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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Real talent yet to come out of Wapi


“Fear or Respect?” was the theme of the third Words and Pictures (Wapi) event at Hotel Africana’s people’s space last Saturday. It was chosen out of the realisation that many confuse fear with respect and so would this be captured in the different presentations?

Yes, because upcoming poet Ronald Kiyemba recited a rhythmic and rhyming poem about the theme that earned him resounding appreciation from the audience while graffiti artists led by painter, designer and reggae artiste Xenson Ssenkaaba sprayed the stage dexterously bright as if to say that respect is radiant and upstages fear.

Otherwise, there was little change from the previous dos. We saw nearly the same faces, same acts and nothing extraordinarily fresh. It was however established that the Wapi advisory board is doing everything to ensure the monthly event helps the industry.

With hip-hop and other music genres dominating the programme, the biggest challenge facing the organisers remains that of artistes miming thereby making it difficult for the scouts in the crowd, if any, to spot real talent from the pretenders. Abramz Tekya who co-emcees at the event with Rachel K says this is what they have been discouraging artistes from doing.

“We’ve told them that this is a talent show and there’s no way people are going to know your vocal ability and your live performances if you just come and start miming your music,” he says. “We are heading to that kind of show were everyone will be doing it live with only an instrumental because we want to create a standard.

“We want to have a place where artistes can drop their music way before Wapi and then we can know who is to perform because if we are giving a platform to talent, then it’s fair to give a platform to people who are talented than to people who will just say ‘yeah, I can do that.”

A British Council initiative, Wapi was launched in Kenya in 2006. Besides Uganda, it has since extended to Tanzania, Nigeria and Ghana to help underground (undiscovered) artists display their creativity using words or pictures.

At Wapi Uganda however, writers, filmmakers, photographers, poets, dancers, painters, animators, emcees and sculptors are very few, leaving music, in particular hip-hop, to eclipse everything else. To inspire them to utilise the opportunity to the full, Tekya says they are planning to have what he calls “skill factories” whereby experts from the diverse art forms both foreign and local will within three months start equipping these young visual and verbal artists with skills that will help them ably compete at a professional level.

Meanwhile, they will continue to perform, network and engage the audience with something new in the best way they know how. At the Saturday event, Wapi established artistes performed alongside the upcoming which ideally is a good thing for the latter that still have more to learn. Talent, lots of energy and fast minds are at large as seen during the “raving mic session” where emcees pass the microphone around for interested parties to express themselves spontaneously with anything they like: A rap, a poem, a short story or a song.

This event is clearly viewed as a goldmine judging by the numbers that turn up. With a first-come-first-serve procedure, some have to be pushed to the next event because not all get the opportunity to perform on the day.

It cannot be denied that Wapi has great potential. Rapper Navio of Klear Kut says the “most important thing for upcoming artistes is getting the platform to be heard and British Council provides that in Wapi.”

It’s a platform on which many mingle and exchange notes; learn from one another, perhaps form groups and nurse their stage fright and look at each other as belonging to one formidable family.
Navio also admits he has seen some youngsters that with time will give him a run for his money. One of these could be 16-year-old Charles “Uncle 33” Ssebbowa who hypnotised the audience with his electric Luga-flow (hip-hop in Luganda) while performing Kigambo – a rap song in which he says he’s the next big thing on the hip-hop scene.

Tekya claims a certain American lady interested in African fashion and design was blown away by the creations she saw and promised to work with some of the designers. This could be a signal for something bigger.

--Daily Monitor, September 20, 2008