#SHACKAt100 Profiles - Herman Ssewanyana

  • 04/29/2022 03:10:25 pm


On 19th January 1955 a boy was born to Peter Nkambwe Ssendaula and Benedicta Nabisere (Both deceased) of Matale Kalisizo at Mulago Hospital.

Like destiny would dictate, music was to become his career as his earliest recollection was his melodic baby crying, as was later told to him by his mother which was interpreted as a sign from God that he would become a musician.

He attended Kirumba Primary School, St Andrew’s Primary School- Matale, and Kiteredde High School where he belonged in the school choirs and took initiative to learn how to play drums, piano and shakers.

SHACK Period: 1970 -1972

He joined St Henry’s College Kitovu (Shack) and resided in Muteesa House in 1970, as the school promoted talent, here he fine-tuned his skills and in addition learnt how to play the bass guitar. He performed with the school choir and drama group. Here, he was under the mentorship of later to be Prof. Francis Misango who even when he did go to Makerere did permit Ssewanyana to access the university Music, dance and Drama department facilities.

Post SHACK Period:

Keen at getting better as a musician under the able mentorship of a one Mbabali Mansueto, he dedicated lots of time to practice and played with Black International, Leopard’s Liar, at International Hotel (current Sheraton Kampala Hotel) and the then Willijex International promoted Biko’s Boys band.

In 1980, he joined Afrigo Band as a congas drum player. The congas, also known as tumbadoras (tumbas in short), are tall, narrow, single-headed drums whose origins are traced to Cuba. Playing congas and other drums is all Ssewanyana has done ever since.


Herman Ssewanyana is a Ugandan real and consistent musician, composer, arranger, producer, percussionist, acclaimed drummer and a legend. A fan favourite man of frolics, he entertains to the rhythm and is always interactive even while on stage. he at all times connects with revellers through a smile that lights up his sweaty face as his joy is in performing before audiences to which the ever present ‘Ssewi’ puts all his soul and passion where revellers know him by Omwana W’ensenene Ssewanyana after Afrigo band’s popular song, Batuuse.


He has created an appreciation for drumming ability to sing and play five drums at the same time the kind of drumming that is all about relaxation, technique and groove, cares for his instrument like a baby, so good at his trade that while on stage with others, he can easily steal the limelight and has a lot of respect for the profession that has made him. He had choices in life, but he is still stuck with the mold of music that made him great. He has often offered advice to younger artistes from his wealth of experience.




Award recognition Feat:

Ssewanyana became one of the most visible elements of Percussion mainly because of his talent on the drums to which he owes all his life’s achievements. When he drums, it is hard not to get on the dance floor. His undying passion for percussive instruments spurred him to start up something dedicated to drums fused with different instruments to bring out a uniqueness of rhythms, traditional and African sounds blend of old and new material with a touch of individual brilliance that conforms to the market trends accompanied with creative dances.

He is the band Leader, Musical Director and founder of Uganda’s multi award winning folk pop music and dance troupe Percussion Discussion Africa which he had initially begun in 1981 but owing to the then turbulent times he took a break up until 1997.

Percussion Discussion Africa is a dynamic group that has stuck to what is important, has proven to be one of the most hardworking, capable of  introducing new material and presenting totally different musical arrangements and creativity through a selection of traditional instruments like the adungu (African harp), ndingidi (tube fiddles), lukembe, shakers, dourbouka, xylophones and rattles which are accompanied by the sounds of the bass guitar, acoustic drums, keyboards, saxophone and trumpet to produce a unique breath-taking cultural and afro sound music style where ancient vibrations and wisdom of Africa are renewed and transmitted in an African jazz, soul, dance, percussion and storytelling repertoire packaged in a modern setting, a fusion that has won them a large following around the world. They saw a gap in Ugandan percussion which they came out to bridge in an attempt to preserving Uganda’s folklore and also develop an East African identity.

By good schedule planning, Ssewanyana is able to balance between Afrigo Band and PDA which performs every last Tuesday of the month at Uganda National Cultural Centre / National Theatre where it is the resident band and every first Thursday of the month at Don’s Club located opposite the Constitutional Square and supports development of artistic skills in schools and other institutions.

He is married to Edith Nanfuka, lives with his family in Kibuli, has children, grandchildren, rental units, runs business at the National theatre and is reachable on 0776 / 0752 648 709.











Herman Ssewanyana Timeline of Achievements:

  • In 1998 Omubala was released under the Far and Wide Music Label which earned an invitation to the Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi’s birthday celebration that year. The album has songs including Omubala as the title track, Abaana ba abaami, Etooke, Twabalamuusa (was number one on the internet charts for close to a year) and Angelina. It got to be used by the Buganda kingdom to educate students in school about their culture and Ssewanyana led the efforts.
  • In 2000, he performed at a concert in Beirut, Lebanon. Mulamu was released and won the 2003 Pearl of African Music Awards Best Cultural Group in Uganda category.
  • In 2004 won the Best Folk Pop Music PAM Award for their song Mu’Afrika (Troubles in Africa) and were runner-up in the Best African Traditional Cultural Group at the Kora Awards which are music awards given annually for musical achievement in sub-Saharan Africa similar in intent to the Grammy Awards in the US.
  • They released Zamberi, a song which calls on drummers and dancers for a percussion discussion at the break of the day elaborating the importance of drums in Africa performed with percussion accompanied with western instruments and dancing.
  • They played the Luo version of Angelina with purely traditional sounds from Acholi using the bow harp as the lead instrument. Angelina is a love song from Bunyoro in Western Uganda and Kitafe Ali mu Ggulu (Our Father Who Art in Heaven).
  • In 2005, he performed at the Feast Horn festival in Djibouti. Nakayima was released, won a PAM Award in 2006 and featured as the introductory soundtrack in the 2008 Oscar winning film The Last King of Scotland which was about former Ugandan president Idi Amin.
  • In 2006, album titled Chunga Kilemba was released and another seven track one titled; Percussion Discussion Africa.
  • In 2007, they entertained Queen Elizabeth II and other dignitaries at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kampala.
  • He has also performed at the Silent Music Film Festival in Amsterdam, Gothenberg and Rotterdam and also at Expos
  • In 2008, Ssewanyana worked on music collaboration with Klear Kut, titled Klear Discussion, which was nominated in the Kora Awards, produced other music albums, including Nakayima and Nakato, and sound tracks for other movies such as Under Blacks Blue, Adimdong, Ntwara Amata Gange, Africa and Ssemusajja Agenda since the beginning of the annual Amakula Kampala International Film Festivals.
  • Between 2008 to 2010 he was a presenter on Star/Magic FM Radio
  • From 2011, he has collaborated with other Ugandan music artists and percussionists to produce an annual two-hour performance music festival known as Zivuge and has.
  • In 2012, he performed at Uganda’s 50 years of independence Expo in Japan
  • He has toured, travelled the world with music as his travel ticket and has performed in Lebanon, Malawi, Britain, USA, Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Zanzibar, Djibouti, Zimbabwe and Congo-Kinshasa.
  • He has performance big music names stage shared with Salif Keita, Baaba Maal, Didier Awadi, Thomas Mapfumo, Moses Matovu, Lucky Dube, Youssou N’dour, Habib Koite, Oliver Mtukudzi, Ismael Lo and many more.
  • He is a National hero 50 years of Music Medal recipient.
  • He is an Executive Member of Uganda Musicians Club
  • He is the Advisor and agent for International Arts Games Drumming Federation.
  • He likes adventure and discovery.


Article Summary

#SHACKAt100 Profiles brings you Afrigo Band's Herman Ssewanyana 'Omwana w'ensenene'