Ugandan multi-instrumentalist Ssewa Ssewa is looking to engage a new audience as he becomes the first musician in the East African country to invent and patent a traditionally inspired instrument.

Ssewa Ssewa will hold the official launch for his janzi, a 22-string harp-like instrument tuned to two different scales, at Katonga Hall in Kampala, Uganda, on 13 April.

He told Music In Africa that the move to launch the instrument in his country was part of a broader plan to gain strategic marketing partnerships in the future.

“Since 2017, I have single-handedly marketed the janzi and the feedback has been very positive,” Ssewa Ssewa said. “However, I am certain that an official launch would connect the janzi with the global music market, which will offer opportunities to work with artists exploring new contemporary musical styles such as EDM.”

In 2017, the musician was recognised for inventing the janzi by the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) in Zimbabwe and awarded a Utility Model Certificate.

But Ssewa Ssewa says efforts to work with local stakeholders and the Ugandan government to popularise the instrument have been unsuccessful.

“I am still willing to collaborate with the government and anyone else in nurturing the janzi and popularise other traditional musical instruments. I have invited the relevant government officials for the launch so they can have first-hand experience of the instrument and perhaps they will be compelled to tap into the traditional music scene and offer the much-needed support that is currently given to mainstream musicians.”

Ssewa Ssewa believes the traditional music scene in Uganda could become an economic asset, and if well-funded, stimulate business activity, attract tourism and create employment opportunities.

“One day I wish to set up an arts centre with a school, theatre, hostel and instrument building factory to serve as a source of employment for young people and also help build skills needed in the sector,” he said.

Ssewa Ssewa has already taken the janzi to universities and music schools in Germany and Sweden. In May, he is expected to travel to Switzerland and Germany where he will conduct workshops on his invention as well as Uganda’s traditional music and instruments.