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Nkozi…the new campus party capital

Changing trends: Kachumbali, Strictly UG, Quex music and party buses are the things that define Nkozi. How did the university morph into the new campus party capital? Trevor Taremwa explores.

Five years or more ago, the mention of the name Nkozi would primarily be alluding to Uganda Martyrs, a university located in Kayabwe, on Masaka Road. In much more contemporary times, especially among the university demographic, the name Nkozi triggers memories of late night party buses, dusk till dawn partying and a new cultural wave that is yet to be defined. It is not just a moniker anymore, it is a cultural wave, a lifestyle that could be on its way to becoming more.

“Nkozi changed the turn up experience for me,” states Larry (not real name), a student in Kampala. According to Larry, he has been part of the Nkozi party wave as early as his first early years at the university.

“The party frenzy and atmosphere is different from the usual bar experiences. The late night party buses, the student centered demographic, to the party culture on the university grounds.”

Strictly UG

According to Frank, commonly known as Artex, a student and the architect of one of Nkozi’s biggest theme parties, Nkozi had always had huge party potential.

“Students always knew how to put on a good party but most parties we had were sponsored by corporate brands, especially those trying to sell or promote a new beer, a product and anything within that line,” he marks.

Frank recalls a beverage company hosting an event in Nkozi with word being spread out majorly around the university.

“It was only later on in the night that buses streamed in from as far as Kampala, Kabale and Mbarara ferrying students to the location that everyone struck that epiphany that Nkozi was happening all over a sudden. It was like a wave that everybody wanted to be a part of.”

However, most companies that kept hosting these parties did not fully represent the spirit of Nkozi or the culture the students embodied.

“We had little or no creative control over how the events could go, what kind of food was sold, the entertainers or even the prices of beer”

This is when it struck Frank to have a series of student parties, organised by students for students in and outside Nkozi.

“The goal was to create an atmosphere, a vibe of sorts at Nkozi parties. Kampala people were making going to Nkozi the new cool and, therefore, we wanted them to experience Nkozi for what it truly was. That is how Strictly Ug came into the picture.”

True to his word, a few sources have called partying at Nkozi a miniature experience of “Nyege Nyege”.

At Strictly Ug, people got the experience of what it felt like having a jamboree out of town. These series of parties later created a social network among the university demographic, especially among entertainment circles. Artistes, DJs, hustlers name it. It morphed into a big movement. It is from this movement that we got one of lockdown’s most monstrous hits, “Kachumbali”.

Anthem. Like “Jerusalema”, the song “Kachumbali” has become famous with doing the signature dance routine. PHOTOS /COURTESY

“Kachumbali”, from Nkozi and the hit it has been

Lockdown not only transitioned us into a new normal but ushered in a fresh wave of talent.  Among these talents was Quex, who blessed the entertainment scene with “Kachumbali”.

One cannot mention “Kachumbali” nor Quex music without mentioning Nkozi or the strictly UG parties in the same breath.

“Kachumbali” was out two years ago but Uganda got to jump on the wave in 2020. That is why regardless of the world being on pause and in panic, I continue to look at the year in a positive light,” states Quex, the mastermind behind the hit single.

Before finding Nkozi, Quex was pre-occupied with his other craft, Medicine, which he is still pursing at Kampala International University, Ishaka.  It is about the same time that he fell in love with music. When he got introduced to Nkozi parties, he decided to use it both as a spring board for his music, as well as an avenue to push his art to the world.

“Kachumbali” immediately before and during lockdown…

According to Frank, the Strictly UG held a month before lockdown was the most successful edition ever in terms of the turn up. However, one of the biggest highlights of the night was Quex performing and shooting the video to “Kachumbali” at midnight while highlighting the entire party experience.

Before, Quex’s music had been an underground household name and a favourite among the Nkozi demographic. However, not many had listened to his sounds beyond Nkozi.

At the most recent Strictly UG, Twitter went aflame ahead of the party and so it was not surprising that there was a huge presence of students from Kampala and cities beyond. When Quex performed the song that day, everyone simply caught energy off it.

Raw footage from his performance and the party experience was widely used in the official montage for the song.

Students from Nkozi had created a dance choreography to it and everyone just kept watching and learning while the deejay spinned the song over and over again. “Kachumbali” had gotten the kick it needed.

Students from Nkozi and other universities started doing the challenges as the song gained a huge presence on social media. The video got released during lockdown which helped it get airplay on television and, in the short run, paving space for it on radio.

“Nkozi and I are inseparable. Even if I do not study there, they are family. I am part of their movement. The song belongs to them too. I found my manager Angelo in Nkozi too,” marks a coy Quex.

Main man. Despite being a medical student, Quex has found home in Nkozi because of the love he receives. PHOTOS /COURTESY

He goes on to tell of a day he had a television appearance he posted on his Twitter, only for a van of Nkozi students to show up at the TV station premises to show moral support.

When asked of his other musical projects, he says he has music on all music platforms but it is time for  “Kachumbali” to shine and that is why not as much attention is on his other music.

“I have many songs but Kachumbali has introduced me to the world and it is still time for the song to shine. However, when new music is in the pipeline, I will let everyone know.”

Ms Nagawa, from Nkozi to the world…

Quex was not Nkozi’s only offering to the world. When you watch the visuals of “Kachumbali”, the vixen that graces the video, Catherine Nagawa, became one of the freshest faces of peak post-lockdown Saturday Night Television at a moment when television battles were the talk of town.

Cathy, who has since branded as Ms Nagawa, is one of Nkozi’s very own as she has been an enthusiast of dance, performances and the arts and it is not shocking that she is now one of the most promising talents on TV.

What next for Nkozi, the parties, the culture and the music?

Frank, who refers to himself as “one of the architects of the culture”, says the future is sticking to doing what Nkozi, is well known for cost-friendly partying for the students, by the students promoting a culture also for the students.

He says the wave is not yet defined, however, it is growing and it is the growth that is going to define it. “People in the movement are blowing up, Quex music is blowing, Ms Nagawa is on TV, DJ Buggy has been spinning on television during lockdown and we want to push the culture to the masses.”

Dance Queen. After finding fame as a vixen in “Kachumbali”, Ms Nagawa hooked a slot on NBS’ Katch Up show. PHOTOS /COURTESY

As students, resources are often limited but the next move is to ensure more talent is developed and we want to turn Strictly Ug into an experience that goes beyond just partying. We want to introduce camping, take the experiences to places out of the city, among many other projections.

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