If you don’t know what the adungu, edingidi, or madinda are then you’ve never met Abraham Sekasi or heard him play these.
Meeting Abraham at Kitty’s Restaurant downtown you would never guess that he is a leading performer and staunch supporter of traditional instruments and Ugandan music. His calm, quiet, and slightly reserve manner certainly belies a deep passion for these instruments that begins to shine through when he discusses them.
Abraham specialises in playing traditional Ugandan instruments although he didn’t come from a musical family when growing up Kampala. Rather he became interested in music in elementary school. In upper primary his interest in traditional drumming grew as he moved to a school that focused on music and the performing arts. Even there he didn’t initially focus on music but his passion for playing instruments – and specifically traditional instruments was undeniable.
By the time he was 17 he was touring with traditional cultural groups – like Empire Cultural Troop – who let him take on the most challenging instruments. However, by 2005 he felt he was at a standstill with music until he started working again as a music teacher at St. Peter’s in Nsambya and in 2007 joined Percussion Discussion Africa. This group enabled him to travel to Benin and Nigeria. More travel ensued when he helped form Janzi World Music taking him to Germany, Austria and Denmark.
“My favourite [instrument] is the Adungu,” he says. “It gives me so many thoughts and makes me feel at home. Denying traditional music is like denying your home. It’s where we were born from and it’s a natural part of us. We can’t deny it. It feels like we’re losing something great.”
Abraham explains that each part of Uganda has its own strong musical tradition – especially in the north and east but he fears it is dying out in the central areas. “People are forgetting about traditional music and like the western culture and music. They attribute it with backward people. Like traditional music is for the villages and western music is modern.”
Fusing African music with western music is the way forward for traditional music and Abraham hopes it will give it an edge to compete in today’s evolving music scene as well as preserving it for future generations. “Every nation has a specialty,” Abraham maintains. “Our music is different from other countries and we have so many tribes and each has their own sound.”
Abraham really enjoys working with children and developing their interest in traditional instruments. However, he feels that local schools aren’t valuing traditional instruments but they are being picked up in international schools where some traditional music is being taught, played and performed.
Some of his influences and inspirations have come from Oliver Mtukudzi [Zimbabwe], Myriam Makeba [South Africa], Yassou N’Dour [Senegal], and Baba Mal [Senegal] – singers who do world music that is based on their traditional folk music. Abraham notes that all of these musicians didn’t let their traditional music die out but rather continue to support and bring it along with them and through their performances on a global music stage.
Abraham’s dream for Ugandan traditional music is that it would be in great demand – both inside of Ugandan as well as on a global scene. “We are headed in the right direction,” he says. “We’re steering and fighting for this good direction because it can have a positive influence and be popular.”
If you’re considering trying a traditional instrument Abraham does give lessons or if you just want to hear more check out Abraham’s performance in the youtube clip at on our site – to the right of this article. Or, you can visit his reverbination page: www.reverbination.com/sekasiabraham. He’s contactable by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: +256 (0) 774 146 040. You can also catch Abraham performing every Wednesday at Zone 7 in Bugolobi or at Bamboo’s Nest, also in Bugologi each Thursday.