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Friday, June 13, 2008

Stomp Live concert: Simply unforgettable


Even the moon and the stars witnessed the remix of emotions that overwhelmed Lugogo Cricket Oval during the Saturday night ‘Stomp Live’ concert in Kampala.

Tears and shouts of joy on seeing the man they had been waiting for appear on the stage shook the area like a seismic vibrator. Kirk Franklin was wearing a sleeveless two-pocket white shirt and cocky jeans that amplified his weekend grandeur.

“I’m here Uganda and I want you to know we are gonna do this all night long,” he blew deep into the microphone with the pomp of a sumo wrestler that drew another bout of inexplicable ovation from the zealous audience.

Paparazzi raised their cameras, zoomed and pressed their shutter buttons like men on rampage to capture that mesmerising opening moment.

“Lemme hear you say ooh,” he shouted, “lemme hear you say He [the Lord] reigns” and the smile that radiated his face cemented his approval of the explosive response.

He said he was “gonna party like the holy ghost” and as the drums beat, a beautiful girl of about 12 years madly shook her head to the sounds while her long braids nestling on head to her nape danced their own dance with wild abandon.

When the American gospel crooner lifted his voice into Awesome God, nothing but overt joy was written on the faces of the throng that swayed, sung and heeded his command to make noise for God.

“It’s all about you,” that well sung Utl ‘hymn’’ intermittently danced on the enormous projector dotted with blue colours along with the portrait of the ‘Stomp Live’ microphone and the mega portrait of Kirk staring intently into the crowds.

He stirred up the ‘super delegates’ in the VIP section led by Ethics and Integrity Minister Dr James Nsaba Buturo; they waved and moved their bodies managing to produce rare if not funny dance strokes. Kirk Franklin wore an amused expression; he sipped from his bottle of Rwenzori mineral water before he resumed his flow and glow.

“There’s only one celebrity, there’s only one superstar,” he fired up the happening ground, “his name is Jesus! Give me some noise Uganda!”

Witnesses will tell you they got the most entertainment out of the show but ardent students of Kirk Franklin and his music will say they got the most blessing. He told the story of his foster sister who was in prison for 13 years for drug dealing, how he himself suffered low esteem as a teenager and struggled with acceptance.

“You are not the only one going through the storm, you’ve cried in the midnight hour, the devil been trying to take your joy, endure for the night, victory comes in the morning.” He knelt down singing ‘My Life Is In Your Hands.’ An overcome audience closed their eyes and raised their hands and voices in holy harmony humming “you don’t have to worry for there’s a friend called Jesus…”

Then they said goodbye to all the hurt and burdens, to “those that drag you down”, to the “sin in the past that the devil tries to use against you…there’s no condemnation, the devil is a liar”.

That could only be achieved by a man whose heritage speaks of being abandoned as a child, was taunted by his own peers, was obsessed with pornography and was much beset by spiritual and physical fears before he was finally set free.

He touched Ugandans whose deepest concerns and invisible fears and desires he knew so well because they were once inscribed on his heart too. So when he told the animated goers that Christ is the centre to guide them through the world, they embraced him and passionately sung along to his songs, which are a seamless paean to the virtues that come with obeying God’s laws.

It was a sight worth recording watching people pantomime playing the piano while Kirk Franklin added his vocals to the soothing ‘Imagine Me.’

Later he played the piano, leaving his incredible and gifted back up singers to sensationalize the audience with soul-lifting ballads such as ‘Why We Sing,’ ‘Lean On Me’ and ‘Hossana.’

It was time, he said, he saw how Ugandan dance. Whereupon a fat lady jumped onto the podium but her lazy ‘Bakisimba’ didn’t impress. The unnamed lad that followed excited him with ‘Ekitagururo’ dance though. It would have been all good had it not been the impromptu diving onto the stage by Michael Ross. The self-professed dance master immediately flaunted his dance skills that only hoodwink impressionable youngsters. “No no no, that’s too American,” Kirk Franklin sounded irritated as he shooed him off with his hand, “I want a Ugandan dance.” An embarrassed Ross vanished but not after bequeathing eagled-eyed scribes with interesting fodder for their papers.

Then came what many had been waiting for –’Stomp’ –the song from which the concert theme was derived. They went wild, and seizing upon the momentum, Kirk Franklin asked everyone to remove their UTL bandannas and wave them. They madly obeyed.

“I’ve been to Ghana, Kenya; I’ve been to Nigerian and South Africa…I tell you this is a little crazy,” he said breathlessly. “

There was no way to do this without Uganda telecom...we want to put Uganda Telecom to Texas,” he added comically. He was joined onto the stage by the African Childrens Choir to whom the proceeds from the concert will support.

The show had reached its climax, and the buoyant masses begged him to stay but Kirk Franklin promised to come back if they promised to support Uganda Telecom.

A part from a few heathens grumbling about the conspicuous absence of booze, arguing that even Jesus allowed a little wine at the wedding in Cana, Kirk Franklin proved he’s a giant to whom the devil has surrendered his turf to preach sermons through music.

It will be impossible to forget that Stomp Live concert.

--Daily Monitor, Monday May 26, 2008