A collective effort from a vital scene in Kampala, KIKOMMANDO takes its name from Ugandan street food of flat bread and beans. As a ‘food of soldiers’ offering maximum energy for minimum funds, the eponymous mixtape, video series and book project is an equally nourishing and ambitious proposition. It all began in the East African summer of 2018, during a two-month residency at the Nyege Nyege label and collective’s villa, in collaboration with their sublabel Hakuna Kulala. Producer and PAN artist Simone Trabucchi (aka STILL) opened the door to his temporary studio in the city and a crucial cross-cultural collaboration was born.Includes a set of stickers & mixtape download code.
“The intention was to record as much as possible,” Trabucchi says about KIKOMMANDO’s musical showcase of eight Kampala-based artists, coming from the spectrum of musical influences, crossing trap, drill, cut ups, kuduro, electro, smooth jams—the list goes on. In creating a sonic space to support the expression of its featured singers, poets and emcees, the mixtape ties countless styles and flows into a single snapshot of a particular part of the Kampala music scene, at a particular point in time. The invective of rapper and street legend Blaq Bandana’s “Nkwaata” is laid over a spare and brooding ambient. Kampala Unit trumpet player and first-time singer, Florence, rolls a thick melodic texture through the organic clicks, knocks and atmospherics of “Bae Tasanze”. Jahcity’s unique lyricism combines a personal take on traditional music and soulful-reggae with a jerky, wobbly collection of drops and donks.
Meanwhile, Ecko Bazz applies his grimey vocals and rhythmic, introspective words to lead single ‘Ntabala (Rolex Riddim) at a particularly pertinent moment of self-reflection. “I was trying to listen to the voice inside myself and wanted to achieve a higher level of understanding of things, life,” he says about the themes that he felt inspired to explore with Trabucchi at the recording desk. The accompanying video, shot on a rooftop in the Kampala neighborhood of Ggaba, is one of a series of slick and high-definition films complementing each one of the KIKOMMANDO tracks. These also include contributions from Ugandan emcee and key Hakuna Kulala member Biga Yut, don dada of the GabaGaza gang Swordman Kitala (with Omutaba on percussion) and South Sudanese poet and singer Winnie Lado.
Also accompanying a ‘visual mixtape’ of moving images for each song on KIKOMMANDO is a recording diary of sorts, where Trabucchi compiles a vibrant collection of pictures, colours and textures reflecting the its heterogeneous sonic palette into a book. Together this multifaceted, interdisciplinary project showcases, what Lamin Fofana’s liner notes describe as, “amazing originality, complexity”, while “embracing dissonance”.
Trabucchi’s personal take on a kind of ‘digital dancehall’ defined the sound of his ground-breaking rumination on Italy’s colonial history on debut STILL album, I, in 2017. KIKOMMANDO is a different proposition entirely, where he finds new ways to complement the personality and skills of its contributors sprung from a constant stream of visitors arriving at the Nyege Nyege Villa’s makeshift studio. “It was a dialogue,” stresses Trabucchi, who has always preferred collaboration as a means to escape branded and stereotypical identities, while creating something new. “I created the musical platform to make the singers confident, and challenged them at the same time. Working together accelerates ideas and reveals that nothing is your invention alone. That’s why KIKOMMANDO is a mixtape to me, and not an album.”