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How one song changed Eddy Kenzo’s life

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BET NOMINEE: Eddy Kenzo is nominated in the prestigious BET Awards that are on this Sunday. He has travelled the world, courtesy of his Sitya Loss hit. Emmy Omongin talks to him about his good tidings like the mansion he purchased three weeks ago and Aamaal, his bundle of joy with fellow musician Rema Namakula.

You have been a busy man over the past one year. How has it been?
Oh man I have been travelling all the time, spending nights in a plane travelling to different cities worldwide, for shows and club appearances.

Approximately how many shows did you do in Europe and US?
I can’t recall. They were so many.  I toured more four cities in France, over 15 states in US, plus so many tours in Europe and Africa. I had so many shows man! God blessed me, so I had to work. Of course I was missing home but Allah had given me the opportunity to shine after years of hustling and struggling. I didn’t have to complain. I had to work selflessly.

So how did you use to communicate in those cities that do not use English?
I have a booking agency called Shelbay Entertainment, they are affiliated to Roc Nation (Jay Z’s record label). So when they make a booking, they know which language is spoken in a certain city. If it’s a city where Portuguese is spoken, a tour agent is assigned to move with me for guidance when it comes to communication.
While doing all these tours, did any record label approach you, hoping to sign you up for management?
Akon did. I still have that Konvict Music contract at home. At first I was excited about being approached by Akon to join his label. I almost signed but one of my young boys told me something. He said; “Yes, Akon and his record label is big but I don’t think you should sign this contract. Maybe you should take it to the lawyer first.” I listened to him and did as he had suggested. After studying the contract with my lawyer, we found a clause that requires me to be exclusively under Konvict Music where they will do all my audio and video recordings plus music distribution. That’s the part that stopped me from signing because I don’t want to be under someone. I want to do my own audios and videos so that my creativity is not limited.

So will you eventually sign if the contract is adjusted to fit your needs?
I don’t think so. Kenzo is already big. What record labels do is to bring up an artiste. I am no longer an upcoming artiste, so it is not necessary to be under any record label. I think I am my own record label (laughs).

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So has all this so fame changed you?
On a good note, yes. Even if I didn’t go to school, I can now reason like someone who has a Masters. Traveling worldwide has exposed me to so many things and I have learned a lot. As a person, Kenzo has not changed. He is still the same Kenzo of 2008. I haven’t forgotten ba buladi bange (my close friends). I don’t disrespect anyone. I am still very humble.

By the way, tell us about the story behind Sitya Loss, how did you craft that song?
I was in a hotel in London in November 2013. By then, Stamina was a big hit and I had gone to the UK for shows. I went on the Internet and surfed about the most popular songs in the world. When I watched Gangnam Style and read comments below the video; what people liked about the video and what they hated, I realised one thing; that you only need to be yourself to bring something new to the world. Ugandan artistes have for long copied Jamaican artistes singing in patois, a language they are not perfect in. Why not sing in Luganda?
So when I came to Uganda after my research, I sat down with producer Diggy Bauer to come up with the Sitya Loss beat, I voiced and boom! the song was recorded. But I didn’t have the money to shoot an expensive video. I had worked with the Triplets (the children in the video)  before, so I contacted them. I told them the idea I had and they fused it with theirs. Those children by the way, have parents and go to school. I am the one who nicknamed them Ghetto Kids because we had to cut their clothes and jerrycans to send a message to the world that even in the ghetto, happiness is what matters. After that, the video was uploaded on YouTube and before we knew it, it went viral.

Why didn’t you upload the video on your official YouTube channel? You would be earning a lot of money from YouTube.
My brother, I only learnt that I could earn from Youtube views later. By then, my YouTube channel had only 130 subscribers and DjDin’s channel had more than 40,000 subscribers. I needed him to promote this video, to share it with the thousands of followers he had. I don’t regret it because we both helped each other make money.

You recently bought a mansion in Sseguku, how much did it cost you?

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I can’t reveal how much because I don’t want to show off. I don’t want to make it seem impossible to that child who wants to be like Kenzo, that child who looks up to me. I want people to work hard and challenge me. It is not just about me; it’s also about those that look up to me. I want them to believe that acquiring a house as big as that is not impossible if you work hard and be disciplined.

Two weeks after buying the mansion, you get nominated for the prestigious Black Entertainment Television (BET) Award … how did you feel?
I was in studio when one of my boys saw a tweet by BET International announcing my nomination. At first I didn’t believe it. I thought it was a fake Twitter account. We visited the official website of BET and I saw my picture among the nominees of the new category of Best Viewer’s Choice International Act. I jumped, shouted and ran around the studio dancing. But still, I never believed it until we received an e-mail from BET congratulating me upon the nomination and the voting criteria.
That award is going to change my life forever. The tears, the cold nights I spent in the streets, sleeping hungry and the pain are all going to be healed by that award. It is now. My time is now. ( he seemed nervous and anxious and by the time we did this interview, he was leading his close competitor, Casper Nyovest by 4,000 votes).

So what are your plans after winning that BET Award?
I want to start a music school for all the youth who want to develop their music talent but do not have the resources. I want to move around schools and universities to talk about life, the struggles and how to make it because I am a living a testimony. I want to change my country and I am going to play my part because change starts with me.

What does it take for an upcoming artiste to do a collabo with you?
You must be good! I don’t care if you are popular or not … you must be good. In fact the best people to work with are the young ones. They have fresh ideas and I am working closely with them. I can work on a collabo with anyone as long as they are talented.

Bebe Cool sometime back called you an “upcoming artiste” on social media. Are you upcoming?
What I have seen with Bebe Cool is that he doesn’t embrace competition. He is not used to being challenged. He forgets it is God who decides one’s success. We just need to work together to put our country on the next level instead of dissing someone’s work. Ugandans are supporting me, putting me on the next level, for him he’s just being jealous. So he either joins me to carry our country forward, or he leaves me to move forward.

So can you do a collabo with Bebe Cool?
Yes, why not? Silina buzibu naye (I have no problem with Bebe Cool). It’s just about respect.
By the way do you talk to Mathias Walukagga after that saga where it was alleged that he is the father of Aaamal, your daughter with fellow singer Rema Namakula?
Yeah I do. We are friends. The rumours that are being spread about us fighting for baby Aamaal were started by some idle people who misuse social media. They created a fake Facebook account in the names of Walukaga and started imagining what to post. In fact he knows nothing about it.

What do you want to tell Ugandans out there?
Ugandans should be proud of their country. To be proud of where they come from. Our culture has a lot of value. Let people not play with it. They should make the best out of it.

And to the artistes struggling to make it?
They should chill. Yes, I understand there is too much pressure in the music industry to become big but they should take it one step at a time. They should be themselves, they should be unique and stand out from the already crowded music industry.

HOW TO VOTE FOR KENZO IN the bet awards
To Vote for Kenzo for Best New International Act Viewer’s Choice, Follow @BET_Africa/ @BET_Intl on Instagram and comment with #iPickEddy and on Twitter @BET_Africa/@BET_Intl  with the same hashtag.

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