By Fab Mc
We caught up with Sauti Ya Africa, the baddest band in the country right now and they opened up on their two-year musical journey, their private lives, and their recent trip to the United Kingdom (UK) as they traversed Europe during their World Musical Tour.
They revealed all this in an exclusive interview at the Red Pepper offices in Namanve on Tuesday. George Ssemaganda 31, Francis Mutesasira 35, and Ben Katumba 35, formed Sauti Ya Africa two years ago. This came 10 years after the three linked up at a music school in England called, Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM). The trio made their way to the foreign music school through two of their European friends who they met while at Makerere and Kyambogo Universities respectively. Arguably, the three are professional musicians. The trio also opened up on their love lives, sex and music career among other things in their bundle. It is understandable that Uganda’s newest boy band members love their girls on top. Also, in their own words, Bazungu and Ugandan babes ‘taste’ the same. Ssemaganda however disagrees with the ‘babes-taste-the-same’ talk. Follow the concepts of the interview below.
FabMc: Talk about the band name…
FM: Sauti Ya Africa means the voice of Africa. We have been together as friends for like 10 years and two years in
FabMc: Why Sauti Ya Africa?
FM: We are trained vocalists and so, to use our voice to represent Africa, we had to settle for Sauti Ya Africa.
FabMc: What work do you have out so far?
FM: Yes. We produced an album named United before starting 2016. This album has 12 songs. The songs are; How do I and Amalu and so many others. These are very hot English songs. We only had one luganda song. These songs did really well on iTunes and Google play among other music stores. We had more than 1000 hard copies sold out outside Uganda because of course Ugandans don’t buy music.
FabMc: So, what plans do you have?
BK: We are now focusing on local content. Vernacular, not only luganda songs.
FabMc: Of all these songs, which is your favorite?
BK: It’s really hard. The album is almost done. The thing is, we are releasing these songs one at a time. We are talking about something different and not on the market. We don’t hide behind auto tunes.
FabMc: Who does the writing of your songs?
BK: Ourselves. He (George) is really good in writing but we bring our talents together. All the songs we have done so far, we have written and arranged them ourselves.
FabMc: Who are your producers then?
BK: It depends. Different studios depending on the style on the songs. Producers are gifted differently. If you want dance hall, you go to a person who is really good at dance hall. We have a big team and when we sit down, we agree on what to release to suit the kind of market we want to appeal to and we jointly agree on the producer to go to. Sometimes you even have to travel to a particular producer.
FabMc: Who inspires Sauti Ya Africa?
BK: Not a particular band. You get fragments from different people. Like how you can say I like the Maroon 5 brand. The poise and the way they take themselves and thus far they have come. Just like you can see a well-dressed guy and you are like, I like his shoe.
FabMc: What are you as a band looking up to?
BK: We started this from the UK and our aim is to bring this back home. Why should we take these nice things away? The people home have to see how internationals look like. That’s our main goal for now.
FabMc: This is an all-male band. Do you have plans of at some point recruiting any females into the band?
BK: In collaboration, Yes.
FabMc: Have you looked at someone already and who are we talking about here?
BK: Well, for now, we don’t have any because as I have told you, we are concentrating on getting the brand and solidifying it. Of course we have a 10-year plan. There are a number of female musicians that we have listed. Some from the outside countries and done some work with them already. Yesterday (Monday), we were in studio with a wonderful musician called Mo Roots. She is amazing but still, we are working on a British project but we are optimistic of massive local projects here.
FabMc: There has been the debate of Nigerian Vs Ugandan music visa vie how they are doing. How do you look at it?
GS: It’s time for Ugandan music to take off. I should say, if it’s a plane, it’s in the sky now. It has taken off. Besides, many people are taking on understanding of music, not just listening. They also appreciate. Those in music are also taking it as a business. Gone are days when failures were the ones doing music. Music now is a profession. Our music is in the skies now, heading for greater heights.
FabMc: Talk about Musicians Vs DJs beef over more Nigerian songs played on Ugandan radios and hangouts..
GS: Why don’t they play it? They have to play it because our music corporate society/ law doesn’t emphasize local content because elsewhere, Nigeria, for example, they look at local content but for us here, the law is open. Nigerian music is promoted more and it spreads like wild fire. DJs follow that influence because they want to play something that is more in people’s ears and the rest of the world has promoted that other music and that’s why we find ourselves where we are but, the DJs still play our local songs here. All we need maybe is to promote the local talent through people in the music business in order to promote the local talent. For example, on radio, say, I want you to play half local content and half international content. That would take us far.
FabMc: Have you guys ever attended formal trainings in music?
GS: We all went through music education. It took us many years because we all have UK qualifications and we were taught by Germans for so many years, from G1 to 8 and diploma which is an equivalent on Bachelors here and we are still pursuing many other music related courses. Whenever we go to London, we still do certain courses to improve on our musical journey but we use the training to improve on our local content here. We write and arrange all our songs.
FabMc: Who are your favorite musicians?
FM: We pick from different people.
FabMc: Is there something Ugandan audience doesn’t know about you?
GS: Well, we are going to unleash massive news soon. Watch this space!
FabMc: When did you guys officially return to settle in Uganda?
BK: It’s been on and off but we started doing music in late 2016 and so, literally, we are looking at 2017. We have had a wonderful year of exploration.
FabMc: How do you guys balance music and the life outside music?
BK: It’s just work. Just like any other job and how you juggle the two or even more.
FabMc: or, are you guys married or engaged, for that matter?
FM: I am not single. I am seeing someone whose name I am not ready to mention.
GS: I am seeing someone.
BK: If marriage is a ring, then I am not married but if it isn’t, then I married.
FabMc: What do you look for in a woman?
FM: Boobs. I love boobs.
BK: Class. I always aim high. So high.
FabMc: Which Ugandan personality when given a chance you would bonk?
FM: I have not seen any yet.
BK: Don’t limit me to Ugandans. I aim highest. I am talking about the Kerry Marisa Washington and Meagan Good.
FabMc: How do you enjoy these babes?
GS: I like my girl on top. When she is in control.
FabMc: What do you guys do during your free time? Like outside music?
FM: I do movies. Series.. X-Factor
BK: I love cars. I research about cars.
GS: To be honest, I do little things outside of music. When I am not with these guys, then I am trying to add up the compositions because I have very many ideas. So, there is a lot of writing I do. I also teach music at Kampala Music School.
FabMc: What cars are you guys driving now?
GS: Mark X
FM: Mark X
FabMc: Which are you looking at?
GS: Ford Mustang 2018 model.
FabMc: You guys have all befriended white babes before. How do they taste?
FM: I have dated one but, they taste the same.
BK: These things are the same. A man is a man anywhere and a woman is a woman. It tastes exactly the same.
GS: I am going to disagree with all these guys. White babes are like broilers. Our babes here are the original thing. Our girls are sweeter. I have tasted one white chic and several Ugandan girls, our girls are sweetest.
FabMc: You guys don’t have dreads. How come?
GS: Dreads is a culture. Music is a profession.
BK: If I want them, I would do them (dreads) but it’s not something that I want. We all have our own personal interests. You don’t to be dreaded too be seen as a musician. Do drugs, drink to be seen as a musician. I can assure you, we are not seasoned drinkers but and it’s not about the external things that you put on that actually make people love you.
FabMc: Do you guys biff fellow musicians?
GS: Not now. Maybe later. Threats aren’t there yet but as soon as you do sprout out, threats begin to come because you are actually taking over someone’s position. I believe Ugandans have moved on from biffing others without any reasons but musically, Yes.
FabMc: Bands barely survive in Uganda. How are you guys prepared for this?
BK: It starts with making up. It’s built from the start. It’s not about picking random people, put them together and start doing something. Music has its ups and downs. There are times when you are doing really well and there are those bad times as well. The patience to push things even harder has to be there. I met these guys as a teenager and so, the value of friendship beats all the others small things. I believe that if those groups were first built on the basis of friendship, first, we would have seen the Boyz to Men. The groups that have made it before, its founders have been friends before.
FM: Mutual trust and believing in each other.
FabMc: What advise do you give to upcoming musicians?
BK: If you aren’t prepared, don’t come for trials. It’s not tasting the waters. It’s diving deep end and calls for commitment, purpose and goals.
GS: Determination works. If others have made it, then anyone can do but only for those who are determined. It’s not all about singing. There are many stakeholders in the music business and so, a musician has to study this business.
About Mutesasira, Katumba & Ssemaganda
Semaganda 31, went to Blessed Sacrament, Kimanya for his nursery and primary education. He then joined Senta College in Mbarara for two years from where he completed his primary education. Ssemaganda joined Lubiri S.S for both ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels before joining Kyambogo University where he pursued Bachelors of Arts and Design with Education. After Kyambogo, he joined his friends, Katumba and Mutesasira at Sauti Ya Africa. While in Sauti Ya Africa, he got to interface with two white babes who were already known to Katumba and Mutessira and that is how Ssemaganda got to study music in the United Kingdom.
Mutesasira 35, is an Urban and Regional Planner by profession, a profession he attained from Makerere University. He went to Namirembe Infants, for his nursery and primary education and later Kings College, Budo for both ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels and then Makerere University. Mutesasira too, got to the UK through the same white friends who were their teachers at ABRSM. These babes taught Mutesasira piano and G3 (Voice). He was thus part of the 2014 tour to the UK that saw them perform before world billionaires. They had been invited to the event by London Mayor.
Katumba 35, is a true musician. He studied BA-Music from Makerere University. He add joined from Mengo S.S where he was for six years of ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels. He also attended Buganda Road Primary School for his primary education. Katumba first got to the UK in 1999. At the time, he already knew Phiona, a Briton and a German babe who later taught him to a diploma level in music, an equivalent of Masters in Uganda. Just like his two other colleagues, Katumba also went to ABRSM for music classes. Katumba however regrets the time he wasted at Makerere University studying a course he describes as rubbish. “What I did in the UK compared to Makerere’s, Makerere’s is just rubbish. There are people we finished together with the same course but have totally gone into different fields. They are incapacitated. We have a long way to go. That’s why I and these guys had a very solid foundation. We are multi-talented instrumentalists.” Katumba said in an interview.