Here’s a great BIG salute to a BIG man: Tshaka Mayanja, who some of us started out knowing as Ham Mayanja Nkangi way back when we were all little boys.
Even then, Ham knew that he was going to be in music one way or another, when he’d cross the school compound all the way from England House to crowd our cubicles in Africa House and talk all day long about musical stuff with Gonza Kagwa.
When, during one of our school holidays, they teamed up to stage a concert under the band name Hot Soul Crew, the entire experience was surreal for young minds like ours whose only experience with such coolness was what we saw on old and borrowed year-old VHS recordings of The Cosby Show and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (not even watched in OUR own homes).
To this day, it beats me how I ever managed to make it to a Hot Soul Crew party/concert – except for the fact that I lived on the Buganda Road Flats and could walk the short distance to Bat Valley Little Flowers or the Sheraton Hotel. Entry fee? Money for sodas? I have no idea where that came from – but then Ham and co. managed to put together musical instruments, public address systems, venues, vaz (er…I mean, clothes) and coolness beyond our comprehension!
And Ham was a student at King’s College Budo.
More confounding, he was the son of a senior well-celebrated cabinet minister and overall leader even just going by stature of moustache; Jehoash (is it really Joash?) Mayanja Nkangi was a proper boss, proper Budonian, and his kids were guaranteed to be leaders at whatever they chose – be it law, medicine, politics or….
Ham is a prince, if not a High Priest, of music. Soul and Reggae and Rhythm and Blues and Jazz all rolled into one as if to explain his size!
When he dropped the name Ham and became Reggae Winston, he was a Rastafari in soul, spirit and nature, but with that surprising cleanness that most Rastas you met didn’t exude. He wasn’t ever reeking of the herb, or anything sinister, even though he hung out where all Rastas did – speaking and living the language that they all understand so well, high or low, without the patois and affectations.
He never appeared to have lost it, and surprised us pleasantly when he teamed up with K’angie and became Tshaka Mayanja of Black Roots Unlimited. Immediately, I knew it was because of the kingly values brought to the name by the great Shaka Zulu, and I bowed at the pan African nature of his views. Respect!
They enthralled us night after night wherever they went, and I kept being amazed that our Ham, Winston, Tshaka fellow could produce music like this!
I was keenly aware that he was in the shadows of the Aswad concert, one of the best experiences of my life (and that of my wife, who might have known even that night that it was all part of our romantic safari!) Ditto the Third World concert, and somehow, because our wedding anniversary is around one of the Bob Marley days, we see Tshaka annually roundabout then because we celebrate both concurrently.
And I can’t – WON’T – stop saluting him.
Because Ham, Winston, Tshaka Mayanja has changed our lives significantly – not just my wife and I – all of YOU Ugandans.
This weekend we are ALL going to be talking about the Jazz Safari and whether you get to attend it or not, you’ve got to salute him for it.
The Jazz Safari experience is a whole different entertainment ball game for just what it is, as well as the big names that the world of smooth jazz has to offer, alongside premium R & B names from our not-so-long history but who provided the soundtracks to the romances and heartbreaks of our youth, the peers of this Prince of Music.
The cost of the tickets is almost ridiculous by ordinary standards but Tshaka is so organised that he sells out way before the day itself; this weekend, for instance, the ordinary Ugandan procrastinator can only make-do with tomorrow (Friday) evening’s party at Zone 7 with Joe and Norman Brown in attendance but not performing.
Instead, and this is NOT a bad deal by ANY measure, you will get to listen to Brian Mugenyi, a young supremo in his own right whose music will have your pants tingling along happily any time of day or night, and Pragmo, Tshaka’s partner in music, a synthesizical keyboard assassin who takes you down as Tshaka wraps musical notes around you with his guitar strings.
I have maximum respect for this man, and thank God for his very existence. Would that everyone in Uganda did what they do as well as Ham, Winston, Tshaka does his music!
Every time you see him, say out loud or to yourself, for it is true of his existence as well as a good wish for his future: Jah Bless!