Ugandan Samite teaming with David Cullen for world music concert

Posted May 5, 2011 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Artists ~ 3,766 views


By Susan L. Peé?a | Reading Eagle Correspondent | For the final presentation of Reading Area Community College’s 2010-2011 Downtown Performing Arts Series, Ugandan-American musician Samite Mulondo (who goes by the name Samite) and local guitarist David Cullen will perform as a duo on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Miller Center for the Arts.

Local guitarist David Cullen teams with accomplished Ugandan musician Samite Mulondo for a concert Friday night at RACC’s Miller Center.

In a telephone interview from his home in Ithaca, N.Y., where he lives with his wife Sandra, Samite said he learned to play traditional African flute from his maternal grandfather, and was exposed to a great deal of singing from people on his mother’s side of the family.

“My father’s side had no music,” he said. “They were mostly accountants. My father was disappointed when I became a musician; he thought everyone should be an accountant.”

When he was quite young, Samite was also exposed to people playing the kalimba, or African thumb piano; later, after he left Uganda, he remembered how it was played and added it to his musical toolbox.

As a high-school student whose school was located in the king’s palace, Samite was introduced to the Western flute, and he later became one of East Africa’s most acclaimed flutists.

In 1982, he was forced to flee Uganda for political reasons; his brother was killed, and he was targeted by the military dictatorship led by Milton Obote, which had one of the world’s worst human-rights records.

He continued performing after moving to Nairobi, Kenya. Around that time, he started writing songs to comfort himself, and he asked friends to bring him Ugandan instruments. In addition to the flute and kalimba, he also learned to play the litungu (African harp) and marimba.

He came to the United States in 1987, first to New York City, which he found unfriendly, then to Ithaca, where he felt more at home in spite of the cold weather, he said.

In 2002, he founded a nonprofit, Musicians for World Harmony, which brings music and instruments to AIDS orphanages, former child soldiers and children in refugee camps. Every year, he visits Uganda to “try to help them with the healing process,” he said.

Samite said he met Cullen about 10 years ago through Will Ackerman, a Grammy Award-winning guitarist and founder of the New Age label Windham Hill Records. They were both participating in a Winter Solstice tour run by Ackerman, and have collaborated numerous times since then.

“We love making music together,” Samite said. “Dave is an amazing guitarist, and he plays from a very deep place. He gets to the soul of the music.”

Cullen has been a fixture on the local music scene for many years. He has performed in numerous local venues, as a jazz and classical guitarist; he has also recorded solo albums and played on Ackerman’s “Guitar Sampler” CD. In 2005, he won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Recording.

Cullen, a graduate of the Hartt School of Music in Connecticut, is an artist-in-residence at Elizabethtown College and teaches jazz and classical guitar at Kutztown University.

Samite and Cullen have written and performed the music for a documentary on child soldiers; the music will be recorded on a CD soon. The proceeds from the CD will buy instruments for children in war-torn areas, Samite said.

Friday’s concert will feature music from Samite’s latest CD, “My Music World,” with Samite singing and playing African instruments and Cullen playing guitar.

After the concert, there will be a question-and-answer session with the two performers.

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Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.


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