His name is silent on the entertainment scene, but Marcus Kwikiriza is undoubtedly one of the radio presenters with a big CV. He has been to over three radio stations, some being over borders. Isaac Ssejjombwe catches up with him to find out more.
Describe yourself in five lines.
My name is Marcus Kwikiriza, what you see is what you get. I am as real as it gets. (Sometimes too real), I am generally an optimist. Glass is more often than not half full in my eyes, I work hard and play hard(er). Music makes my heart melt, this world was made to be discovered. Not content with not knowing as much as I humanly grasp, however useless it may seem at the time and I listen more than I talk. Actually, I don’t like talking as much, I’m just paid to do so (some guys will argue but yeah).
Music melts your heart! What are your top five songs of all time?
Best all-time tracks. ‘Black Coffee’ by Heavy D, ‘Summer Bunnies’ by R-Kelly, ‘Me and Mrs Jones’, ‘Kingston Town’ by UB40. There are so many but that’s off the top of my head.
Your choice of songs is not for those born after 90s. Do you appreciate music of this generation?
Sadly, I’m stuck in the 90s and 80’s.
Who are your top three Ugandan artistes?
My top three won’t shock you. Bebe Cool, Chameleon and the Goodlyfe. These guys with all the drama they have around them work very hard at their craft. Trust me, I spent 90 days with them.
You are an extremely tall man; tall enough to be a basket baller …
I have played basketball and I played for Marines and had a small stint at Power (bench player). Of course I did the Sprite Schools tournament as captain for Namasagali twice. I resumed it a while ago. We started Wazee basketball with guys who used to play back in the day and needed to get fitter. We are now 60 members and play three times a week. I have played a couple of friendlies with Division 2 teams and we have won most. I even started a series with our friends from Rwanda -home and away – best of seven series.
It seems you have a lot on your hands. Where do you get the time to play basketball?
You have to make time otherwise you can get overwhelmed and that’s how health issues start. You simply have to make the time.
Tell us about your rise to stardom?
Wow, stardom is such a huge word. But to answer your question, I started my radio career back in 1998 at Sanyu FM straight out of high school. Then moved to Radio One, then went to India, moved to Rwanda to head a new radio station then, was to Kenya from 2004-2012, when I decided it was time to move back home.
Upon return, you were given a job at Capital FM to fill the shoes of Alan Kasujja. How did you manage?
Big ones I must say. Alan is one of the biggest radio personalities we have had in Uganda and it was no easy task filling those shoes. But coming from Kenya, I succeeded in making an impact. So I wasn’t in doubt even for a minute of my potential.
Which other radio stations have you worked for?
Let me categorise them by country. In Uganda, I worked at Sanyu FM (Friday night and Saturday night show) and then Radio One (Mid-morning show). Rwanda- Radio 10, Flash FM (Programme director) and in Kenya, I worked at Capital Radio (Drive Show), Classic FM (Drive show), Nation FM/Easy FM (Breakfast show).
From a ‘Programmes Director’ to just a presenter. Don’t you think it was a bad move for you? Not only in your growth as a person but also the financial bit?
Not really. First of all, even though the money stayed the same (moving to a bigger market), I would have still moved even if it was a pay cut. The exposure I was getting in a very mature radio market like Kenya was worth it, what was more important was personal growth.
Usually, most radio personalities get a slot on TV as well. Why isn’t this the case with you?
I have been on TV many times. Did a basketball show on Zuku. I just did the Stanbic Schools Championship on NTV. I haven’t thought of TV full time because I have been told I have a face for radio.
Besides radio, what else are you into?
Besides radio, I have other businesses I’m engaged in like ‘Blackstar Events’ an events management company. We have managed many projects the biggest being the ‘Tubonga Naawe’ which we did for three months all over the country. We now have the ‘Imara African Coffee’ project, my new baby that I am very excited about. I could talk about that for hours. May be we shall have another chat just about coffee and then, I’m the Johnnie Walker (JW) mentorship brand ambassador.
How did you get the mentorship ambassadorship?
I was approached while still in Kenya about the ambassadorship and I found it interesting. I had been enjoying JW for a while but had never really bothered to find out what I was drinking and where it was from and its story. Getting the opportunity to be able to be the one to teach and spread the word was an opportunity I cherished. I went for training in South Africa and started doing mentorships then. It was stopped for some reason a year later. When I moved back to Uganda, Juliana Kaggwa, the marketing director at Diageo reached out to me and we agreed to revive the mentorship programme in Uganda.
How long was the training and why do you think it was stopped?
The training wasn’t stopped; the programme for mentoring was stopped. Not sure why. We finished the training around 2006-07.
What is required of you in that role?
A couple of things are required. First is discipline, love for whisky and finally hunger for knowledge. Also love for the brands is very key. Love for quality and masters of the craft. You also require discipline to be able to preach our Diageo Mantra of drinking responsibly.
We have talked about almost everything but not your family and little about your school background?
I am the second last of five children. I was born to Frank and Joy Karake who are both hoteliers. I went to Ganjoni Primary school in Mombasa, Kampala Parents School where I finished my PLE, Namasagali from S1-S6 and finally Bangalore University in India where I completed my Bachelors in Mass Communication.