On Friday, Juliana Kanyomozi released her song “Woman”. I share below a conversation I had with a dear friend, Donald Molosi, who is also an avid fan of Juliana Kanyomozi in real time.
Becky: Have you seen/listened to Juliana’s “Something of My Life”?
Donald: No. I have been waiting for “Woman” for a long time.
Becky: It is out!
Okay. I just listened to it.
Donald: Yes. She posted it eight hours ago.
Becky: Someone just commented somewhere: “There is something about Juliana’s latest releases. She must have a voice coach. She has always had the composure… But this voice is something else. Great stuff.”
Donald: True. These days her vocal phrasing is bolder. It started with “Nakazadde“. This new vocal phrasing.
With “I am Ugandan”, she was more about syncopation. So that could be seen as part of her new phrasing but I don’t.
Becky: But “I am Ugandan” was part of particular campaign, right? Would that have been limiting?
Donald: Yes. Because she chose to go with very traditional RnB phrasing that is tried and trusted. Safe. Still extremely sonic though.
But since “Nakazadde” she packs more words into a phrase and therefore challenges what good phrasing is. And now with “Woman” her phrases are so sparsely worded. Still challenging how many words it takes for a phrase to hold a tune. I see it as an Africanizaion of that whole shit. Lugandization of musical timing.
Becky: Would you classify her as RnB?
Donald: She can do RnB but she is bigger than that for me.
Becky: What about the other song? The “Something of My Life”. Do you sense the same boldness?
Donald: Let me see if I hear it.
Becky: I am a bit confused by the “words in a phrase”?
Donald: Like, in four beats for example. Tum dum tum dum. In that beat, she packs a lot.
Ugandan music in general is like that but we in the South don’t pack words like that.
Becky: You space them to hold the tune? Or you make one word hold a single tum/dum?
Donald: You space them so that the tune has “cadence”.
Becky: I think I have understood some of this, but I will have to learn more. And listen more closely.
Donald: She omits the appoggiatura these days which is what makes musical phrases sound complete and good to the ear.
(While I was off to Google “appoggiatura”, Donald was kind enough to record himself do two samples where he did one word with four notes- that with appoggiatura- and the same word with three notes- that one was without.)
You can see it in the way she sings Kanyimbe without holding off on a fourth note to make it sound complete. It is like you are not trying to round up your phrases. I don’t know how to explain it. You know how in short stories, you have a character who is rounded? It is the same thing with these notes. She is kind of doing brush strokes and the brush strokes sound even better than if she had rounded them with the last appoggiatura.
It does not have to be long. In “Woman” she does short ones where the only word in a phrase is “woman”. Short. Letting negative space be a musical gesture in phrase.
Becky: Ah now I understand the four/three note thing. With the kanyimbe reference.
Donald: Just heard “Something of My Life”. So beautiful, elegant. Real.
Becky: What do you think of it voice-wise? I really enjoyed the video. A profile of her life as a musician; in a fitting form.
Donald: Could arguably be her best vocal delivery I have ever heard. Like she was working with a voice coach.
Wow. So good.
She sounds sooooo good.
I am also moved.
I think part of why we are always striving for something bigger than inherited dreams is that we are trying to make something of our lives.
Becky: Yes. And to recognize that struggle/strive…. Esp in an industry like music where sometimes we just consume without thinking of content.
Donald: Yes yes!
She keeps getting better and better.