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Celebrity Profiles

Ganda Boys: To shine on the global stage, we had to be unique

Global moves: The Ganda Boys have recently given the world a rich musical offering with the Buganda Anthem delivered by choirs representing the six continents, including Grammy award and Oscar award winning producers and directors. Denis Mugagga, one third of the group, spoke to Sqoop’.

What reaction have you received from the popularity of the song?

The song has taken us by surprise. We did not expect such a reaction mainly from the different choirs worldwide. There is an excitement we struggle to understand ourselves. Choir members occasionally break into tears while learning the song. We have had experiences of some failing to stay standing and different individuals have shared their experiences on camera.

What is the story of the Ganda Boys?

The Ganda Boys are a UK-based, African fusion band. Its members include Ugandan singers Denis Mugagga and Dan Sewagudde, formerly known as DaTwinz, along with UK musician, arranger, record producer, and film composer Craig Pruess.

The Ganda Boys began the Ganda Foundation, which operates in Uganda as a UK registered charity organisation that raises money to combat poverty in the third World. Their first project provided equipment for Ugandan hospitals and schools in need.

What makes you proud of your culture and heritage?

After living away from Uganda for more than 20 years, we quickly realised that in order to be part and shine on the global stage, we needed to be unique.

The only way to achieve this uniqueness was to come out as Baganda from Uganda promoting our norms and culture. This boosted our concert ticket sales and our international audience grew bigger.

Tell us about the journey to the orchestral work on the Buganda anthem…

The Buganda anthem was scored by a Ganda boy, Craig Pruess, and sang by us plus several choirs from the six continents.

We were inspired by a particular line in the anthem “okwetolola ensi yona” which compelled us to make this a reality and bring the world closer to our ancient heritage.

Our heritage is our identity. The modern world needs to enjoy the knowledge from our ancestors and not to assume that we have an understanding better than our fore fathers who ruled and lived in the kingdom we later inherited.

Besides just doing music, the Ganda Foundation also does charity work back home.

“Our heritage is our identity”, please elucidate the validity of this statement…

That statement touches a nerve. We have lived in Black communities in Britain for a very long time and seen firsthand the impact of identity crisis on teenagers’ mental health. Without shining a light on our identity and using our norms to guide our children through this tabulated world, we will always lose the battle. As a means of looking for a sense of belonging, our children turn to gangs while others bleach their skin to appear white. These are the direct impact of the colonial doctrines that we need to flash out of our societies.

What did it take for you to pull off the project?

We needed to save a lot of money over a period of three years to be able to pay for the full production. It has not been easy on our pockets. We also put out a Go Fund Me page where well-wishers could and can donate. Making time between shows side jobs and family commitments was not easy at all, but the end is within our reach now.

What choirs and musical entities are on this project?

We have choirs representing six continents. We have a 40-piece orchestra, Bogota Symphony Orchestra. Grammy and Oscar award-winning producers and directors.

Your production is an admirable professional ensemble, how much did you have to save to have it?

We cannot put a figure to this humongous production. However, we celebrate the efforts of Craig Pruess, a world music specialist with a wide range of knowledge in recording and scoring orchestras. We have invested our entire lives in ensuring that we set up a musical standard that will impact future generations.

What does this milestone mean to the Ganda Boys?

We have just scratched the surface. We want to change the mindset of the younger generation towards our kingdom. We want the younger generation to know how blessed we are to belong to such a beautiful ancient heritage.

We want them to take pride in our norms and culture. This project will boost their sense of belonging. Mainly for the Baganda/Ugandan children born abroad. Our dreams are endless.

We want a Buganda that embraces development in line with our culture. Developing using the lenses of our norms. Architectural, environmental, conservation through our clan systems, but most importantly the way we love, sing and celebrate life.

You have just scratched the surface, what are you cooking in your kitchen?

We are looking at advancing our recording expertise to reach a wider audience. We are taking advantage of our members’ experience in scoring orchestral arrangements for our music to make it richer. Using our culture chants we have managed to add English lyrics to help the wider English-speaking audience to understand more about our roots. We are using music for social change.

The Ganda Boys with their 40-piece orchestra, Bogota Symphony Orchestra, as they performed the Buganda Anthem. PHOTOs/ courtesy

What other projects are you working on?

We have initiated a campaign to open up global markets for our home products using music and art. Recently through our foundation, we have started selling coffee from Ugandan farmers to our audience.

We use the returns on the sales to help fund famers to improve on their farming ways and get organic fertilisers to boost their yield. Through our foundation we treat cancer patients, we help schools and hospitals where we can.

Why and how have you purposed your music to feed into farming ventures?

Under our charity arm, Ganda Foundation, we have focused on opening up global markets using our music.

As a means of funding our charity, we chose to work with local coffee farmers from Mbale in eastern Uganda, to sell their coffee during our performance in order to fund various charity causes in Uganda.

Our audience has policy makers and government officials from various ranks.

We use our platform to share our experiences as Ugandans, while challenging them to fix some unfavourable policies. Encouraging them to recognise and respect our culture and norms is big on our agenda.

Which particular schools and hospitals are you benefiting?

We have donated to Kawolo Hospital, Nyenga Hospital and Mulago cancer institute over the years. Various schools have benefited from our computer supply and basic scholastic materials. Our period of poverty elimination has been a huge drive in communities and schools around Buikwe District.

What anchors your call to charity?

Our call is anchored of a vast array of different issues. Our own experiences of growing up with so little and during the post-civil war era. Being born in a medical family, we lived to see firsthand the suffering of mothers during childbirth. Avoidable child deaths. This prompted us to facilitate Kawolo hospital with two state of the art theatre operating tables and a number of incubators. We have seen the impact of colonial indoctrination on our children that leads to Black self-hate, a dislike of the Black culture, being punished for speaking our own languages, and various other factors.

Where can a fan find the Ganda Boys music?

Our music is everywhere on all the online music platforms, including Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play to mention but a few.

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