HARDWORKER. Deedan Muyira is the true definition of hustler. Having worked for as little as Shs10,000 to host a night at a local bar in Nairobi, Deedan has grown in stature and is now recognised as the official Blankets and Wines emcee. It has not come easy though. She opens up to EDGAR R. BATTE.
You are known to the world as Deedan, what is your birth name?
That is a story and a half, if I must say. Deedan is a nickname that I got from the time I was very young. We have very many namesakes in the family. My name is Diana Muyira, and, wait for it, my other name is Namakula.
Namakula? Really? I have always imagined you were Kenyan…
I am Ugandan. It is just because I was born in Kenya. Many people never knew that.
How did you end up in Kenya, or should I say your parents?
Oh, my parents ended up in Kenya because of work and they have been working there for quite a while so we were born there and while our parents moved from place to place, we eventually settled in Nairobi so that our education was not interrupted. For my A’ Level, my parents decided it was time for me to come back to my roots and culture and not be a visitor to Uganda. When we came, I joined Kabojja Secondary School. I almost joined Makerere University where some of my friends had enrolled to do Law but it was not a course I wanted. I am an environmentally cautious person and my friends talked me into doing something in that line but I my father told me there was no money I could make after studying environmental science. That is why I returned to Nairobi.
What explains the environmentally cautious lady in you?
Watching people throw plastic bottles out of their cars and seeing people urinating along roads all irritated me. And then Wangari Maathai’s story and campaign to get people to protect the environment and plant trees, all got me geared up. My baby sister is more deeply passionate about the environment.
Which course did you eventually pursue at university, and where?
I did International Business Administration at United States International University in Nairobi, with a minor in marketing. There, I also met some of my friends from Kabojja.
Talking of high school friends, what kind of teenager were you?
I was crazy, loud and jumpy. I am still hyper. When I joined Kabojja, I had not been in a mixed school. In Kenya, I went to a single-sex, Catholic founded school where we were nuns. So when I got to Kabojja, I saw boys and went crazy. It was a culture shock. The first couple of months were hectic for me. Emotionally, it was draining with crushes on boys and I got heart-broken. It was an eye opener too, because I mingled with students from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda and everyone had their own cultures and way of doing things.
Was it there that you cut your teeth into showbiz?
It was slightly before when I was at a St. Georges Secondary School where we did music, dance and drama. We would take Bible readings through which I got the confidence to speak before people. This came in handy when I asked for an opportunity to host Miss and Mr University pageants. Thanks to my confidence, one of the pageant sponsors True African spotted me. Its director, Kevin Ombajo dared me to put me on bigger stage to host the Kyaguo Teeniez, which is like Buzz Teeniez Awards. That was 2004. I was in my first year. I had a challenge. I had language barrier. I spoke more slang than straight Swahili. I was quick to adjust and this attracted another opportunity. I was invited to host the Kisima Awards which were as popular as the Pearl of Africa Music Awards (Pam Awards). That was the time Blu*3 were in town (Nairobi) with Steve Jean. The awards were the first big event I hosted as emcee.
What was the feeling like hosting your first event as emcee?
Gosh, I was nervous. The gala night was graced with ambassadors, CEOs. And when I am nervous, I recoil so I ended up cracking a joke about Nigerians and the then Nigeria ambassador was not happy. Kevin was harsh and told me how I had dressed for the part but messed up. Meanwhile, my parents had not approved of me emceeing and going out to night events.
What didn’t your parents approve of you being out at night?
My father did not like the idea of me working. He wanted me to concentrate in school but at university, I was exposed to many people. Fellow students had money and could do anything they wanted. I wanted to enjoy my freedom. I would leave home and stay with my aunt who could let me go out.
Where did this persistence for self-freedom lead you?
I did so many things from that point to today that have led me to where I am today and many have led me to so much trouble. At some point I got fed-up and stopped talking to my parents. I wanted to be on big stage. I would watch Oprah Winfrey and would wish to be like her. At that point I don’t think I was explaining myself well to my parents and I never appreciated and understood where they were coming from. I switched off my phones and oh, how damn I was. There were the Smirnoff parties where organiser put a condition that if Deedan was not there, then they wouldn’t sponsor them. Away from home, I partied like I was being paid, from Monday to Monday.
Now that you had left home, and not on good talking terms with your parents, where were you staying?
I was staying at a friend’s house. She had to hustle too, since she had a child but we would party. I realised that many of my events were starting to go down. I was offline and I did not care. I wanted to have a good time and see the world. My parents, of course, were worried. They would hear about me through other people. At some point I got into a committed relationship which lasted for year. That was in 2007. He was a very nice guy but I could not be the person he wanted me to be. He stopped me from doing events. That was the time Tusker Project Fame (TPF) had started and I wanted to be there. He was into security and had his guys guarding me everywhere. With him, I became angry and depressed. The relationship collapsed. I moved out and went back to my friend’s house and hustled again.
What did the hustle entail?
I worked in a place called Crooked Q where I hosted the Wednesday Crazy Night. Around that time, Marcus Kwikiriza was a radio personality on Capital FM. I had auditioned and was taken on as an old Kikuyu woman arguing with her daughter, basically hyping a radio show. Then Marcus would call me and I would do skits, sounding like a Nigerian woman. Radio was something I wanted to do but it had been hard to get in.
How did you get the placement at Crooked Q, and how much were you making?
Wow. Well, it was K300 (Shs10,418) and surprisingly, it was a job I got through a friend, Jane Gathi, who once managed Boda Boda at Garden City. I also waited on revellers there, something I also did at Iguana, at Kisementi, in Kampala. Then I got a gig as emcee on Friday nights. I was paid Shs70, 000. It was not easy.
How would you live off Shs70, 000 for a week?
It would not push me through the week. I do not think I have struggled. I have hustled. I have had friends. Jane is a friend from high school and she has been there for me. She is family now. Friends like that who put up with me. There are friends who always told me hard truths to my face. I have fought with some of them and we have stopped talking but then I always realised that in arguing with them, I was already the wrong one and they were right. I have also had my share of looking for jobs at different radio stations where I got no feedback. I once called up Seanice Kacungira, who I had met at Capital FM, Nairobi for a hook-up at Sanyu FM. I could not live off one gig at Iguana. I didn’t have the money to enable me move around looking for jobs. Then one day my father and mother called me and told me that no matter the mistakes I had made, they loved me and missed me. That brought me back up.
What was the reconnection like between the prodigal girl and her parents?
It was not easy and we said things as we felt them. That was 2009. It was work in progress. I was not good at communicating. I would go months without communicating because I was not sure.
How did get into emceeing in Kampala?
I got into emceeing here by luck. Big Brother Africa (BBA) was on and Denzel was representing Uganda. A BBA party was on and the emcee did not make and I was given the opportunity through Radio City which submitted my name. The first gig was on the house. Over the years, I have emceed at different events.
But you owe your fame to the Blankets & Wines events…
Oh yes and the hustle I went through to get that gig was worth it. Before becoming emcee, I attended a couple of Blankets & Wines and each time I would tell my friends that I could do a better job on that stage. When we had family functions or house parties, I was the entertainment in charge. Then some friends told me they knew the people behind the events. I was shocked. I was spending my Shs300,000 salary to buy tickets and wines and these guys knew the organisers! When I was introduced the James Byaruhanga, the guy behind B&W, I offered to do the first gig for free. As I did that gig, James and Tendo Kaggwa, his business partner, called me backstage and told me I was doing an awesome job. I asked them if I were signed for another gig and they smiled. So B&W is what catapulted me.
Have you done drugs before?
I have smoked
Have you done weed before?
My God! It was the worst experience. I was not in control of myself. I do not know how people do it. I was laughing at a fly.
Craziest thing done…
We left the convent and went to a hotel to drink.
We are three girls
In a relationship?
No. I am a complex person. I fear being controlled.
Who is your ideal man?
A tall man.
What do you have against short men?
Being taller feels funny. I don’t want to bend to kiss.
I love groundnut sauce especially prepared by my mum. I like the Matooke a bit ripe.
Do you cook?
Yes, even when I am on air, I am searching about food.
Advice to young girls?
If you have a family that takes care of you then count yourself blessed. Talk to your parents. Do not flare up. Aids is real. Do not get pregnant when you are young.