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Four One One

Your music might be crappy but the world is more accepting – Steve Keys

At nine years, Steve Keys started playing the organ at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Najjanankumbi along Entebbe Road.  Every time he sat to play the organ, Keys felt at peace and at home. That was his initial motivation and today, he can play the guitar, violin and is learning how to play the saxophone Isaiah Katumwa gave him, writes Edgar R. Batte.

Besides playing instruments, Steve Keys is also a writer, cricketer and played basketball.

How were you introduced to music?

There was a church in Seguku where my father was an elder and one of the other elders had a toy keyboard he used to come with to church. It was the first keyboard I saw and it interested me. I was about six years old and sometimes he allowed me to play with it.

But one of the life-changing things with music is that my dad is an electrical engineer who used to fix electronics so one time someone brought home a big broken keyboard for him to fix.

He fixed it and the owner took about a year to pick it. I learnt that it was from a Catholic Church, which had decided to buy a new one. I started learning to play on that keyboard, which changed my life.

Tell me about the transition from church boy to a secular musician…

I find myself hesitant to use the word secular but in 2011 a friend called Abraham introduced me to Janzi Band. By then, I was playing the piano at Watoto Church and he used to play the bass guitar and drums. Janzi Band was trying to regroup and had no keyboard player and he said there was an opportunity for us to go and make some money.

It was a very unfamiliar territory for me. I was not used to playing that kind of music or listening to it. If was not listening to gospel music, it was Rn’B and I was a fan of Boyz II Men in particular.

I joined the band, played music and stayed for about two years as a keyboardist for the first year then in my second year I started playing while singing.

Where did you go after leaving Janzi Band?

In 2013 I approached an Italian lady who used to run Gatto Matto in Bugolobi and I asked her to allow me play a night there, so she told me Friday was taken. I preferred Tuesday and she was hesitant, arguing that it was too early in the week.

I pleaded with her to let me do it without paying me much. Surprisingly I ended up doing it for five years and only missed twice. My biggest memory there was on an evening when it drizzled. Gatto Matto was an open place with umbrellas but the revellers kept on watching us.

You are a music producer at Swangz Avenue, when did you join the team there and what mark have you made?

I have been producing music for church choirs but commercially, I started producing music for Swangz Avenue in 2021. They took a risk on me. They never knew of any music I had produced but brought me on board as a music producer.

They knew I could play instruments. My greatest achievement has been mixing Azawi’s album, African Music and the biggest compliment I got from social media is that it sounds really good.

Since then, I have been working with different musicians, recording, mixing and mastering for them. Most of them do not even know that I can sing or play instruments but when they show up at weddings where I play, they get surprised.

Which musicians have you worked with?

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