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The complicated art that is managing stardom in UG

artistes

Artistes during Radio’s vigil at Kololo Airstrip. Douglas Lwanga says the problem is that many artistes appoint friends or relatives to manange them, which limits control.
PHOTO BY MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

INTERVENTION: It is not news that many of our local artistes lead reckless lifestyles. And much as it is painful to state, it is because of this that we lost one of our greatest talents Radio. But if managers tightened grip, could some of these artistes be saved?

The overnight fame that happens to our stars has the potential to change a person’s life forever in drastic ways. The allure of wealth, fame and preferential treatment is enough to mess up someone’s head and make them do things that promise to keep it flowing.
It is at this point that someone more experienced and responsible should take charge to save the naïve star from the dangerous blinding lights of fame.
Talent needs a special kind of management. Someone is needed to take a God-given talent such as Jose Chameleone’s, Maurice Kirya’s or Cindy’s and make sure they reach their peak with health, grace and honour.
But who should be charged with the responsibility to help celebrities survive fame? Are Ugandan talent managers doing their job well? What needs to be changed, worked on or planned for the future?
We sounded out a cross section of industry stakeholders to try and get answers to these questions and more.

Moses Matovu, Afrigo Band
“At this point I feel the government should stop ignoring what is happening under their watch and intervene. We need a ministry that is directly responsible for this lucrative and growing industry just like they do in other countries. Entertainment is a profession just like sports and thus needs structure. There should be well stipulated rules and guidelines such as those that govern the athletes. An athlete knows that they are not supposed to use narcotics or behave in a way that brings negative publicity to their club.
When we started out, we did not have the kind of freedom these young people have these days and I am grateful for it because it grounded us and has protected us for all these years. But no one gives our artistes this kind of guidance and therefore they might not know that what they are doing is wrong. They go out and do things because they have seen others do them and do not want to be left out or look uncool. These rules and regulations will not only guide them but also protect us from outside oppression.”

Douglas Lwanga

Douglas Lwanga, media personality
There are people who call themselves talent managers but in essence they are just bag handlers and messengers. Instead of signing on with a professional, an artiste just calls a relative or friend to come help them.

This kind of person does not have power over the artiste they are supposed to be managing so there is no way they can impose any kind of influence or guidance on them.
I have witnessed Diamond Platnumz and his manager; the singer basically does what his manager tells him to do but that kind of relationship is rarely seen among our artistes. Of course, there are some managers who are effective, such as Jeff Kiwa, Julius Kyazze at Swangz Avenue and Kayemba. These people have created a reputation of efficient management and are respected by those under their management.
Jeff Kiwa is known for keeping his clients on a tight leash; he restricts unnecessary interactions with the public such as hanging out in bars, which does not only waste creative time but exposes them to all kinds of weird situations. I respect him for this.”

Joram Muzora, Artiste manager
“A manager is supposed to plan schedules, do branding and protect the person they are managing. In other words they play the role of the secret guardian angel. Managing someone should not simply stop at booking them for gigs but most managers get by with just that and we can see the results in form of increased violence and addictions.
Managers need to view the talent as their own investment and thus run it with the same aggression and attention they would give to any other business. Letting the person you are managing do whatever they want whenever they want is similar to for instance opening the doors of your supermarket and inviting passersby to take whatever they please without paying for it. Have you seen Beyoncé moving without bodyguards? This is the kind of protection a manager should provide.
Becoming a celebrity alters the person’s being in the world. Once fame hits, with its growing lack of personal privacy, the person develops a kind of character-splitting between the “celebrity self” and the “authentic self”. It is therefore upon the manager to notice when their client is losing touch with their reality and bring them back to earth and keep them grounded. I have worked with a number of international celebrities and I have noticed that they remember where they came from and are aware that if they mishandle what they have, they will easily slide back to that life they are trying to run away from.
I suggest that managers provide counselling and psychiatric care for their clients. As a Christian, I find that belonging to a particular church where a priest can sometimes directly talk to you also works. I encourage others to seek help in their churches and mosques.
Lastly, we need formal training for talent managers in Uganda because the entertainment industry will not get any better if our talent keeps getting crippled by addiction or die violently.”

Emma Carlos

Emma Carlos Mulondo, Artiste manager
“There is a lot of ambiguity in the talent management business in Uganda. There is no structure; we operate in a “jua kali” kind of environment where there are no rules, regulations or code of conduct. Talent management is very technical and an individual’s success with their talent largely depends on their relationships.
Ideally it would be good to guide these stars and protect them from exploitation and make sure that they focus on maturing their talent. They may be incredibly talented but it is rare that they are emotionally ready for the pressure that comes with instant fame and exposure.
I have heard people say the manager should be with their talent at all times, but much as this is part of their job, it is quite difficult to babysit an adult. If it can be difficult for a parent, who has the best will in the world, how can a manager do it? Usually I provide emotional guidance simply by asking pointed questions. Instead of telling an adult not to wear a certain outfit, I will simply ask what image they are trying to portray. But the situation is not so drastic, I feel we can turn things around and get better. I am teaming up with other industry stakeholders to make sure that Radio’s tragic end is not in vain. We are going to help empower these artistes to stop shooting themselves in the feet. We will use every avenue available to us to build up their confidence and at the same time remind them that their lives are very valuable and should be treated as such.

MC Kats

MC Kats, Artiste manager/media personality
There are two types of managers; those who have been in the hustle from the beginning, made mistakes and learned from them, then there are Tom, Dick and Harry . Unfortunately, the latter outnumber the former. I can mention a shocking number of managers who have taken talent and just poured it down the drain. They are learning on the job. What makes it worse is their refusal to acknowledge that they are clueless. Money does not make a difference if you do not know what you are doing. Let us go back to the basics, if you are a manager do what you are paid to do, make schedules for your client, promote them, take good care of their income and be responsible for how they behave, look and perform at all times.
Going forward, we must have a place that provides formal training for managers, promoters and all stakeholders in the entertainment industry. Stars should hire managers who know what they are doing and follow their guidance and managers should take back their power by producing results.

Halima Namakula, artiste
How a star behaves is an individual thing that has very little to do with their managers. I have never had a manager, but have you heard me fight or make a nuisance of myself? The same goes for other female musicians. It is about an individual being aware of their personal worth and striving to protect themselves.
As an artiste I have been there, I know how society treats these artistes. I have witnessed them being manhandled at events they were invited to just because the bouncer wants to exercise temporary power. It is under these circumstances that you hear that so and so fought; they react to unnecessary provocation.
The public needs to stop this witch-hunt and mistreatment of our talent. I am sick and tired of seeing talented people beaten and killed at every turn. It needs to stop. I still cannot get over the fact that Radio is dead and buried simply because he poured whisky on someone.
It is no secret that talented individuals are frequently not as emotionally strong as they want everyone to think; they are often quite fragile characters, who below the surface are fighting unbelievable battles. When you understand this, it does not seem like double standards when I beg that they be accommodated and treated with understanding.

Benon Mugumbya

Benon Mugumbya, Swangz Avenue
“There is no blue print to this kind of job. The most inexperienced manager can deliver successful results. We all learn from the job. Experience is our training. We are blessed to have a couple of successful stories at Swangz Avenue but there are a lot of unsuccessful stories that you never get to know about. Our strategy is consistence and persistence. I have a lot of faith in the future of the industry, especially with the young stakeholders who believe in working together.

Hollywood style

Even big Hollywood stars have their crazy moments but thanks to proper management they are prevented from literally walking on hot coals and spending $200,000 on a grill full of diamonds. Of all the craziest, wildest celebrities out there in real life though, Ozzy Osbourne has to be the luckiest. The woman he ended up spending his life with also turned out to be the best manager he could ever hope for. After falling out with Black Sabbath, he nearly died from alcohol and drug abuse, before his girlfriend and future manager Sharon Arden pulled him out of the downward spiral. As his manager, Sharon Osbourne had a pivotal role to play in Ozzy’s eventual success as a solo artiste. She is often credited with bringing Ozzy into mainstream celebrity status with the hit MTV reality show The Osbournes.

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