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Bivulu promoters: Inside the world of the men who bring you concerts


BEHIND THE SCENE: For a show to happen, someone must put in their money (and we are talking several million shillings). Emmy Omongin talked to promoters about their ups and downs in the quest for making us entertained and, of course, making some money for themselves in the process.

Behind the big concerts are the masterminds, the people that make these entertainment shows happen. They inject several millions of shillings to organise the concerts and at the end of the day, they either laugh to the bank or cry foul because of losses. We visit the world of event organisers famously known as bivulu promoters.

Best and worst Concerts
Like any other business, concerts too, are a gamble. But concerts are a big gamble because you either lose a fortune in hours or make a killing in the shortest time.
One of the pioneer show promoters Abbey Musinguzi of the famous Abtex Promotions, shares his odds. “In this country, there is no promoter who has organised the best and worst concerts of all time like I have. My worst show was when I headlined Tanzania’s Sayda Karoli to perform in Mbale. As we all know, when an artiste comes from nowhere and outs a hit, they become big headed and that time she was riding high on her Wanchekecha hit. After agreeing on the amount of money I was supposed to pay her (back then I was green about making a contract and all that paper work process), she arrived at the venue and saw a huge crowd. She shamelessly asked for more money, which I refused to pay her. She never performed. I consequently lost my reputation and name in Mbale because of her.”
“Another of my bad concerts was the one I organised in Nakivubo Stadium in 2002. I actually pumped in Shs50m. I did massive advertising on almost all radio and television stations. All the big artistes were lined to perform, it never rained that day but people just refused to show up. It was that bad.”
As for his best concerts, he recollects walking away with clean Shs70m from a show he organised in Nakivubo in 2011. “I invited President Yoweri Museveni plus big artistes. We made the president play soccer and there were also artistes’ performances.” Musinguzi, popularly known as Abtex adds, “Also, at the recently concluded Golola Moses versus Titus Tugume kickboxing match, there was a huge turn up. I bagged Shs50m in profits,” he says.
Bobkins Kibirige of Kibo Media is popular for mostly organising Radio and Weasel’s album launch concerts and bringing in international acts. He says he has never had a bad concert. “This is my passion, I give it my all and also make sure I fulfil the entertainers’ needs. You people have covered all my concerts and there has never been a bad one. All my concerts have been the best. Maybe I am just blessed,” he boasts.
Balam Baruhagare of Balam Enterprises, popular known as Sabavulu (king of shows) preferred not to divulge details of his best and worst concerts saying. “I have had good and bad concerts that’s all I can say for now.” Balam has organised concerts for most of the big artistes in Uganda, he also organises big shows on festive days and has also brought in international stars.

On rainmakers
Rain usually spoils even would be good shows as many people decide not to turn up. Many promoters have been rumoured to visit rainmakers to perform rituals to stop rain from falling on the day of the concert.
“There are promoters that still go for it. I used to, but I stopped. I stopped the day I hired a rainmaker from Mbale to come and make sure it didn’t rain at a concert I had in Namboole in 2008. Despite all his efforts, it rained heavily. From that day, I stopped using rainmakers for shows in Kampala,” Abtex says.
“However, there are towns like Iganga, Mbale and Jinja that have renowned rainmakers. They will tell you that if you don’t give the guy money he will indeed make it rain. These rainmakers are always entitled to a pay whenever one is organising a show in their town,” he adds.
It seems Abtex is either alone on this one or his fellow promoters are not divulging some information as they don’t seem to agree with this theory of rainmakers.
“There’s no such thing as rainmakers. I do not believe in that. If they were there, then farmers would also consult them whenever there is drought. I never waste my money on rainmakers,” Balam says.
“Others believe in them but I don’t because once an entertainer is liked, come rain come shine, revellers have to turn up to support that entertainer,” Kibirige says.

Battles with the taxman
It is a policy that for any concert organised, Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) taxes 18 per cent of the gate collection. Most event organisers have always complained of how URA impounds their vehicles during shows because they have failed to pay the tax.
“There are times where you have not yet made a shilling but the URA employee is already at the gate demanding for tax. When you ask them to hold on, they threaten to impound your vehicle. Really? I am still working and you are demanding for taxes as if I am going to run away. URA should at least understand we first have to make money, then pay them,” Musa Kavuma  of KT Promotions complains.
Abtex complains of the same: “Sometimes you’re at the gate, people are not coming, it is threatening to rain and a URA agent surfaces asking for taxes. It becomes so annoying at times. They don’t even know the hustle we go through to make an event a success. All they care about is their taxes even if you have made losses.

On KCCA regulations and banning promoters and venues
Recently, Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) banned most popular venues for concerts like Lugogo Cricket Oval, Kyadondo Rugby Grounds and Equatorial Parking lot, among others. Promoters are not happy with KCCA, they look it at as an authority that is out to put them out of business. “The main problem is that KCCA introduces new regulations without negotiating with those that are directly affected,” Balam says. He complains that most big venues have been closed and it is like KCCA wants them to resort to “fishing”.
“Robert Kalumba, the deputy spokesperson of KCCA has no idea of what he is doing. I would rather he goes back to school because he’s completely naive. That guy recently went on radio and television stations announcing that KT Promotions had been closed. His reason was, the concerts like Bobi Wine’s Africa-Jamaica Connect concert, Eddy Kenzo and Hilderman’s shows (which I never organised) violated the KCCA concerts’ code of conduct,” a furious Musa Kavuma of KT Promotions, complains.
“According to Kalumba, I did not adhere to the time these concerts are supposed to end, I never cleaned the venues after the concerts and that I pinned up posters in the city. I asked myself if this man really has some sense in him, because I didn’t organise the said concerts. I urge Kalumba to go back to those radio and television stations and take back his words or else I will sue him,” Kavuma warned. When we reached out to Kalumba, he confirmed that KCCA had banned KT Promotions from holding concerts and about the issue that KT never organised the concerts that are the reason for the ban, Kalumba said the company had written to KCCA’s legal office addressing the issues. “We shall get back to him,” he said.
Bobkins Kibirige thinks the only way forward is to liaise with KCCA and come to terms that are favourable to both parties. “We have to sit down with these officials (KCCA) and find a way forward because at the end of the day, the government benefits a lot from the concerts because we pay taxes. Thousands of people attend these shows and of course they buy fuel for transportation of which for every litre they buy, it is taxed. It is a win-win situation here and I believe KCCA will heed to our plea,” he says.

Promoters are stubborn  but they think KCCA is against them

We reached out to KCCA’s Deputy Spokesperson Robert Kalumba (pictured above) and he explained the authority’s position on concerts.

Is KCCA against concerts?
KCCA is not against concerts. The event organisers are the ones that are so stubborn. One advertises a show for several months before even getting a clearance from the authority. Sometimes we even take the honours of calling them to remind them that the show they are advertising is not yet cleared by KCCA.

So why should concerts be cleared by KCCA?
First of all before even getting a clearance from KCCA, the applicant needs to have been cleared by Police. Security is paramount.
If the applicant has the police clearance, we can then go ahead to issue an authorisation. KCCA needs to know the traffic management plan on the day of the concert. If Bebe Cool for example is expecting over 20,000 fans, how is traffic going to be controlled? Where are the revellers going to park without destroying our grass and pavements? Also, our experts need to test the meats that are going to be sold during the concert. We make sure the meat sold is real meat and not dog’s meat.
Also, we have to visit the venue and determine the number of mobile toilets needed and their positioning, depending on the number of patrons expected.

Which are the banned venues and why?
Equatorial Parking is one of the venues banned from holding concerts because it does not meet most of our vital requirements like having toilets in place. This venue was using mobile toilets that used to get filled up so fast. You would find urine flowing down to the road. Also, there was no emergency plan whatsoever like an emergency exit in case of any eventuality. Precisely it is a parking lot and it does not have the facilities a venue that holds concerts requires.
As for Lugogo Cricket Oval, it was suspended not banned. This venue does not have proper waste disposal and toilets. We wrote to them asking them to rectify those drawbacks. Immediately they are fixed, we shall expect to be called to inspect. We shall clear Cricket Oval only when they meet those demands.
Gaba Beach was also suspended for lack of proper waste disposal and the toilets issue, but they worked on it so we cleared them.

Kampala people are outgoing and wouldn’t mind enjoying a show until morning. Why stop shows at midnight?
All concerts should end by midnight. That is our time regulation. What people should know is that every city in the world regulates concerts. Yes, people have a right to sing, dance and enjoy but others also have a right to sound and peaceful sleep. We received many complaints from concerned people about sound pollution caused by late night concerts so we needed to regulate the time.

Why ban banners and posters? How do you expect the promoters to advertise shows?
We banned posters and banners because they were making the city look untidy. Someone would pin up posters in November for a show in February. After the show, the old, dirty posters and banners would still remain up. So in order to beautify our city, we had to put a stop to that.

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