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Myko Ouma: The guitar maestro

Ouma strumming the guitar. Photo by Eddie Chicco.

We know him for his works on the guitar and this weekend, Myko Ouma will hold a series of concerts to display his mastery of not just the guitar but a couple of other instruments, writes Edgar R. Batte.

What have you been up to?
I have been travelling a lot, promoting my first album outside the country. I have been on a tour to Middle Eastern areas like Oman and Abu Dhabi. I have been to Europe and other parts of Africa as well as the US. And at the same time I have been recording a new album, which will be out in November.

How many albums do you have?
After the one I plan to release in November, they will be two. Currently I have one, called Myko Ouma.

How many tracks were on your maiden album?
They were seven and on the one coming up, they will be 10, plus some bonus tracks.

You just play the guitar, is that the musicality you present on your album?
Yes. Mostly guitar, but the second album also has traditional instruments that I play like endigidi, akongo, adungu etc.
I focus a lot on the traditional side of me and also the more jazzy side of me, so it’s a serious traditional album and it is also very jazzy.

Should we brand you the guy who sings with your guitar?
Yes my voice is my guitar.

This evening you are holding a concert dubbed Myko Ouma Season II. Why do you brand your concerts as seasons. We only know of seasons in TV series.
It is because my concerts are experiences. It is not just a concert, it is a showcase of what I have been up to within the year. So all the different performances have been doing will make up different episodes within the concert. And it’s not all about me. It is about the different people that I help mentor and people that I have worked with. Before I became solo, I was mostly playing background back-up guitar for musicians’ live gigs and in studio sessions as well. I have worked with many artistes like Suzan Kerunen, Maurice Kirya, Isaiah Katumwa and others. But it does not mean that when I became solo, I left them. I still work with them but at a different level.

What do you mean working with them at a different level?
I mean I am not always going to be on their stage backing them up all the time like I used to do, but I will probably work with them in studio, helping them in creation of music and I will feature at some of their events. This helps me get time to create my own music instead of being there specifically creating for other people. I think I am at a stage where I have to bring out what I create.

Who have you been working with on your second season?
Maurice Kirya, Enygma, Ruyonga, Brian Mugyenyi, Pragmo and different jazz musicians that have not gotten the spotlight but they’re really good. It’s all about getting people that are good and giving them a platform just like the platform I have created for myself.

What are your strengths as a musician?
Instrumentation definitely is my biggest strength but under it, the guitar is my number one and also lots of traditional instruments. My musicality is vast. I went to Makerere College School and learnt a lot of traditional music and also western music theory.

So how many instruments can you play?
Uhm…that’s always a difficult question because each time I am asked, I have probably added one or two instruments on those that I can play. As of now, I think they’re 12.

Break them down for us…
The trumphet, keyboard, drums, percussion, guitar, a little bit of the saxophone, flute, akongo, endigidi, piano and I am now learning a violin. Uhm… I am forgetting some of them but they’re just too many.

Where did you learn all these instruments from?
I learnt most of them from Makerere College School from my teachers Mr Busulwa Katambula and Mr Authur Kayiizi. They taught me lots of these instruments and for the international instruments like the keyboard, bass guitar etc, I learned from Deliverance Church.

Of all these instruments you seem to love the guitar most, what about it do you really love?
The guitar is sort of a one-stop shopping point because when I had got knowledge on different instruments, I could apply it on the guitar.

We know musicians who sing earn well, but how lucrative is it to be an instrumentalist?
It depends on your vision, because instrumentation is very wide, you can decide to be a backup, at the forefront or both. It is lucrative if you’re very dedicated and your vision is more than just making money.

Is it lucrative for you?
Yeah, well enough.

What is the biggest amount of money you have earned being a musician?
On a one off, about $15,000 (about Shs39m), which I earned somewhere on an Arab-organised event in Europe. There were several musicians from different parts of the world, each doing our own thing as individuals. So it was more like a one man show, with me playing the guitar, traditional instruments and working on my loop station (recording on stage). I came on stage alone with various instruments and recorded a whole track on stage. That was the kind of show.

On average, how much do you perform for?
Between Shs3m and Shs4m.

Which are some of the songs you have recorded from the live studio sessions?
I have recorded Kuku and Everything I do by Goodlyfe, Juliana Kanyomozi’s Sanyu Lyange and others, most of Iryn Namubiru’s songs on the last album that I worked on with Producer Paddy, plus Maurice Kirya’s last album. I almost contributed to the whole project, plus many more.

Away from the music, who is Myko Ouma?
My Ouma is also a statician and a farmer.

Where did you qualify as a statician?
I did a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics at Makerere University.

Where have you used the knowledge you acquired as a statician?
I use it for my personal business.

As you are not earning as a statician, don’t you feel your degree went to waste?
I don’t think it went to waste because it depends on what you use your knowledge for.

And where do you do your farming from?
I do some piggery in Busega, then in Busia, I am growing rice, sorghum and millet.

On how much land are you doing farming?
I have a few acres. I am also into the stock exchange and forex exchange.

How does foreign exchange work?
It is like a normal business, the higher the risk, the higher the benefit.

What is the biggest amount of money you have made in the stock exchange?
Not a lot. About $10,000 (about Shs26m). These are just some of the different things that keep me busy because I easily get bored. That is why I don’t play only one instrument, because when I learn a certain instrument, I will easily get bored and seek to learn something new.

Are you dating someone?
No. I am single and very comfortable.

How is your average day like?
It involves studio sessions, a rehearsal somewhere, some calls to various clients to catch up on business and working out.

What is with Myko Ouma and Kangol caps?
It is a sort of branding right now. When I was young, I used to like caps, hoods and hats. I kept doing it so often, many people recognise me easier with a cap on and it has worked out. Now it is both something I like and a brand.

What type of family do you come from?
It is a religious modest family. My dad is a pastor and an accountant.

What is his name?
Pastor Titus Oundo.

Where does he pastor?
He pastors at Deliverance Church.

And what is your mum’s name and what does she do?
My mum is called Doreen Oundo and she is a retired accountant.

How many siblings do you have?
I have three siblings, one brother and two sisters.

Where do we see Myko Ouma in five to years’ time?
You will still be seeing me in Uganda doing music, but probably not very active on stage, I would be more into mentoring young talent, teaching or running an academy of music, events management and I will also be doing my other businesses, so I will not be that much in the limelight.

How old are you?
I am 28 years old.

What do you think about the proposed shoot-to-kill policy for robbers?
I think everybody deserves a second chance in life. But I’m not a politician, so I have no clue what is going on with those guys. They will promise heaven on earth and deliver nothing.

What is your last message to your fans?
My message to my fans and anybody out there that gets to read this, whatever you do in life, do it with all your might, as if your life depended on it.

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