Why did you decide to call it Kika?
Kika means a clan so I chose the name because I was going to deal with people from different tribes and speaking different languages, so we are a new big, clan.
So what exactly do you do as Kika Troupe?
We perform and entertain and ours is based on cultural music and dances of Uganda. But unlike other traditional and cultural groups, Kika has decided not to be arrested by the boundaries of tradition so we are taking on a contemporary approach.
So you’ve been selling Uganda using culture and dance, what are some of the countries you’ve been to?
The biggest event that sticks out is our tour in Japan when we played at a dome full of about 3,000 people in a place called Fukuoka and we had to share the stage with some of the best drum groups in the whole world because we also do drums. That was in 2008. The others were in Thailand and England. We were invited as curtain-raisers but ended up competing because we were a fresh offering to the world stage.
So when did your start Kika?
2004 after leaving Ndere Troupe.
Tell us about the birth of Kika; how were you able to start it in terms of financial s and human resources?
After playing with Ndere, I discovered much more I would do with the traditional instruments and music of Uganda. Ndere had its own way of work and limits and they were not about to move anywhere beyond what they did so I decided to quit. I began a small project as a solo drummer at university where I was pursuing my degree in dance and I was picked on by Norwegian students who loved my rhythms on an exchange programme. They were drummers in Norway so they advised me to form a company under which they would help me so they took me and I played at different clubs and got some little money.
How much money did you get?
I got about $500 (about Sh1m) and came back with about $400 (about Shs800,000); spent some and was left with Shs150,000. So I went back to Ndere and informed friends of my dreams and what I expected to achieve and some of them joined me and we began our struggle but within two weeks we had no money. I had Shs10,000 left and I used this to borrow drums and transport them for our first gig. Milton Wabyona, of Heritage Roots of Uganda gave us the drums and costumes for a month. Every show we got earned us not more than Shs200,000 and yet I needed more drummers and dancers and had to pay members.
So how much would you pay each of the members?
Well, I would pay each member Shs3,000 and they never wanted to come back but I told them that they had to believe in the dream so I also had to borrow money from my father. He was so cross with me; he told me that I had gone ahead to do a wrong course yet I had passed well but as a father, he rethought and supported me. When I performed for Shs200,000 he would add Shs300,000 for me to cater for my members in order for them not to leave.
Where were you playing at the time?
For the first year I played at Ridar hotel in Seeta where I used to be paid Shs100,000 every Sunday yet I had to hire machines which used to cost me Shs200,000. I used to get them from Wandegeya so I had to hire a pick-up for Shs50,000 and then two taxis to transport troupe members which cost me Shs80,000, as they had to wait for us to perform and transport us back to town. This was killing me and at one point I thought it wouldn’t work.
So what kept you going?
Each single time I thought like throwing in the towel something encouraged me to hold onto the dream, at least for one day. I had to stay standing no matter what happened.
So when was the turning point?
For the first year I wanted to be like Ndere, but I realised we were not going to get anywhere by trying to be Ndere. So in the second year, I decided to become new, by trying to become more contemporary using the energy I had because I was younger than all the other directors of groups around. So if I managed not to look like Ndere, Samads and Tebifanana Abifuna then I would get better and fresher.
How much were you charging at that time your troupe got reloaded?
I was charging Shs500,000 for a gig. In 2007, we came up with a new style which we called rhythms of Uganda. In 2008 we staged a show at KCC Grounds called Rhythm Uganda, where we showcased all different drums of Uganda. Things have never been the same again.
So how much would it cost someone to hire Kika today?
For a wedding in Kampala it’s Shs1.5m, graduation Shs1.2m but for unique functions like Goat Races where we are set to perform it’s Shs2.8m.
So have you increased the members pay?
Yeah but they are classified differently. I have students for whom I pay school fees, accommodation and feeding but after a show they get Shs5,000 and then a monthly salary.
What’s your advice to fellow young people?
This is Africa and we still have a lot of space to chase dreams but many people are lazy and want free things which are very expensive. It’s important to stand up and discover the dream in them.
I am putting up Kika Performing Centre in Kitende with professional sounds, a theatre, and we are moving there in November.
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