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Beyond the wheelchair

OJs main reason to join the music industry was to make money and complete his O’Levels.

FOR A CAUSE: OJ was crippled at the age of three. But that has not stopped him from becoming one of the top artistes in Teso Sub region. He opened up to Simon Peter Emwamu about his career and the challenges in the music industry.

Kindly explain to your audience who OJ is?
The tag name OJ is my stage and music name, but my real family name is Julius Opoi, a local artiste orphaned at age of three and subsequently got disabled due to polio at an early age.
I was born in Tubur Sub-County, Soroti County in Soroti District.

Do you have any education background; say for example in music as a career?
It is by God’s grace that I find myself as one of the top artistes in Teso region, having suffered double tragedy of losing parents at an early age. My education in primary was difficult it involved crawling to school since I had no wheelchair.
After primary, through my uncle, the retired DEO Soroti, I managed to join O’Level at Soroti SS and that is all I have had as my education.

Where did you draw your inspiration to take on music?
My first step into music was mostly driven out of the need to rediscover what I could do as a disabled young man to make a living and also partly pay my school fees during my O’Level. To this day, I do not know of any family member who had passion for music.
The leeway for me into music which started in 2007, was basically to eke a living. I do not regret, through music I managed to finish O’Level, discover my talent, and I am independent regardless of my being disabled.

What was your breakthrough song?
It was an advocacy song (Disability is not inability) based on my experience as a young disabled man in the rural community. It was taken up passionately by the local NGOs who always hired my services to inspire fellow disabled to discover themselves.

How did you manage to balance music and be a student at Soroti SS?
Well, my entry point was to make money and complete my O’Level which I managed to balance. Music is not like football which needs a lot of your attention. I only rehearsed during weekends for my first album the rest of the days I allocated that time for my books.

Which brand of music do you do?
Since I started music 10 years ago, I have been doing Afro-pop, in Ateso and Kumum because that is the audience we entertain in this region.

Do you produce or write your music?
Save for scripting my own lyrics, someone else produces my music but with time, my vision is to have my own music label where I could end up mentoring and nurturing talent.

Do you ever regret joining music? To date what are the greatest memories in your music career?
I must be honest to tell you that the latest achievements is being nominated for the regional artiste award under Uganda Music Awards that ended recently. I do not regret, instead I appreciate myself for having discovered myself.

Do you have any achievements to write about?
First of all I count myself among the few local Teso musicians who have neutralised the Luganda music from taking deeper strides in our region. Ever since we took to music in the early 2000s, we have managed to contain Luganda music within our region.
Today if you do not find OJ’s music being played on air, then it is Mark P, Roga Roga and other local artistes. It is a great achievement to count on. Outside that I have started up a simple a poultry farm which is as a result of the little proceeds that I get from the stage concerts or when I am hired to perform at functions.

You have been in music since 2007; tell me about your albums?
My latest album that probably enabled me get nominated for the Uganda Music Awards is Yogayo, depicting the hard times we are going through, then Turwa, Disability is not inability and Sarah, all of these albums have more than one song.

What is you marital status, if single do you intend to marry any soon?
Yes I am still single but regardless, I am not in a rush to marry. No single pressure can force me into it until I find resolve to do so.

Being a local celebrity comes with pressure from fellow peers to marry or have girlfriends how have you handled that?
What keeps me moving is simple; I do not allow people to think for me on matters that concern my life.

Having been in music for those years, what are some of the challenges you find?
Though our fan base has grown over years, during concerts their support is not translated into monetary value. The fans are poverty stricken thus cannot afford entry tickets.
We have as artistes here always decided to keep the gate collections in most cases as low as Shs3,000, which is so meager.

What are you future plans?
First it is to stay afloat and entertain our local audience without hanging the microphone, secondly to nurture young talent into the music industry.


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