Renowned throughout his home continent for an infectious hybrid style he calls “African, smooth and divine,” saxophonist Isaiah Katumwa – affectionately dubbed Uganda’s “father of jazz,” – is currently in the studio working on his U.S album debut with Darren Rahn, who as a producer and artist has scored over 25 #1 radio singles and multiple Grammy nominations working with genre greats like Nick Colionne, Julian Vaughn, Jonathan Fritzen, Dave Koz, Paul Brown, Eric Darius and Najee.
Produced by and co-written with Rahn, “Home Away,” the lead single from the upcoming full- length project, was a powerful showcase for Isaiah’s lush, expressive soprano voice, with a cool, silky flow and soaring, horn textured hook. Released in June 2019, the track received thousands of streams on Spotify, appeared on The Smooth Jazz Network Top 100 chart for several weeks and received airplay on thousands of smooth jazz stations and the influential SiriusXM channel Watercolors. Its title referred to the saxophonist’s drive to find a niche creating commercial instrumental music in America while staying true to his roots, which include numerous gospel flavored recordings in the early 2000s and later, starting with 2006’s Sinza, incorporating more African flavors into contemporary jazz.
In its theme and vibe, Isaiah’s follow-up single, the funky, infectious and brightly optimistic “Smile On” – due to drop May 4 – is the perfect song for this moment in history. It’s a grooving, free-flowing reminder that no matter what challenges life brings to us, those we love and even perfect strangers, we can always use our ability to smile as a resource for uplift and encouragement. “It’s the best decision one can make,” says Isaiah. “Some people go through tougher times than others, but you’ll still see them smiling anyway. If we can’t do anything to change a situation, we can still find a way to smile to light the darkness. It’s a choice we make as to how we see any situation. No matter what happens in life, I want to urge people through this song to not let those circumstances take away your smile.”
Rahn previously mixed the track “Pamojja” from This Is Me, Isaiah’s 2016 album that he recorded in Uganda. Though not heavily promoted in the U.S., it received widespread international radio airplay and was #1 for four weeks on California’s Smooth 97 The Oasis, aka “The Smooth Jazz Place,” based in Palm Springs.that they can easily understand before I share something very different with them. I wanted to feel at home in the smooth jazz saxophone style that has had such a powerful impact on my music. Some tracks on the album will be very mainstream, and others will have that element of authenticity reflecting my African heritage.”