Eva Nanyonga | A Female Guitarist in Uganda. Called ‘The Guitar Wizard’ in the 60s.

Eva Nanyonga The Female Guitar Wizard

Uganda has had a rich musical history. In the 60’s a few female musicians ruled. Eva Nanyonga Female Guitarist

When we talk about Uganda, we think of beautiful landscapes and exotic costumes, in fact, Uganda is said to be the ‘most beautiful country in the world’. Winston Churchill named it ‘the Pearl of Africa’. Friends of mine visited recently, and the pictures were breathtaking.

Uganda also has become the 3rd most important country in Africa for music and entertainment. A vast array of young men and women are making sure that Uganda is on the charts.

That notwithstanding, Uganda also had quite an impressive music scene, especially during the 1950s and 1960s. Mostly men, they also included a few women musicians.

All are mostly forgotten today, replaced by the ‘hipper’, modern musicians. Fathom my surprise when I came across a photo of an older woman, who was said to be a ‘Guitar Wizard’ in her day and charmed audiences young and old with her vocal and guitar power. If you know me well, you know that I am always interested in female guitar players of the past. The ones that played when ‘it wasn’t cool or customary‘ for women to play guitar, especially electric. So yes, my interest was piqued and off I went to on a search for Eva Nanyonga… and maybe others..

So here she is: Eva Nanyonga the Guitar Wizard. A Female Guitarist from the 60s and… from Uganda!

She comes off like a nice granny who can cook up a storm for her grand kids and knows the hardships of life. I don’t know about the grand kids but I am sure about her ‘hardships’.

We do not know much about her actually. She was born in 1933 in Uganda. What her life was before she started playing and singing, I have no idea. Which is a shame. Music from Uganda during 1950 to 1980 is hard to come by. There were political upheavals which might have accounted for the scarcity. She is important to the prolific scene back then because she was the first female guitarist who became popular. No recordings exist with her, as far as we know. Another pity!

She was revered for her guitar playing and played for Uganda’s Independence Day in 1962. In 1963 she received a new electric guitar as a gift from Sir Edward Muteesa 11, who had invited her to his palace. She then formed her own band ‘Mwalingo’ in 1970.

A quote by Tom Nduga, the MC during the 1995 Music Back to the 60s event: “Playing a guitar is a man’s game. But this brave woman stands no nonsense. When she gets hold of a guitar, she literally makes it talk. She glues her fans to their seats when she starts playing a guitar while singing,”

So there. Not much more I can say about her. When did she die? Or is she still living? Was she married? Did she have children?

Questions all around !

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