With no music school or saxophone shop or even a teacher to start him off in Uganda, Isaiah refused circumstances to dictate his future. This was his mindset as a passionate young teenager in the early 90’s when he was given a saxophone by his guardian, an instrument he had never seen before.
This self-taught saxophonist who this year alone has stood side by side on stage with global icons like Jonathan Butler, Hugh Masekela, Jimmy Dludlu, Seweto Kinchy among many is a Uganda’s jazz pioneer and gem whose innovation has inspired and sensitized many into jazz. He has converted many into jazz enthusiasts and now a genre whose crowd and players is growing dramatically in Uganda and East Africa at large. African, Smooth and Divine…. these are the three words that he uses to best describe his music.
‘’Beyond the limiting boxes and categories placed on the industry, I believe in artistic originality based on my genuine influences to express my African grooves, Smooth Jazz influence and Christian upbringing’’ says Isaiah .
His experience and love for the saxophone dates back over 20 years, but he broke onto the international professional music scene eight years ago at a time wen jazz in Uganda and in east Africa did not have a significant presence on the music scene. At a time when a sole performance by an instrumentalist was unheard of or even a record in the region.
In 2006, Isaiah released ‘’Sinza” album that even featured on BBC focus on Africa. This was a break through album with the mega-hit song “Sinza” that earned him wide national and international recognition. He continues in his attempt to influence the industry for quality, skills, creativity and professionalism in not only jazz but also African music. Along with the traditional folk musical background, he has developed a blend of sound to express his East African identity, smooth jazz influence and spiritual passion.
You can feel his genuine African sense of gratitude and the joy he pours into his music while creating it and performing it on stage. “I am grateful that people welcome and show interest in what I have to say musically…to me that’s beautiful and miraculous.
He has featured on a number of distinguished televisions that include BBC (UK), PRI (US), African magic TV, DSTV’S Studio 53 and MNET and has been nominated for a number of international awards
He has also either shared a stage or opened performances for names like Manu Dibangu, Jonathan Butler, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Chaka Chaka, Oliver Mtukudzi, Erikah Badu, Phil Driscoll, Alvin Slaughter, Jimmy Dludlu and many others. He endorses C.E WINDS, a US based saxophone manufacturer in Florida.
He has performed in Europe- London UK, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, and in a couple of West and East African countries. He has also performed for heads of states frequently and so far more than 20 presidents and has performed for his Uganda’s president countless times.
To him, it’s the continuous and undying support that his fans have always showed him that gives him the courage to push on even harder. Every time a huge crowd turns up, just to watch me perform, it’s a special feeling and a blessing so humbling at the same time. Watching people sing and dance to my songs that I released years back makes the whole experience fresh and gives me motivation to hold my horn tighter.
Isaiah’s passion is to see young lives changed through music and he has dedicated himself to a vision of inspiring untapped talent and potential using his personal life story: from a background of hopelessness as a child having to work for his school tuition from the tender age of 10 to the man that he now is.
“If I could make it to here, then anyone else can with God. Even better” Isaiah is married to Sheila and they have a son called Mitchell.
Besides music, Isaiah has a passion to, mentor and inspire young musicians and talent which he does through “The Talanta Music Mentorship Program” that he started in February 2014.Through Isaiah Katumwa Beyond Music he also carries out school career mentorship tours where he visits different schools to share his experiences, struggles, dreams and personal path to success. This has inspired thousands of young people from different secondary schools and universities.
Isaiah Katumwa hosts a television show “Jazz With Isaiah” on Urban TV (a Ugandan popular station), that he started in 2011 with an objective of discovering, educating, encouraging and celebrating talent. He features musicians that share their music journeys and as well as entertaining jazz lovers.
He also hosts a daily request radio show program “The Isaiah Katumwa Show” on 106.1 Jazz FM where he mainly plays favorite jazz tracks from the world’s renowned jazz musicians as requested by the listeners