Byg Ben Sukuya and Marginalization in Ugandan music: Language or Quality?

Byg Ben Sukuya and Marginalization in Ugandan music: Language or Quality?

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It is exciting how much Ugandan hip hop has evolved. There has been a significant improvement in the industry, right from the hip hop culture itself to the quality of music that Ugandan rappers are creating. Initially rap music may have seemed mysterious and even looked down on, because it was something new that probably most Ugandans were not accustomed to and therefore did not understand. Change is good, especially when it is change for the better, but also positive change does not just happen miraculously; to get to the top, there’s definitely got to be hurdles along the way.

With Ugandan creatives jumping onto the hip hop craze, and audiences embracing rap music, a literal hip hop revolution has emerged. As a result, very many new and talented rappers join the industry. Of course every rapper’s big dream is to make amazing music, music that will speak to generations, that will live on even when the artiste is gone.

What is making it ?

asked Baru on Twitter

The big dream is to be successful and that is what every artiste strives for. However that’s where the major problem lies; the resources may be available, and the audience is absolutely there, but how does one make it?

In my opinion appealing to the audience should ideally be one of the easiest ways for an artiste to succeed. It’s simple, make good music that the audience will love and relate to, thus surely should make the fans love you. It sounds easy, but then that’s when the problem of diversity sets in.

Uganda is culturally diverse with an estimate of over thirty indigenous tribes. One would pose a question; how is one supposed to appeal to all these evidently different people.

A rather interesting conversation has been happening on twitter, where Mbale based rapper Byg Ben Sukuya took to his Twitter account to express his thoughts on this subject.

In his opinion “if you’re a music artiste in Kampala and you are not a Muganda, you will never make it.” His thoughts led to a momentary dissection of the Ugandan Music industry online, TV and radio.

The big question, is Byg Ben making a valid point?

Truthfully, the industry has more artistes creating music in Luganda and understandably so, Luganda is the most widely spoken language especially here in Kampala where most artistes are based. Audiences are more likely to welcome music in Luganda because it is the language that most Ugandans understand.

Luganda is easily the “favoured” language as it has over time gained more speakers toppling Swahili which was a nation wide – easy to use – language from English. Luganda is easily the lingua franca for the economy especially in the central region where the perception “the industry is set in Kampala”.

Does this however mean that there is an agenda on regional artistes? That question remains to be answered. What still stands is that even the non Baganda artistes that have gone on to be successful like John Black, Ykee Benda, Sheebah Karungi to mention but a few still create music in Luganda.

Part of Byg Ben’s argument is around this, he felt like there is some sort of move to sideline the regional artistes. One may argue the move by Buganda to reach all regions in different activities also give strength to Luganda’s wide spread. It is in theory for this argument.

If you are a music Artist anywhere, sometimes you have to be patient and learn from each part of the journey. We all do not have the same luck and being talented doesn’t necessarily equate to the market loving you. And that should never make you feel less of a talent.

– Posha Aloyo

A sect of Twitter and other social media platforms that discussed Mr. Sukuya’s tweets were in his defense saying he has a point and others bashed him and quoted names that have made it without being Baganda to which he seemed to add his voice stressing they had to use Luganda.

Others thought this was a gimmick to promote his fourth installment of WTF is Byg Ben 4

I believe Uganda has very many talented artistes and what should be made center stage is the quality of their music and their talent and not which region of the country they are from or what language their songs are in.

Good music should be able to speak for itself. It’s wrong for artistes to alter themselves or the music they create just because they’ve been made to believe that they can only be successful if they sing in Luganda. Hip hop is extremely rich and things like regional differences and language should not be given the power to stand in the way of great music.

From a business perspective artistes may be forced to adjust to a certain demand to allow them appeal to specific audiences. It is always up to the artiste, their team and goals.

To quote Byg Ben Sukuya “the narratives of music can’t be based on language and tribe.” alone. Artistes need to be more creative, build teams and study certain blue prints that allowed for breaking despite barriers even though they were an issue of language or not.

What are your thoughts?

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