#WhyIBikeNola - Uganda the Conga
Meet Gentilly resident and biker, Alfred Roberts aka Uganda the Conga
“My name’s Alfred Roberts, stage name Uganda.. I got that name ‘cause years ago neighborhood friends of mine would hear me playing the three conga drums and they would say, “hey, where y’at Uganda on the conga?”
I was born in the Tremé area. At that time they used to call it the 6th Ward, right outside of the French Quarter. I played the bongos for a lady by the name of Chris Owens and the Morocco girls.
Back in those days they wasn’t really paying the percussionists any money to perform, but it was a honor if the band would let you sit in. You know, it’d be a great thing. So that’s how I got
started, sitting in with a lot of famous jazz musicians. Some of the famous drummers the public may be familiar with was Fats Domino’s drummer Smokey Dorson and another real good jazz drummer by the name of James Black. I used to always sit in with those two cats— one would be there at Sylvia’s and the other was over on Holly’s, Basin and Orleans. 6th ward. Tremé.
Also I played myself in that tv show, Tremé, playing the congas. You see me talking to Dr. John and they was trying to get a song together and they say, “we should have Uganda playing the congas on that.” He looked at me and my part was to say, “yeah, you right, John.” Cause I recorded on his album, also.
Back in my childhood days, I always had a bicycle. I always enjoyed riding a bike. I got involved with guys who used to ride regularly and it broke me of the habit of smoking cigarettes. I stopped smoking. Even up to today I don’t smoke cigarettes anymore.
As I got older, I found out they had bikes with different speeds on them. My first different geared bike was an English racer. It had three gears on it. Through the years I’ve had bicycles stolen from me, cause I don’t really chain up my bike. But I always get another bike.
Then I found out they have full suspension bikes and as I got older I said, “maybe I need a more bouncing bike”. That’s when I got Bertha, here. Now, I feel something’s wrong if I don’t ride at least two or three times a week. I ride three or four miles several times a week. I’m seventy-four now and riding the bike helps me feel better. It’s better to ride the bike than to fill yourself up with a lot of medication. You also get rid of a lot of stress as you’re going through the neighborhood, you know, listening to the birds singing and the breeze blowing. If I don’t do it on a regular basis, I feel like something’s not right.”