We do a lot of things here at The Pearl Guide, but one of our central duties is giving you FOMO. We go where you may not go and are your eyes, ears and taste buds. We are that Facebook friend whose posts on Monday morning making you wish you had done a little more with your weekend. We are that workmate who will, at the most random times, stop and go “Kyoka, you MISSED!” And what exactly did you miss this time? The Maurice Kirya Experience. If you didn’t miss it, you can probably attest to these being six things you definitely heard:
6. “Some Being Lost?”
If you followed the Maurice Kirya Experience, you know that #TheLastSupper, its latest installment of the live music series is the first in almost three years. Why did he call it that? Is this the end? Was Maurice pulling a sleek fake Jay-Z style retirement? Does he have a bit of a messiah complex? He did not clarify the Last Supper thing, but one thing was definitely clear: Maurice Kirya is a live guy.
It may be taken for granted, but Maurice Kirya is one of the few pop-stars who successfully tapped into the live music trend during its resurgence in the Jazz Revival of 2006 and made being good at it a big part of his brand. Is 3 years a long enough time for us to forget this? Not quite. But in case we had forgotten, Maurice made sure we remembered by delivering a dynamic, well rehearsed, tireless performance powering through an expansive catalogue of songs, that had us regularly asking:
5.”Kumbe which song is this?”
Maurice Kirya doesn’t live on the radio (unlike some guys literally named after it) but with the beginning of every song, the crowd matched its opening chords with rhythms buried in their memories as far back as 2004. They took on new life, with tweaked musical arrangements, added instrumental solos and extended sections to dance to. These were songs they forgot they loved, and words they forgot they knew, that came rushing back like… (actually, there are no good metaphors for things coming back) because he has quietly embedded himself in our collective memory without the same level of in-your-face-ness that usually comes with that level of influence. When Maurice sang “Close your eyes, you will realise…” a cappella, the assembly sang back like they were telling him they couldn’t fit in his closet, owning his music and making it their own. He engaged with the crowd; invigorating the masses and occasionally calling out individuals with quips like:
4.“Naye gwe, wazze ne mukyala wo munno.”
Because what makes live performances special is the interaction you can not get with an MP3 file. The enthusiastic audience was part of the performance; joining him onstage to dance maganda when he performed “Busabala”, cheering when he announced the presence of his dad, and going absolutely quiet when he lay on the floor and sang “Mama We Made It” to his deceased mother.
His congregation followed him down every weird rabbit-hole, at some point belting out “We Young Women And Men of Uganda Are Marching Along The Path Of Education” Right from the beginning, they followed his voice under the cloak of darkness as the band’s first discordant tunes harmonised into music and flurry of phone lights looking like fireflies danced to the centre of the room, the space usually reserved for the V.I.P’s.
3.“Atte, where is the V.I.P.?”
Let’s admit it, this whole having a show thing at Serena is not for everybody. Ugandan music has come a long way but is still fighting the idea that local= low quality, so not many artists are able to confidently charge the high ticket prices that would make a show at the Serena profitable. This is how you usually end up with five classes of tickets, with the most expensive usually occupying round tables at the centre of the hall, while the wanainchi surround them in pre-installed flippy chairs. But Maurice Kirya loves all his fans equally and left the middle of the hall empty, save for the stage so that the most important guests of the night were the ones who left their seats and reported to the dance floor at the beginning and didn’t return to their seats until the end of the show.
2.”Isn’t That Antonio From So You Think You Can Dance?”
If the Maurice Kirya Experience was a movie, its main character was backed by a brilliant host of characters. The band, consisting of two guitarists, a pianist, a drummer and three back-up vocalists, accompanied by a DJ had various moments to shine, such as Sam Bisaaso’s guitar solo in Ugandan Girl, followed by celebrated instrumentalist Myko Ouma making a cameo with an electrifying solo, delivering rapid, silky guitar licks. Killing it with just his acoustic guitar, later on was Kenneth Mugabi, the upcoming vocalist whose dramatic, heartfelt performance of “Nankyi”, his best known ballad strummed the crowd’s heart strings. Hooded and clad in all-white, Ruyonga also graced the stage for his collaboration with Kirya on an eerie song called Ghost, which was pantomimed by a pair of dancers in Thriller-esque fashion. The dancers, who were part of a group including Antonio from that short-lived reality dance show on NTV were used sparingly, but effectively doing routines varying from Afro-ballet to New Jack Swing. But nobody stole the show more than Kizza. Maurice Kirya’s personal assistant was on hand multiple times to valiantly save the day with water and a towel, earning the love and adoration of the crowd who at some point were chanting his name. We suspect he is the true brains and braun behind the Maurice Kirya operation. Don’t tell him we said that.
1.“Kyoka the sound…”
Concert reviews in Uganda generally start by mentioning how packed the venue was, how late the artist was, how much fun revelers appeared to be having, and then wrapped up close to the conclusion where no one is reading anymore: “Apart from a few sound glitches and one of the screens not working, the Blah Blah Blah Album Launch was a resounding success!” So let’s get it out of the way: apart from us not noticing anything going wrong, the Maurice Kirya Experience was technically flawless. Sound and visuals are things one tends to only think about technically when something goes wrong. We only noticed, because we consider nothing having gone wrong something going wrong. That just does not happen. House of DJs pulled off a beautiful stage, lighting set up, visual feed and sound system that allowed us to forget they were even there and enjoy the show.
What this whole article has been trying to say is that you if you were not there, you missed and we want to make sure you feel the mango, so you don’t miss out again. Is there going to be another one? Does a crucifixion come after The Last Supper? Was this the last Maurice Kirya show? Certainly not; he promised to introduce us to more of his friends and other talented Ugandans in what is going to be a more regular fixture again.
We just hope his word is better than Frank Ocean’s.