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Ugandan folk musician Giovanni Kiyingi loves Phoenix's collaborative energy

By Amber Victoria Singer
Published: Friday, January 27, 2023 - 11:36am

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Ugandan folk musician Giovanni Kiyingi can play a variety of traditional African and western instrument, including the kalimba, xylophone medina, ngoni, flute, drums — and more.

When Kiyingi was growing up, his neighbors played music for the king. He would watch them rehearse, but he didn’t play for royalty, so he couldn’t use their instruments. Instead, he started practicing at church.

“So the church used to have these, you know, traditional instruments, and I used to go there a little bit ... before the service that — so before mass starts — and try every instrument," said Kiyingi.

So Kiyingi kept practicing. He learned the structures of how to play in school and eventually met a producer who helped jumpstart his career. He released his first album, "Amakondeere," in 2016.

Giovanni Kiyingi
Victor Nwachukwu
Giovanni Kiyingi

He said he wanted to go on a journey, like the musicians who inspire him.

“Like Paul Simon, for instance, did a lot of interesting works in South Africa," he said. "So when you listen to Paul Simon’s music, the music that was recorded in South Africa and then maybe later brought here and mastered. That’s influenced me that if they hit it, then maybe I can also try and do it, this time coming from Africa and then meet musicians all over the world ... It’s been a really, you know, warm welcome everywhere that I’ve been.”

Kiyingi went on to record music in Europe, India, other African countries and now Phoenix. Kiyingi moved to Arizona in 2019, and he says he loves the collaborative energy in the city. He’s settled down a bit, but wants more for his band. 

“I feel like finally, maybe I’m going to start to see if we can, you know, have a tour together and we can inspire other musicians wherever we go and create with them or do collaborations with them," he said.

Kiyingi will be performing at Valley Bar on Saturday night.

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