Hip hop soldier: You have most likely not heard of him because he is an underground hip hop artiste, but Burney MC has travelled the world delivering Luga Flow rhymes and has even shared a stage with US hip hop star Kendrick Lamar, writes Edgar R. Batte
Where do you get the name Burney MC?
Burney MC comes from Bana Mutibwa, my other names. I was born Richard Walakira in 1989, in the suburbs of Kampala.
What have you achieved using the microphone?
I am a hip hop activist and winner of the 2011 Music and Entertainment category in the Young Achievers Awards (YAA). I am also a member of the Luga Flow Army, a rap group that protects the uniqueness of rapping in local languages.
Why isn’t your music played on radio or music videos screened on television? Are you taking titles without works worth their salt?
I would say its because of the music genre I do in general. Uganda hasn’t yet fully accepted hip hop in the media be it radio or TV. If they are to accept the little they do, its usually what we call commercial hip hop, where rappers are rapping about shaking booty or other commercial topics.
They don’t play my music because I do real hip hop, music that addresses real issues affecting people, music that won’t need the radio or TV to survive. its good music.
So tell us about your music …
I released my first CD titled Uganda Passport the Mixtape on 12/12/12, packaged with messages of a Ugandan dreaming of becoming a global citizen. I have performed in Kenya, Tanzania, Germany, Denmark, France and Czech Republic. You can access Uganda Passport the Mixtape on iTunes and other music selling websites. I am currently working on my forthcoming album titled Soldier of the Year.
Why did you name your forthcoming album Soldier of the Year?
I feel like I have done a lot for hip hop in Uganda and not got any recognition for it. This year I am having the entire world gather in Uganda to experience hip hop from the motherland.
So I want my album to be like an award to me, a rank for the work I have done for Ugandan hip hop. And that rank will be Soldier of the Year.
Is it your first album?
Yes. Uganda Passport was a mixtape. More info is also available on my homepage www.banamutibwa.com.
How many songs are on Soldier of the year?
Since your music is all about messages, what messages did you put on the Uganda Passport mixtape?
The intro talks about the desire for me to travel the world but my Ugandan passport is too weak to allow me do that.
And what does your forthcoming album speak about?
I have songs like Ekiva Ebulaya, a real life experience of when I was first denied visa. But I never gave up and kept trying to be a travelling man. Confessions is another conscious track about this guy who grew up in a gang and time came that he needed to confess and become a better person, Letter to Babaluku was an open letter I wrote to my mentor Babaluku thanking him after coming out of his foundation, and others.
What inspires you to do this kind of music?
It is mostly real life experiences and the need to be the voice for the people. I always want the people to be able to relate to my life.
When and where did you start your music career?
I was inspired by the Luga Flow Movement in 2005, but did not become active until 2008 when I joined Babaluku’s Bavubuka All Stars to master the art of rapping and emceeing in local languages. In 2011, I left Bavubuka and focused on pushing my own projects, End of the Weak and Luga Flow Army.
What is End of the Week all about?
End of the Weak as in beginning of the strong. It is a global movement towards the hip hop culture improvement. So I advocate for rap in local languages, that is why I call myself the Luga-flow revolutionary activist.
Under End of the Weak, we run what we call the MC Challenge, a competition that gathers the best of the best rappers and puts their skills to a test. It was founded in 2000 in New York and over the past years it has gone global with chapters in Germany, France, UK, Italy, Czezh Republic, Brazil, South Africa and Uganda, among Others.
Every year we organise the international world finals where each country sends a representative. We are hoping to have the international world finals in Uganda this year.
What defines the musician in you?
My understanding of music and being able to teach hip hop music to the next generation!
Apart from being a vocalist, can you play an instrument?
No. I do not play any instruments but I studied a little bit of piano.
Where do you perform ?
No particular places but at different festivals when invited to perform and all hip hop events in Kampala.
What has been your career milestones thus far?
Last Year, I performed at the biggest hip hop Festival in Europe called Hip Hop Kemp as the only African artiste in the whole festival, sharing the stage with world renown hip hop artistes like Kendrick Lamer, Big Daddy Kane, De la Soul, Home Boy Sand Man, Apollo Brown and Guilty Simpson among others. It happened in Czech Republic. I also travelled with East Africa Rise Up on a tour called Hip Hop Safari ( East Africa to France) with artistes from Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and I was the only artiste from Uganda.
Why did you choose hip hop and not any other music genre?
Hip hop is bigger than just music. Hip hop is a lifestyle that you live, it becomes the air you breath. I cannot express myself best in any other language. Hip hop is that universal language.
Tell me about what you have done for Ugandan hip hop..
Through End of the Weak Uganda Movement, I organise the MC Challenge which allows me to travel all over Uganda providing a platform for good rappers hence finding the best of the best.
I find representatives from all regions, who gather in Kampala in September at the Bayimba Festival to find a champion to represent Uganda at the world final.
Where do you get money to do all this?
I run a community house in Bukoto where rappers who seek more knowledge can walk in on a daily basis to learn more about the culture. Hip hop in Uganda is not yet the best medium to make money, so usually it is through different mediums where I get money and then invest it back into my passion.
Which mediums are these?
Through my international travels and networks. I am a videographer if am not doing hip hop and a social worker. I do rap classes too. Like during the hip hop Boot Camp by Bayimba Foundation.
How much are you paid?
A good project can fetch me between Shs500,000 and Shs600, 000 and I can earn Shs200,000 minimal project. And an international project can pay me above Shs1m. I do not have a monthly paying job though.
How then do you survive?
I just need to have a project to running. Throughout this year, I have been organising monthly hip hop events at Sabrina’s Pub, which keeps some income flowing in.
How do you earn from these?
People pay to access the events and through sponsorship from corporate companies though we have not been so lucky with corporate companies this year so far. We also recently had a university MC Challenge at Makerere at the Pool Court, so it is about building a following.
Tell me about your education.
I dropped out of school after S.4 because I don’t believe in the education system in Uganda. I decided to follow what I mostly believed in and that’s my passion. In future, I am hoping to go back to school. That will be after I find a system somewhere else that truly relates to its people. So I am not a graduate or any thing like that.
What was your parents’ reaction to dropping out of school?
I was raised by a single mom, a mom who believes and supports my decisions. Perhaps deep down her heart she wasn’t happy about it, but she knew I did it for the right reasons.
Then it was all up to me to prove her right, so I put my hard work in to doing hip hop. I remember in 2010 when I called her to tell her that I was travelling for the first time to Germany because of hip hop. I could hear that she was so happy.
My little brother too is on an education scholarship because of playing football. So my mom believes in talents a lot more.
And your dad?
I am not so close to my dad as my parents divorced when I was really young. My dad is called Godfrey Nyanzi. There is not much to tell about him
What does he do?
He is a salesman in one of the electronic shops in Nakasero.
What relationship do you have with him?
My relationship with him is good but we are not so close. When we bump into each other we chat. He knows I am a rapper, I gave him my CD. It is not a bad relationship but still not the best.
How many siblings do you have?
We are three siblings. I have a sister called Jackie Bukirwa and a brother called Reagan Mukwaya
How old are you?
I was born on February 15, 1989, that makes me 25 years old.