Listen to Kadongo Kamu

Kadongo Kamu is a stylistic music genre native to Buganda in Uganda and is the oldest mainstream music genre in the region and country.

The word "kadongo kamu" is a term in the Ganda language that literaly means "one little guitar". To understand why the genre has this name, one has to understand the stylistic structure of the music which is created with only one acoustic guitar, a dry acoustic non-electric six-string guitar. But this is not always the case and many times other instruments are involved. However the true style of the music relies only on one acoustic guitar as instrumentation, hence the "one little guitar" name.

To understand why the acoustic guitar is the instrument of choice, again one has to understand the Ganda traditional music from which the music evolved. There is a drumming style and dance called "Bakisimba" in Ganda traditional music and it is one of the most well known drumming and dancing styles in traditional music in Uganda. The drum used in this music is a heavy bass drum that creates a pattern and sound that can easily be recreated with a bass guitar.

The first known musicians to practice this genre were inspired by this drumming pattern and started using guitars as an easier way of recreating the traditional sound without having to have a drum. This enabled them to move between various towns and villages while playing the music and delivering witty and reflective messages to various audiences that would all be familiar with the sound they were hearing. Thus the genre was born.

Most times the player of the guitar is usually the same person singing. Hence many practitioners tend to be good guitarists. The song structure is not well defined and can, in fact, seem like a long ode of some sort. The choruses are long and complex and are not meant to be repetitive and melodic like other genres. It is not music meant for dancing but rather for listening. That's why most singers are usually very witty and can deliver funny and thought provoking lyrics all in the same song. Just like the traditional music from which it came, storytelling is common place. Themes are usually centered on poverty, suffering, death and the general problems of life. Its because of this that the music is popular among peasants where poverty levels are much higher and there is a lot of empathy with the lyrical themes. This genre because its themes also attracted political problems to the producers and artists. It is not uncommon for songs to last 10 minutes.