“Their shows are stunning – danced with great pride and style and displaying superb musicianship.” The Guardian
The Watmon Cultural Group is a collective of musicians led by Amone Watmon Matthew, which promotes the preservation of Ugandan cultural heritage through dance. The group is made up of up to 50 members, the youngest members being only seven years old.
Matthew was born on the 25th November 1951 in Kipgum district, Awedi village in the north of Uganda. He was fond of playing music as he grew up, playing the nanga (a harp) in the field as he tended the family cattle or worked on the farm.
He lived in Awedi until 1991, when he moved to Kampala, due to the rebel fighting. He started a small group of dancers, performing Acholi traditional dance which he had learnt when he was young, both from grandfather in his village and from watching dancers at village events. He went around his district in Kampala, telling people he would like to start a dance troupe, and was met with a positive reaction. Eventually he had people coming to him asking to be a part of it, and from that point the group became an institution. In the fallout of the war against Idi Amin’s regime, many people were looking for an escape, and the troupe presented just such an opportunity.
The group performed for President George Bush during a state visit to Uganda. They were also recorded in 2012 for the BBC’s World Routes album, presented by ethnomusicologist Lucy Duran. Their performance was described by Sounds and Colours as an ‘instrumental extravaganza’.
Sounds and Colours
Date of recording: 6th December 2012 Recording location: Naguru, Kampala, and Airport Guesthouse, Entebbe, Uganda Audio by: Steve Kivutia, Ketebul Music & Andy Patterson, Abubilla Music. Mixed by Andy Patterson Video by: Patrick Ondiek, Ketebul Music; Jimmy Allen and Victoria Denison, Abubilla Music