To Top

Lil Keyz: Karamoja’s shining star


Karamoja star: For Lil Keyz, insecurity, child marriages are some of the things that forced him to join the music industry. Today he is big news in Karamoja. Rebecca Kabuya writes.

Who is Lil Keyz?
My real name is Robert Kennedy Lotyang. I am 28 years old, an Afro-dancehall artiste. I went to Lomukura Primary School in Kotido, Light College Katikamu for my O-Level and Bethany High School for my A-Level. I have a diploma in Music, Dance and Drama from YMCA.
Why did you choose to use Lil Keyz and not your real name?
Lil Keyz stands for Little Kennedy. I wanted a catchy name that would stick in the minds of my fans.

When did you start doing musical?
My musical journey stretches from way back in O-Level. I used to write songs and perform them during important functions at school, I would also perform at promotions and night clubs. My breakthrough though was in 2006 when I released an album titled Insecurity in Karamoja.

Why are all your songs in Karimojong?
The message in most of my songs targets the Karimojong. Most of our people are illiterate. Also when you sing in English, people upcountry will shun your music because they feel that you are distancing yourself from them. But in 2014, I started producing songs in Kiswahili and English because I feel I need to go national.

How does it feel to be an upcountry artiste?
It’s difficult because people are not so outgoing. We hold shows once in a while. If I had a chance, I would rather be based in Kampala because there are a lot of financial opportunities, music promoters and managers.

Are you signed to any music label?
I am a sole artiste, but I would love to join an identifiable label because then I will be relieved of the burden of personally marketing my music.

Tell us about your fan base.
(Laughs) My sister, I can proudly say I am ruling Turkana land, Pokot, parts of South Sudan and Luo land, but did not come on a silver plate. I made sure I market my talent by singing issues that touch my people.
The media too have played an enormous role in promoting my music; radio stations such as Nena FM, Karamoja FM, and Voice of Karamoja play my music a lot. I have friends at radio stations in Kenya, South Sudan, and Tanzania among others, whom I give my music and they will play it.
I also share my audio and videos on WhatsApp, Youtube, and Twitter.

Any challenges so far?
There is no career without challenges. It was very tough from the beginning. My parents, especially my father, was so discouraging because he thought that music is for drug users and spoilt kids. People in my community thought I was going to spoil other youth. When I went to a quiet place to rehearse, people would gather, thinking I have run mad.
Finances are also an issue. You need to buy equipment, studio charges, paying back up singers and dancers, wardrobe etc.

Most radio stations in Karamoja seem to play a lot of your music. Are you the only artiste in Karamoja?
Hahaha! No. There are so many artistes here and we even have an association; Karamoja Artists’ Association. It is just that most people request for my songs, and I am grateful to God for that favour.

Have you performed anywhere else beyond the borders of Karamoja?
Yes, I have performed in all the East African countries but the most memorable was when I shared a stage with Dr Jose Chameleone in Nairobi last year. I also shared a stage with Ziza Bafana in Juba.

How many songs do you have?
I have recorded 235 songs, including I Love Karamoja, Malaya, Made in Karamoja and Mysterious Girl. I have embarked on shooting high quality videos because Karamoja has very beautiful sceneries.

Away from music, what else do you do?
I am the proprietor of Dipsy Pub in Kotido. This pays my bills and it’s a saving mode for me, because the money I get from shows goes there.

What inspired you to join music?
The situation back home was very bad; too much insecurity, forced child marriages, moving around naked, cattle rustling among others.

What message do you have for other upcountry artistes?
They should work hard, be patient and never think of getting quick money because they might lose focus. I am also reminding promoters wherever that there is talent upcountry that needs support to be explored.

More in Features & Profiles

  • Some people deserve my diva attitude

    super model vibes: Stacie Aamito Lagum is headlining Kampala Fashion Week for the second time. The event runs from October 20...

    Christine NakalungiOctober 21, 2016
  • Hustler: Linda Pacy Katusiime

    TALKING DESIGNS: Linda Katusiime started her business by doing deliveries for friends and relatives. Bringing in items from Turkey, Germany, China...

    Christine NakalungiOctober 21, 2016
  • How to be Mr Safe Hands Denis Onyango

    CATCHING BALLS: He may not be able to save you from your financial woes, but shoot any ball in his direction...

    Christine NakalungiOctober 21, 2016
  • Zil escaped from class to sing

    Early dreams: He is only 25, but for him, it is already a story of grass to grace. Zil Nantamegwa started...

    Christine NakalungiOctober 21, 2016
  • Kalifah has never called anyone dad

    REINVENTING SELF: Since the flop of his concert, singer Kalifah Aganaga has been a little quiet. Last we heard, he had...

    Christine NakalungiOctober 15, 2016
  • People had hijacked my life – Faridah

        New beginnings: Social media was on Tuesday awash with photos of Faridah Nakazibwe’s wedding to boyfriend, Dr Omar Ssali...

    Christine NakalungiOctober 15, 2016
  • What Queen of Katwe means to them

    Katwe experience: Based on the vibrant story of Phiona Mutesi, whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game...

    Christine NakalungiOctober 7, 2016
  • How to be… the no-nonsense Jennifer Musisi

    KCCA bosslady: She is probably the most popular woman in Kampala, and no – not for scandals or anything else, but...

    Christine NakalungiOctober 7, 2016
  • Meet a celeb : How Pablo wants to be remembered

    Rib-cracker: He is among the first Stand up comedians in Uganda. Today Kenneth Kimuli aka Pablo is a household name in...

    Christine NakalungiOctober 7, 2016