GNL Zamba:Uganda/ by black dog bone

GNL Zamba: Uganda/ interview by black dog bone

people say you are the first Hip Hop artist in Uganda to rap in Luga Flow and go mainstream. I mean you played a major role in inspiring other young, up and coming rappers to rap in Luga Flow.

You made it really big in the commercial world. Babaluku is the first to start doing it, but you took it to TV, radio. Is that right?


Well, there were rappers that came before me that have made great contributions to Hip Hop in Uganda, the pioneer groups being The Kaddo Family & Bataka Underground. These groups sowed the seeds for the local scene and performed in nightclubs and youth venues regularly but they were denied presence on big stages and National platforms. Radio and media also didn't gravitate to Hip Hop so much and thought these rappers were copying the western culture.


you see African tradition originally kept all its literature in song, there was no paper for the old societies to write on so the history and culture values were all stored in song, the elders would sing to the young and the cycle would continue.



The difference is that when I did it with my first album Koyi Koyi (Riddles of Life) I managed to break through to places where Hip Hop had been ignored, I was blessed that the music I made happened to be a bridge of tradition and urban culture that connected the youth and the senile.

I always emphasized on lyricism, poetry and social commentary on society through the relatable characters I created. The music always had a message, it was humorous, serious, defiant and thought provoking.


With time I won over the media, radio, TV, corporate companies, policy makers and hard line critics that the poetry of our fore fathers was finally home and had found a voice in me. I carried the Flag of Luga Flow with an authentic indigenous youth demeanor that was raw, cool and spoken in the language that is Holistically Ugandan. Guess that’s why they support my shows in mammoth crowds all over the country, chant our slogans and sing along to the music.


my richest sound is when I record live traditional instruments and season that with Luga Flow. The Ugandan drums are contagious, you find your self dancing without knowing. My song called Mwana wa baaba did so well because we fused The kiganda Bakisimba drum with Xylophone sounds and created the classic. The young and the old people at festivals go crazy when this plays. One of the reasons my sound is different from my other contemporaries is that i use all tribes and their indigenous sounds as ingredients to create this urban feel of Luga Flow.


I like it that you represent your culture, that you rap in Luga Flow.

Who are some of the best Luga Flow rappers that you like? When I was there I’m saw so many new rappers that were rapping in luga flow and they were so amazing. A lot of them said you and Babaluku were a big influence on them.


Am a fan of most Hip hop artists in Uganda, of course a few stand out lyrically while with others you just gotta admire their hustle, delivery, stage presence, their zeal to better them selves through their craft and how well they represent our people. I have heard so many records but I only listen to the indigenous style rappers like Mulekwa of Abenganda clan, Xenson, Kwesto & D lux, Bataka Squad, Luga Luga and St Nelly Sade




Are you still doing most of your song in Luga Flow?


I can't define my life without my roots that inspire me, my roots are in Buganda, am a Muganda by tribe and we speak Luganda as a language. My music is based on my life experiences, dreams and aspirations of my people so ... Of course, its Luga Flow to the dot for me, am representing my people on the international stage now, Luga Flow got me here and doors are opening up. Sometimes i present my spoken word pieces in English to bring my audience closer to the canvass where Luga Flow is the color pallet i use for a colorful rhyme masterpiece. Coming from Africa, from a country which is the most diverse in the world, not a lot of people speak Luganda so i use the English so my international audience can grasp the context of the song before delving in the language that every body understands "music" that unites us all.



The legend, poems, chants, war cries, warrior praises. All this resonates from all corners of Uganda. And where every tribe occupies its own territory. The rappers from Mbarara bring the Ankole vibe with them, the Kabale rappers from western Uganda have that Kikiga Hard core militant warrior vibe, the Gulu rappers are so versatile and the Bagandda are story tellers.


About the your record label baboon forest do you have many artist signed to it? Who were some of the artist you have released cd’s.


Baboon forest has had five signed artists on the label. We managed to release 8 Albums at the label and many successful singles. We also offer exclusive managing for our artists and recording facilities. The label was founded as a platform to grow hiphop talent and nature it to success.

The artists that have benefited from this kind of arrangement are Keko the African rap queen, Mun*G, Big Tril, Tommie Race, Lutamiles and Brian cuts.


How about the beats, who does your beat. do you have your own producers that work with your label Baboon Forest?


There is a very talented in-house producer called Greene Amani, So talented and creative, he understands what our sound is and is permanently inspired, we have to come up with lyrics all the time to match up his speed. He has won several awards including the Best hiphop producer and for best hiphop single -Ceazar which we worked on together. However, other producers have sold beats to us and have come to the studios to produce great material for us, Sam Lamara produced several singles for us, Hannz, Aethan beats and Andy from buddies.


we don't normally rap about being gangster, because gangster is far from the reality. Imagine having a rebel group in your village. Bloody machetes and machine guns are not a fantasy in the northern parts of Uganda so the kids in war zones see the refugee crisis around them and the effects of war first hand. For a rapper to be gangster will be frowned upon, societies crave for music that uplifts them from the horrors, hunger and disease.


I have seen rappers who play traditional Ugandan drums and record them and then sample them and make beats. do you do that too?


Affirmative, My richest sound is when I record live traditional instruments and season that with Luga Flow. The Ugandan drums are contagious, you find your self dancing without knowing. My song called Mwana wa baaba did so well because we fused The kiganda Bakisimba drum with Xylophone sounds and created the classic. The young and the old people at festivals go crazy when this plays. One of the reasons my sound is different from my other contemporaries is that i use all tribes and their indigenous sounds as ingredients to create this urban feel of Luga Flow.


I see so much talent in Uganda not just in Kampal, but cities like Jinja, Gulu, Mbarara, I mean everywhere.


what I saw when I was there is the rappers there are really embracing the traditional African culture really up hold the original ways, bringing back chanting, traditional drums, traditional melodies, its so amazing to see what is going in Uganda.


traditionally our music is for joyful celebration, courtship and brotherly love not destroying each other. If we do rap about being lethal, its with our pens and wit. oratory skills take center stage.



The hip hop in Uganda is very much street, very much ghetto, very much village. but it not so much gangster shoot em kill em. It’s more about the struggle?


You see African tradition originally kept all its literature in song, there was no paper for the old societies to write on so the history and culture values were all stored in song, the elders would sing to the young and the cycle would continue. That’s why the movement of Luga flow is rich, it samples all those old account styles and brings them back into the new era. The legend, poems, chants, war cries, warrior praises. All this resonates from all corners of Uganda. And where every tribe occupies its own territory.

The rappers from Mbarara bring the Ankole vibe with them, the Kabale rappers from western Uganda have that Kikiga Hard core militant warrior vibe, the Gulu rappers are so versatile and the Bagandda are story tellers. There was a time when we almost lost that because the Tupac, Biggie influence and western culture was so strong and the youth were starting to ignore this in the new wave of Rap.

My first album Koyi Koyi was hailed for bringing it back home and critically acclaimed be it showed the rest of the industry what we are, who we are not and how we should be represented, it became a musical blue print of authenticity.



We don't normally rap about being gangster, because gangster is far from the reality. Imagine having a rebel group in your village. Bloody machetes and machine guns are not a fantasy in the northern parts of Uganda so the kids in war zones see the refugee crisis around them and the effects of war first hand. For a rapper to be gangster will be frowned upon, societies crave for music that uplifts them from the horrors, hunger and disease. Luga flow becomes a leader and tool for activism.


Traditionally our music is for joyful celebration, courtship and brotherly love not destroying each other. If we do rap about being lethal, its with our pens and wit. oratory skills take center stage.


what inspired you to rap, what made you do it?


I think it chose me, I wrote in all my note books and text books since I was a child. I always loved listening to stories and telling them. I told real stories and told stories from my imagination too. when I was young my grandmother gathered us around her fire[place in the village and told us stories every night and sang to us because she had not TV so we stared at the stars and imagined all the things she talked about around the fire place. in high school I listened to many rappers on tapes, Nas was my best and I learnt to craft my 16s from him, however, I was too shy to take the stage, I always had stage fright.


"Dreaming in Color" am working on an album that I have conceptualized for some time, I came to America to record it and benefit from the rich production skills of American producers. it will be my 5th album and I want to use the international platform to shine more light on my African art form.


it wasn't until a rapper came off stage after some karaoke songs that I made a comment that made his loose his head and challenged me to a rap battle on stage. many people didn't know I could rap but what i surprised every body that my stuff was original will articulated, calculated and it was all inside waiting for that very moment. I never looked back, i found purpose, i was going to tell stories and tell them well.


Uplifting stories came easy because I grew up so poor and I easily found a following because I told stories about my society and many poor African could relate.


what part of Uganda are you from. are you from Kampala or were you born somewhere else and moved to Kampala.

Tell me what you love about Kampala. I really love Kampala. It’s the best city I ever been to, and the people are so wonderful . I wish I was there still. OK when I was there I was always drinking tonto and waragi. It was the best. Are there other kinds of local beers like that.




I come from a place called Kawempe. It’s the most grimy place of the hustlers in Kampala. we have drinks that cost less that a quarter that can make an elephant pass out, Kasese and Guma Offe which simply translates to (be brave and die). Uganda waragi is refined, the first two were banned by the government but there are a few underground distillers. I love Kampala, it’s the center of the universe and the party never stops. People are so friendly.

My parents are from Mukono while my mom is from the western part of central Buganda Gomba. They moved to the city when i was born and settled in Kawempe, am the 5th of five children, have so many cousins that i meet new ones to this day, its a large family part of the Lugave clan of Buganda kingdom that occupies the shores of Lake Victoria West of the River Nile.

I come from Uganda the Pearl of Africa.


Uganda is still in its golden era of hip hop where rappers are still raw and uncut, the movement is just growing and it has a strong high school following, the internet is strong in Kampala too but its used to market places where the music can be accessed and show schedules which are the revenue base for the rappers.


what made you come to America? What do you think of here?



"Dreaming in Color" am working on an album that I have conceptualized for some time, I came to America to record it and benefit from the rich production skills of American producers. it will be my 5th album and I want to use the international platform to shine more light on my African art form. Im networking and collaborating with artists in America hoping to expand the market for African music to the global scale, there is lots to learn and benefit from these symbiotic relationships. Luga Flow culture growth and social entrepreneurship that will benefit my label back home.


At the moment there not much going on with hip hop in the underground, but if you had come like 5 or 6 years ago there was so much going on. everything got killed by the coming of the internet. It really killed the underground. I don't see that happing in Uganda.


there were rappers that came before me that have made great contributions to Hip Hop in Uganda, the pioneer groups being The Kaddo Family & Bataka Underground. These groups sowed the seeds for the local scene and performed in nightclubs and youth venues regularly but they were denied presence on big stages and National platforms. Radio and media also didn't gravitate to Hip Hop so much and thought these rappers were copying the western culture.



Uganda is still in its golden era of hip hop where rappers are still raw and uncut, the movement is just growing and it has a strong high school following, the internet is strong in Kampala too but its used to market places where the music can be accessed and show schedules which are the revenue base for the rappers.

The internet is actually helping in Uganda because there is more solidarity among fans supporting their artists. The future is very bright for Rap music in Uganda.



RECENT POST
JOIN MY MAILING LIST