THE CALLING: He is not just a doctor, but a chemical engineer too but despite all the prestigious professions on his head, Neo Okello says his heart is with music. He shares the story of his career with Polycarp Kalwokera
Tell us about yourself…
My name is Neo Okello, a doctor and chemical engineer by profession but music is where my heart is because it connects me to those I intend to inspire. I studied my Bachelor’s degree in Medicine from Franklin University in USA and also did my Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering in USA.
Interesting. Where does the name Neo Okello come from?
My real name is Sunday Okello and Neo Okello is my stage because there is need to separate the doctor and the artiste. The name Neo is an abbreviation of the chemical name to mean Neutral which in layman means unbiased. So I am unbiased to any profession or perceptions about life.
When did you start doing music?
I joined the music industry in 2010 when I was in high school but took a break to concentrate on my studies. I resumed doing it commercially in 2018.
What inspired you to start doing music?
I lost both my parents when I was 11 years old, so I was left to fend for my siblings and music was my comforter every time I didn’t have someone to talk to. I used to listen to a lot of Lumix Da Don (RIP) songs and that inspired me a lot.
What genre of music do you do?
I do mostly hip hop but I am a versatile artiste and I have recorded diversified music to cater for my fans.
How are you able to balance being a doctor and doing music?
Being an international chemical engineer, I work from 11am to 9pm US standard time but the rest of the hours are for music. That is why even if I am a chemical engineer I still spare my daily schedules to be in studio and record music.
So, you basically work virtually. How does that work in chemical engineering where you have to mix chemicals in the lab?
I am a consultant and there is someone in charge of executing the procedures or test methods I have developed. I do the thinking and designing, someone does the practical aspect.
How many songs have you recorded and which one has been your best so far?
Since high school, I have recorded more than 50 songs which I upload online. However, since 2018, I have released hits such as “Ayim”, “Obed Ki Woro”, “If You Love Me,” “Till the End”, “Angee,” “In Aye”, “Human”, among others.
Do you consider yourself a star?
(Laughs….) Well, that depends on the definition of a star because I know I am the best at what I do and so if star is the right word to use, then yes, I am a star who is destined to set a legacy in the music industry.
There are many artistes in northern Uganda, what makes you special?
Being a chemist, it means I pay attention to detail and that is what makes me different from other artistes. I do not produce a particular song for the sake of producing it but I think of what impact that song will create at the end of the day.
Do you do music for business or for the love of it since you have a profession?
I think music is my profession but chemical engineering is what I studied and I am doing the job to support my music career. So, the primary objective is because of passion but passion should also pay.
Do you have a record label that facilitates your music?
I am signed under Acholihood Entertainment, a label with a talented management team who make my music consumable by any fan.
What is your goal in the music industry?
I want to inspire many youth into professional music because at the end of the day, being a lawyer, engineer, a teacher or doctor alone may not please you unless you follow your passion. I want to set a legacy of supporting other artistes in making it to the top.
How do you hope to support your fellow artistes?
At Acholihood Entertainment, I have literally every music production equipment ranging from audio to visual. So basically, I am supporting by offering audio and video production for upcoming artistes for free.
Have you achieved anything from music since you started?
My greatest achievement is the love from my fans because they are key in this energy. I have quite a huge following. I am also glad that this year I shot and edited four videos for upcoming artistes and have about eight to shoot in the next two months.
People do not support local talent yet they want them to match international standards. And besides there is too much unhealthy competition and jealousy, which is dragging talent growth and development in the region.
Any advice to other artistes?
Never give up on producing awesome music because it doesn’t take a night to blow it up. Be resilient and work extra hard by creating other sources of income to support your music.