Seven years ago on November 30, 2011 the music group Canaan Gents was birthed, introducing Uganda to Acapella, a music genre that relies solely on artistes’ vocal abilities without instruments.
In a country that greatly consumes instrumental music, it was not easy for Samuel Lubwama and his five-man team to kick-start their career; but they persevered.
Lubwama, then an Information Technology student at UCU, “collected a bunch of guys and we started practising in Nsibambi Hall,” he said.
“Then we moved to the common room. So when the Mission Week was coming to an end, we went on to perform for the first time.”
Lubwama recalls that the reception from the students was very good. “The students liked our performance and we even recorded the event and kept the footage so that when we were winning our Grammy or BET Award, we can proudly show people where we came from, because it has not been easy.”
However, it was not long before that first generation of the group broke up. Lubwama attributes this to excitement among the group members.
“After we had sang that day we got a lot of love, especially from the opposite sex, but I told them to keep focused. As you, when you are in first year you do not look beyond today. People got girlfriends and were taken up by their new lives!”
In the second semester of his year, he restarted the music adventure by scouting for new members.
“After my lecture one day, I was moving around campus and heard voices from a distance. When I moved closer I found two young men doing Acapella music. They were in a law class and they had decided to just sing, for fun.”
He was fascinated by their voices shared the idea of doing music with them, although at first they did not believe he could actually sing.
One of them, Mark Tugume, was at the time praying to find a group he could sing and get along with.
“Tugume was in a band called Scarlets and he had issues with the way they scheduled their gigs so most of the time they could end late, which was not going down well with his parents.”
Thus a new team was born. For three years they did up-style Acapella, a form which only involves the use of vocals.
“However, since the group had grown, we had to develop the craft too. We then added a blend of beat boxing.”
The group has gone through three generations of teams, and the current one is the third.
Through the Canaan Gents Foundation, Lubwama and company have reached out, with several organizations like Forty-forty Foundation, to take care of the less privileged in society.
“We have been able to support the under- privileged through charity events like the Bantwala Sevens Rugby events, which organizes corporate rugby games. We take part in these games and the returns are ploughed back to help needy children.”
Lubwama believes that as Christians the best way one can touch lives is by lending a helping hand to those who are not privileged.
“We look forward to a day when someone will approach us after a concert and say, ‘I love your music and when I was hungry you fed me, when I did not have tuition you helped me’.”
On some occasions, they have gone to sing for AIDS patients in Mulago Hospital.
According to Lubwama, music has taken them to places where they didn’t think their books or background would have taken them.
“Music has taken me to places I didn’t expect my Information Technology skills would take me.”
They have performed at high-profile events like the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) city festival. They have sang for the President of Uganda, and at the American Embassy.
Over time the Caanan Gents have won a number of awards including: the Prince Factor People’s Choice Award in Atlanta, Georgia; the Best Acapella Group of the VIGA Awards; and the First Acapella Video Award in Uganda.
Current team members Elisha Kato (Vocalist),Elisha Waswa (Vocalist), Charles Sentongo (Beat boxer and vocalist), Geofrey Kamanyire(Vocalist), Zack Kabugo (Vocalist)