The easiest way to insult a Ugandan urban artist is to tell him or her that their music “sounds like kidandali”. Most urban artists look down on kidandali. They consider it low-brow, a simpleton’s or a “local” person’s music. However, the fact is that the majority of artists in Uganda make so-called “kidandali music” and it’s by far the most popular type of music in Uganda. Urban artists are gaining ground in many ways, but they still have a long way to go before they can claim even a fraction of the popularity that kidandali has.
The question becomes: why is kidandali so popular and what can urban music learn from it? In my opinion there are three things that kidandali artists do right:
1.They make music that is easy to dance to. Kidandali is basically party music. It doesn’t require an advanced degree.
2.They make music that the ordinary Ugandan can relate to. The majority of kidandali music is in the vernacular, but that’s not what I mean. A Ugandan in the UK can listen to Bebe Cool’s “Cease and seckle” and immediately recognize something uniquely Ugandan about that song. Sadly, the same cannot be said for most urban artists’ music.
3.Although they borrow styles from other countries (mainly Jamaican dancehall), they manage to fuse those styles with a local sensibility. In contrast, most Ugandan urban artists merely try to imitate foreign music and they end up sounding like cheap knock-offs.
I am not a huge fan of kidandali. (By the way, I realise there is debate surrounding what that term really means- but you all know what I’m talking about, right?) The occasional kidandali song catches my ear but the majority doesn’t. Still I appreciate how artists who make kidandali have managed forge a space for themselves by staying true to their roots. There are some local urban artists thar would do well to learn from their example.