Following his heart. Many people only started recognising Yoyo after his hit song Ansana. But the brother has been doing music for about a decade. He told Edgar R. Batte about his musical journey.
You are known to the world as Yoyo, what is your real name?
I was born Martin Nkoyoyo Walaga.
Why did you chose Yoyo for a stage name?
It’s a short form of Nkoyoyo which is a family name because I happen to come from the Nkoyoyo family.
Are you related to former Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkoyoyo?
Yes, he is my uncle. He is the elder brother of my father, Martin Tebaja Nkoyoyo.
How does a boy from such a strong Christian family end up singing secular music?
I have been interested in the arts right from my childhood. My interest was largely in Christian music. I was a member of Sunday School choirs though later on in life I joined karaoke competitions, but our karaoke was different from what people are used to today.
How different was your karaoke?
It was different in way that before I performed a song I had to cram it inside out.
Where was this?
After my S.4 at St. Kalemba Senior Secondary School. I was living in Lugazi then, and with a group of fellow ‘vacists’ we came up with a group called Nagg Entertainment. But prior to that I had performed before a big audience at a farewell party while in S.3. I performed Coolio’s See You When You Get There, which was a big hit then and John 40’s Move On.
You’re an Rn’b singer today, when did you quit rapping?
I believed I was more of a vocalist than a rapper, so I chose to quit hard-core rap of the likes of Snoop Doggy Dog and Dr Dre and opted to do Rn’b. I began miming songs of Boyz II Men and Joe.
When did you then take a bold step to record your own music?
The first attempt was with friends back in 2001 in a cheap studio in Ndeeba. The producer had worked more with bands and it was really a demo studio because we paid 60k to record two songs. The songs were not good but this was the beginning. One of them was a hip hop song called Your Man.
How did your parents take all this in because I take it that unlike today where some parents would appreciate their children getting into music, parents those days were never happy seeing their children getting into music?
My family almost turned against me. They were not happy with me pursuing a music career and I was branded the family ‘bad boy’. They thought that I was doing all these nasty things like taking drugs but on the contrary I didn’t and I have never taken drugs or smoked anything to this day.
So did you contemplate quitting music after this hostility?
No, music is where my heart was. Along the way, I grew up and some of my friends chose other careers. I hang in there. Life was never easy since my family was not supportive yet I was only starting out. It was hard for me to the extent that I didn’t finish my degree at university where I was pursuing a Bachelors of Arts in Arts.
You mean you didn’t have at least one family member behind you or one that tried to understand you?
Oh no…may be my mother would have supported me but she was not that well-off financially. She lived a humble life.
So moving forward, how did you proceed on chasing your music dream?
In 2005, I got in touch with another friend Zziwa Riddims, a producer, who recorded my Kinyarwanda song titled Mukunzi (translated lover), a ballad. I forged a video for it but I had no idea about promoting a song.
I then went on to record another song, Kambe Wuwo, at Taggy Studio which was located next to Victoria Tavern. This was my first song that sounded nice.
Had you tried marketing your music and your brand as Yoyo?
I didn’t know how to do all this stuff. At the time we listened to Sanyu FM, Capital Radio, Kfm but whenever we took our songs there. I believed I would be given excuses and would walk away disappointed. I recorded two more songs, Hullabaloo and Nkusanila.
I didn’t know how to promote myself and I tried organising a show which didn’t go well. I didn’t have contacts with promoters or media. I would just pick my phone and send messages to people I thought would support me like friends and family. The turn up was not good and this gave me a challenge.
What was your resolution?
Since that day, I was looking for a way out. I got in touch with Remmy Lubega of the Obsessions, then. He was my OB. I joined them in their theatrical productions and kicked off an acting career and thereon did songs with Remmy who was known as Church D. We did Silimba, Tongana and Shorty. I thought having been in the music industry he would help promote our music. They were good songs. I had upgraded to better studios. Benon of Swangz Avenue did Tongana, Khan Records did Silimba and Shorty by Garage Records. Deddac shot the video for Silimba before I switched to Jovan of Reel 16 who shot Tongana, Shorty, Alululu which I did with KS Alpha, Telephone and Ansana.
I did so more good songs but they still didn’t get the attention they deserved until I did Ansana, which I should say has done so well.
Why do you think Ansana has been received well compared to other songs you’ve done?
People have realised that I have something exceptional to offer to them. I have a new sound that does not sound like anyone they have heard before.
Do you feel you have hit your big break?
Not yet. I don’t feel I am there yet but I am hoping I will be there soon.
What do you think is lacking or needs to be fixed?
I believe I have been working on the missing link which has been the promotional strategy.
How are you handling it now?
First, I have made sure that I get my music to whomever matters and also making sure I get wherever I can. I am making media friends.
It looks like you’re practically doing each and everything from handling your music to managing your brand as an artiste…
It is not like I don’t want to get professional. I am sourcing for the right person who can do the job professionally. I am also on tour which I have dubbed the Yoyo, Ani Ansana Tour.
What is the essence of this tour?
It is three cardinal objectives. I wanted to reach the brand Yoyo to the grassroots through the tour. Secondly, I wanted to promote my album This is Yoyo. Thirdly, I am trying to marry the music and the face behind the music. I have come to realise that people liked the music but didn’t know the guy behind the music.
Many of your fellow artistes would choose to incorporate this in an album launch, why did you choose to do it differently?
Well, unlike other artistes who think they have got a hit song, so they select it as the title for their albums, I think I have much more to offer than one hit. That’s why I am offering myself as a package hence the album is called This is Yoyo because I have much more to offer as a brand Yoyo.
What inspires your music?
I should say it’s emotional and that’s why if I was in the States I would be a soul singer. I have to attach true emotions to my music.
Do you sing from the heart and from experiences?
Yes, in most cases.
Which are some of the songs you have sung from experiences?
Ansana, in this song I am talking about true love. If you have to love someone you have to be their friend. (He sings) “Ma baby, njagala kuba mukwano gwo oyo gwoyagalalira dala owomunda. Ma baby, njagala kuba mukwano gwo oyo gwobulira ebyama byo…” (translated for, “My baby, I wanna be your friend, a friend you truly love inside. My baby, I wanna be your friend, the one you disclose your secrets to…”)
Did you sing this song for one of the girls you have dated recently?
No. This is a song I came up with in studio. When I walked into studio the producer, Believer of Sap Records at Radio Sapientia, was playing something and I liked it. I spent the whole day in studio. In fact, I left with verses intact but without a chorus. After two days I had gotten the chorus to the song.
Are you denying singing the song for your former soulmate now that you broke up?
Which break up?
The first one?
Which one exactly?
How many have you had recently?
You see my love life has been a complicated one because I think I have unfortunately met the wrong people for the wrong reasons and things have not worked out.
What wrong people and for what wrong reasons?
The first time, of the break-up you saw on TV, I thought I had met someone to settle down with but she didn’t want to settle down with me so getting in contact with her was for the wrong reasons since she didn’t want to settle down.
And the second one who made an attempt at taking her life by poisoning herself?
She was trying to commit suicide and I believe the reason was because I wanted to drive my thing so slow yet she wanted to drive the relationship so fast and I thought that was dangerous. I didn’t understand why she was rushing, so after that attempt of trying to commit suicide, I decided to let go.
But she claims you were seeing another girl and had cheated on her…
No. Her claims were baseless.
Wasn’t she perhaps the wrong one that tried to love you, right?
I was the right one being loved wrongly.
So are you single now?
I don’t have to act desperate because I will end up falling for the wrong person and for the wrong reasons still.
Which lady are you looking for to set your heart at peace?
I don’t think I am looking for someone extraordinary. I am looking for a simple person, someone real and not someone trying to be somebody else.
What’s your last word?
I want to thank everybody who is trying to do something for me to make sure I become what I want to be.