some lipstick when she’s singing.

Talk about not giving lip service.

But Black People can sing, eh!

Vanessa Haynes and Tomy Momrelle

Karyn White was the closing act of Jazz Safari and she kicked it off in high tempo with “The way I feel about you” ! Even without the proverbial queen dancers that we’re used to, Karyn gave a very energetic performance. Given her most famous songs came at the end of a disco era and at the beginning of the New Jack Swing era, you could see that rhythm, still lives in her.

She was accompanied by three amazing vocalists – Tomy Momrelle, Vanessa Haynes and Vula Malinga. Momrelle on “Love Saw It” sounded like a rejuvenated Baby Face, smooth and sultry, it was 1993 again.  Vanessa and Vula on “Falling in love with Jesus” was another trip to church, their vocal strength akin to that of the a pentecostal church choir leader in the throes of worship. Black people can sing!

Gonzaga and Ssuubi: The Romantic Duellers

Duel Romance

When Karyn asked for a gentleman to sing with “Can I stay with you”, she must have been expecting one. However, many men in the ballroom that night probably had a crush on her at some point and two brave men proved it when they hurried to get on the stage to sing with her.

What happened after that was hilarious. I have never seen grown men so enamored! It was a mix of begging voices, Runyankore lyrics, endless smiles, ballerina movements, and cajoling for attention;  these men were under a spell! Gonzaga and Ssuubi stayed with Karyn for the duration of that song!



Kirk Whalum has a Ugandan relative, and his name is Mpambara. They performed together, “saxing” up Charles and Frida Ssonko’s “Nawuliranga”. It was quite surreal noticing the ease with which Kirk played to this Ugandan classic from the sixties. It’s safe to say Ugandan music is not a stranger to the States. The performance was graced with some lovely ladies dancing “Kiganda” which Kirk did not have trouble trying in his casual way. He joked about having trained them very well!

Kirk Whalum dancing

Contribution to Cancer Ward

The Nile Gold Jazz Safari is not simply an affair for good jams and soul. The event contributes to the Rotary Cancer Foundation and together have
been devoted to the building of the Maureen Mugoya Cancer Ward at Nsambya Hospital. Kirk Whalum, Karyn White and the team actually made a trip to the hospital to check on the progress and ended with a prayer with the staff. It’s good to see that when you spend 200,000 or 350,000 on a 4-hour event, it extends further into making life better for others.

There were more memorable things to recall, like Kirk and Karyn’s seamless duets, voice and saxophone making music; the instrumentalists who gave us a real feel of the music,  the couple that slow danced to Karyn’s slower songs, the tears that Kirk allowed to flow from his eyes; it was a beautiful night. Nile Gold Jazz Safari continues to be a mark of excellence in the arena of concerts in Kampala. A toast to lovely music, beautiful people, and to saving lives.

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