This songbird from Arua will make your heart skip a beat. Her music is electric. Meet Amaru an amazing Ugandan singer. She has been living in New York City where she studied Acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and has been pursuing a Bachelor of Sciences in Dramatic Arts, Film and Television at St. John’s University in Queens, New York
Who is Amaru
I would safely sum Amaru up as a Passionate, African, Singer, Songwriter, Actress, Filmmaker, Dreamer, and Lover who desires to leave everything she ever encounters better than she found it! She desires to spread Love everywhere she goes.
When did you start singing?
I was born into a very musical family and had multiple opportunities to sing- right from Children’s fellowships hosted at our family house and children’s conferences that my dad played music at. Both my parents sang to me as a child and my father played almost every instrument I could think of, so naturally he encouraged me to sing. In fact, for a while I travelled with my dad and sang in his band on multiple ministry trips in schools, conferences and churches. Music became a part of my life so early and I recall always loving to sing.
Your first song ‘Stay’, you sounded like you were singing from your personal experience. What inspired you to write it?
The story behind Stay is actually a special one because I never intended for it to be my debut single when I wrote it. I initially wrote and recorded it as a personal message, much like someone would write a letter to another, but when it was finished, based on feedback I was getting, I realized that I was finally ready to start sharing my music. Around that time, I’d recently started writing songs again and wasn’t yet sure if it was time to start sharing, but Stay opened that door.
Let’s talk about your unique type of music. What do you call your style?
My sound is very eclectic and doesn’t fit perfectly into any music genres so I call my style of music “Soul-Truth.” This is really to remind myself of the sound I would like to maintain- I want to stay truthful and soulful as I keep writing and singing. As far as traditional genres go however, my sound tends to fall into the Acoustic-Soul world,or Pop-Soul like one of my friends likes to call it; and as I keep writing, I keep creating new fusions especially with the more recent music I’ve been working on, so as we go along, the labels might evolve. It looks like you spend a lot of time writing your music. What message do you think our music conveys?
My music tends to reflect my feelings about different experiences, and my philosophies on life. For the most part, I write a lot of love-related songs because I draw a lot of inspiration from the quest for, and the experience of love. Currently, my music shares pieces of my journey and the lessons I’m learning along the way. Hopefully my audience can share my experiences and even learn from my mistakes. Ultimately, I desire that music carries messages of hope and love to all the people who encounter it. I really hope I can change the world with my music.
How long does it take you to write a hit song?
It really varies. I’m realizing that I work well with deadlines as far as song-writing is concerned, but when left to an organic process, the length of time it takes me to write a song depends on how inspired I feel when working on the song. When really inspired, I can finish a song even in a couple of hours, however some songs take weeks, months and a few have even taken years. I tend to write songs based on the way I am feeling, so when the feeling abounds, inspiration flows and writing is really easy. Also, having access to a musical instrument speeds up the process for me, and I reckon if I had the luxury of jamming with a band more often, I might write even more songs a lot quicker.
Home or US, where is your biggest fan base?
That’s a really tough one to answer since I haven’t been wholly pursuing a career in music in either location. I’ve mostly been doing music part-time in both countries and kind of focusing mainly on finishing my studies. That said, it seems pretty evenly spread to me. However, I desire to build a bigger following in Uganda and Africa considering that it is the audience I care most about and also because I would like to settle in Africa.
Looking back from where you started and where you are now, are you there yet?
I definitely am beyond where I ever dreamed I would be, but as I reach my dreams, I develop much higher ambitions. God has been so faithful as to exceed my expectations and grant me dreams beyond my imaginations, so now I just keep dreaming bigger. So, looking at the dreams I currently have, I have barely scratched the surface of where I want to be. And that is really exciting!
When you are playing your guitar, it looks like you have an attachment to it. What is music to you?
Music is my best friend- we’ve been together for as long as I can remember. And because of the musical history I share with my family, the guitar for me, is so much more than a musical instrument. Multiple members of my family have played the guitar over the years, and so its come to serve in my life as a reminder of my heritage. The guitar for me is a symbol of love and family, and a reminder to live a life of worship. So when I hold my guitar, in many ways it feels like I am carrying my family with me. And that is probably why I seem to have a strong attachment to guitar in my music.
You have been silent for over five months now. What can your lovers be expecting any time soon?
I decided to prioritize my education especially since I was so close to completing my studies, so I’ve been focusing more on school the past couple of months so I can return home. It’s been really important to me that I finish school since I recognize the value of higher education. There’s a misconception that musicians can just drop-out of school, and I strongly disagree with that. I think completing one’s education really enhances what one has to offer, regardless of the field, an especially within the Arts. That said, because music is a huge part of my life, inevitably I’ve been writing music on the side as well as singing with the Hillsong Church Choir in New York. Now that I have finished with school, I am really excited to share with all of you all the music I’ve been working on behind the scenes. I think it’s been nice to have a break to grow and nurture my sound even more. Also I’ve had a chance to do some soul-searching and reconnecting with values that I will need for where I am going. So hold on tight and look forward to some new music real soon!
Who is that one person who has been at the forefront of your success as a musician?
Because I’ve had a lot of support, from my family, friends and my Music Management, this is a really tough one to answer.. I’d really like to point them all out because they have been key to my success, but since you need me to pick one person, I’ll have to take a moment to honor my brother. He has listened to literally every single song that I’ve written and he is one person I can absolutely count on for honest criticism. Because we are the same age, and have shared pretty much the same history, I can count on him to understand me best. I send him everything I write before I forward it to anyone else and I usually trust his opinion since he understands my style and knows me better than most people. Also because he has supported me right from the start, I can count on his opinion and completely trust his intentions towards me.
What has been your best moment so far as a songbird?
My best moment was probably the first time I heard my debut single “Stay” play on radio in Uganda for the very first time. I remember waking up early that morning to hear the breakfast show hosts at Magic 100 debut my song and say really lovely things about it. It felt like a dream! I stood in my parent’s bedroom and listened in such a blissful trance, much like a child taking in their very first ice-cream experience. It was truly magical and I’ll cherish that moment forever.
Any worst moments?
There are no specific moments that I can point to as my worst in my career journey so far, but I can definitely think of some moments when I have doubted my dreams and questioned what I have to offer as a musician. And those have been my lowest moments. Music is such a big part of my life that for me to question whether or not I should be doing it takes a huge toll on me. Thankfully connecting deeper with God has given me a new found confidence and sense of purpose in my gifts.
Which famous musician(s) do you admire? And why?
There are so many great musicians that I admire for various reasons but I’ll highlight two for now: I have a lot of admiration for the Hillsong United and Third Day. This is for many reasons including how hard and skillfully they work to create cutting edge and beautiful music; as well as how powerful their music is. I think there’s nothing more amazing than worship music that ushers people into encountering the presence of a Supernatural God. I am fascinated by music that stirs the presence of Holy Spirit and literally frees people from bondages and gives them encounter with a Sovereign and Supernatural God. Listening to both their music has been changing my life and I am finding such freedom and fulfillment in praising and worshipping a Being that actually deserves it. I’ve had the privilege of experiencing God’s presence and finding real peace and strength through rough seasons while listening to some of their songs, and I think there’s nothing greater than creating music that is so much bigger than just feel-good music: music that can actually bring hope to people. I desire to do that too- to alter lives for the better! Another thing about both bands is in spite of the awards they hold, the genuineness and humility of their members is incredible. I’ve had the honor of meeting both band leaders and can testify that there’s probably no better illustration of true great people, than such influential and gifted yet extremely down-to-earth, love-filled and servant-hearted musicians who strive to walk their talk.
How do you balance music with other obligations like family, friends and fans?
Because my music is very precious to me, I tend to want to put everything else second to it, so this has been a struggle for me to find a balance. However, over this past season of my life I’ve been finding a new balance. I think what’s been helping me is realizing what my greatest treasures are, and becoming more aware of the immeasurable value of family and friends. Realistically speaking, fans come and go, and the pain of losing them might be great, but my family and friends have been there from the start and I can’t imagine surviving the grief of losing them for something so temporary, so I realize that I need to put them first. We all come out of a family of some kind, and in spite of our family’s imperfections, there is tremendous value on family. Without my family, I wouldn’t exist to even have this career to begin with so it rages against wisdom to think that I should pick my career over them. Thankfully I don’t have to choose, since my family actually supports my career ambitions and in any case only guides me in ways they believe will advance my career. That said, someone once said to me that if anyone was playing my music it was because they are my friend, so I honestly look at my fans as an extension of my family and friends so it all works out in the end. However if the opportunity ever does present itself, I would like to be able to choose to honor my family and friends over anything else.
What challenges do you face as a musician based in New York?
The major challenges for me have been being a full-time student with no income, and being so far away from Uganda since my main desire has been to build a music career based in my home country. Other than that, the city has been incredible- There’s just SO much to learn and draw inspiration from that I am really grateful for the opportunity I’ve had.
Where do you see yourself and your beautiful music five years from now?
Well that is quite a sight to behold! Five years from now, God-willing, I see myself dominating the African music and film industry, whilst mentoring Africa and what I believe will be the world’s next big musicians. I really believe that African music is not just the future, but is actually NOW, and we need to put our best foot forward and get in position to run the game. So in five years, I would like to be a stabilized household name working with peer and newer acts not only to alter the image of Africa to the world as well as fellow Africans, but also to bring positive change to our planet.
Ugandan music has always been criticized for not making it to the international scene for lack of creativity. What do you think is the cause of this?
I’ve been trying to figure this out for some time now, especially because I’m on the scene now too. (I think its easy to criticize something from a distance but once you step into it, you’re able to take ownership of flaws and understand them better.) One thing that I’m becoming more aware of is that our greatest weakness mainly lies in our songwriting. We have outstanding instrumentalist and vocalists but for the most part, we seem to fail when it comes to competitive song-writing. Perhaps this can be blamed on how we tend to recycle the same sounds over and over again. It seems that when we hear something that works, we often almost simply “copy and paste” those ideas without making any major creative changes to melodies and structure. So that breeds the lack of originality that we often get criticised for. There seem to be fewer cases of originality in our sound and that’s where I think we really fail. Being aware of this, I’m trying to be conscious of this as I work, and I see many other musicians breaking this mold by boldly stepping out with different sounds and I really like that. We have grown SO much as an industry and I am very grateful for those who have gone before me and raised the standards as well as paved the way for the Ugandan Music Industry to aspire to even greater heights.
Your hairstyle, it is rather remarkable. Any particular connection to it?
Thank you! My hairstyle is a means of my creative expression and serves as a reminder to me, to live boldly and not to be afraid to be different or stand out. I first had the idea to have multi-colored braids over 7 years ago and when I first did it then, a lot of people thought it was a terrible idea but then ended up liking it. Turns out it worked and I liked it too, so I started wearing my hair like that. I took a break from it when I moved to New York and was afraid to stand out, but a two years ago, I realized that I needed to gain my confidence again so I brought the colors back. Now I get a lot of positive feedback and find that my hairstyle inspires others to be bold and embrace their creativity and uniqueness.
What advice could you give to a girl who wants to be a musician like you?
I would say that you need to trust what God has put inside of you.Find security in Him and know that you have something unique and precious to offer. If He has given you a gift for making music, you need to embrace that and be confident in it. Don’t doubt what you have to offer, and don’t hide your light because you’re meant to shine it: Let your light shine bright so you can lead others to freedom! I also deeply desire, especially for female musicians, that we will rise up to defy the seeming norm that female musicians have to sell sex appeal in order to be successful in the music industry! So take care not to objectify yourself as you sell your music. I desire to show other aspiring female musicians that they can honor their bodies and still excel in the industry, but I’d like to invite other female musicians to join me in this. So I guess what I really want to say to any girl that wants to be like me is, set standards for yourself and have non-negotiable in your career. Remember that where there is a will there is a way so you don’t have to conform to the standards if they are lower than what you set for yourself. Realize that as musicians, we have a lot of power to influence our cultures so let’s seek to influence it for the better. Also, make sure you have a great support system and keep your fuel tank full to sustain the fire in you! No man is an island, so surround yourself with dream-builders so you won’t back down even when the storms come. And please steward your gifts well, nurture your talents: practice, seek to learn more, watch and listen to those who have gone before you so you can accomplish even greater things. DON’T SEEK TO BE LIKE ME, SEEK TO BE BETTER THAN ME!!! The stars are only the beginning. Listen to God and let Him direct you. There’s no better person to seek guidance on how to use a product to its fullest potential than its manufacturer, so have God guide you and direct your path as you pursue your dreams if you want to soar. Follow His lead, and believe me, your mind will be blown!! He really is amazing, and the people He will bring your way will be more amazing than any contacts you could ever have gathered on your own. Work hard and smart; but stay humble, love and serve! Remember, there’s an indescribable peace that comes from knowing that God has got you, which drives away any sense of insecurity and jealousy. In knowing Him, you’ll realise that there’s room for all and you’ll actually desire the best for others and be freed to root for other. And that will give you such immeasurable joy in your journey to the successful career you desire. I realize that’s a long essay haha but I really wanna share with you all the things I wish I was aware of sooner. I love you and wish you the best!!
Is there anything you want to share with our readers? Any last words?
Yes. THANK YOU!! Thank you sincerely for all your support and for following my music and career so far. It’s really just the beginning so for those who are encountering me for the first time, I look forward to having you join me on this journey. I strongly believe that great things lie ahead and we each have A LOT to offer our planet, so please connect with your purpose and let’s SHINE our light to the ends of the earth and leave this world a better place than we found it. Keep loving and dreaming and lets never stop serving one another! And lastly, I’d like to leave you with a quote that inspires me: “To be the best in the world is competition, to be the best for the world is loving.” I hope we choose LOVE! Oceans of Love to all, Amaru
How This Group of Young Men is Creating Employment Through Art and Craft
BY MARVIN MUTYABA
A group of 6 youths in Makindye has embarked on a life changing journey, turning their passions and skills into a profitable business.
After attending a crafts exhibition at the National Theatre in 2015, these friends were inspired by the attractive crafts on display to start their own workshop making and selling crafts.
“We talked to Mr. Muwembo, the craftsman who was showcasing his work. He offered to give us training as we worked for him. His workshop was in Kanyanya so we used to come from Makindye every day to Kanyanya. It took us over a year to master how wood craft is done,” said Mark.
While at this apprenticeship, these young men started making their own pieces which they sold, using the profit to purchase their own equipment.
“We had a strategy. Every month we had to buy equipment. After a year, we had developed skills and were able to start our own workshop,” said Malakai, one of the proprietors of the workshop. “To start any business, it needs commitment, passion, and ready to take risks, consistency and involvement.”
In 2016, these committed youth started their workshop on a small piece of land given to them by Malakai’s father at Lukuli, Nanganda.
“After two months, KCCA came and demolished our workshop saying that they wanted only built up structures on the main road. Even all our equipment and materials were taken. We went back to zero and all our savings had been used to buy these things,” narrates Mark. “We visited KCCA offices several times trying to see if we could recover the materials. We had lost wood, vanish, paints and tools like small axes, carving tools, pry bars, clamps, hammers and marking tools. We never got any back so we gave up on them”
As a result, their work was put on a standstill for some time. This was a very big set back to their dream of building a very big craft shop. Their next challenge was getting another location.
“Towards the end of 2016, KCCA advertised a funding opportunity for the youths who had business ideas and also those that had running businesses. We wrote a proposal but this took a while and we never not get any feedback.”
Desperate for capital to start over, they sought loans from their parents to no luck. Only Abdul’s parents supported them with a small loan that wasn’t sufficient to cover the cost of materials and new equipment.
“During that time, there was a road construction project. we asked for jobs and worked there for 6 months. We saved all our money and rented a small piece of land where we put up a workshop. This time it was not on the main road. We started working again and lucky enough, we had market from our time at Muwembo”s workshop,” narrates Mark.
Due to their hard work, these six young men have managed to create jobs and employ more eleven young people who distribute and take on other tasks like filing, shaping, chiseling, painting among others. The group is constructing a workshop and a showroom on the main road in Lukuli. By next year, they believe, the workshop will be done.
“Basing on the current situation in the country, we are able to earn a living and also employ other people,” says Abdul.
When asked about their goals, this inseparable team wants to have at least 100 employees by the end of next year and also start exporting their craft. They encourage their fellow Ugandans to follow their passion and find a way of earning from it.
*This is a guest post by MARVIN MUTYABA, a student at Makerere University Business School, currently pursuing a Business Administration in his second year. He is passionate about entrepreneurship, skills development and fitness.
How Kasule Is Changing The Lives Of Children Of Prisoners One By One
BY SHANINE AHIMBISIBWE
Jimmy Kasule Chan is a 29-year-old man who has dedicated his life to supporting the children of prisoners in Uganda. With over sixteen children from twelve families in his programme today, he is working towards his vision of a prosperous future for the children of Ugandan prisoners.
His desire to change the lives of prisoner’s children was awakened in 2012 when he was wrongfully detained at the Harare remand centre in Zimbabwe for six months.
“My friend had told me to go with him to South Africa for work. When we got there, things were very tight and we decided to come back home after two weeks with some electronics for sale. We thought this could be our business. On our way, we had to go through Harare but we did not have some stamps in our passports. Because Uganda does not have an embassy in Zimbabwe, we had gone through the Tanzanian embassy but the people at the border could not understand this. We were taken to Interpol and on getting there, we were arrested for Border Jump. We were detained in Harare remand centre for 6 months without having any real contact with anyone. There were 12 Ugandans in total” he narrated. “My wife was seven months pregnant at that time and I kept thinking, what if I never go back to Uganda? Who will help my child? I resolved to help children of prisoners if I ever got out of this prison.”
Jimmy described his time as a prisoner in a foreign country as horrific and inhumane, with poor feeding and little to no medical care.
“It was terrible. The food was the worst and sometimes not cooked properly in fact, people used to get sick all the time. One Ugandan died from a stomach infection. We used to eat something called “Chingwa”, that tasted like spoilt bread. Winter was the worst because we were given these thin blankets and no mattress.”
With the tireless help of his wife, jimmy was released from Harare remand centre in 2012 and on getting back to Uganda, the first thing he did was to get a job that would give him the funds to support these children.
“A friend introduced me to a gentleman who gave me his car for business. I used to transport people most especially tourists and pay him UGX 300,000 every week. I got a very nice client called Mona, who I found out was the president of Children of prisoners, Sweden. After she left, I sent her an email asking for a meeting and she agreed to meet me. I told her about my vision and she seemed very excited about it. She was happy to meet someone who shared her vision.”
A few months later, Mona asked Jimmy to visit one of the children her organization sponsored, Chrispus, at his school.
“When I visited him, he was excited that a stranger could come to see him. I kept visiting him on Visiting Days. He told me about his father who had been serving a long sentence in Luzira. I went to visit him and I asked him to introduce me to other people in the prison who I could talk to. I met people who would directed me to their families now my wife and I go to visit them and take for them some things.”
For four years now, Jimmy has conducted monthly visits to families of prisoners and has taken on the guardianship of Chrispus, who he regards as his first born. He also hosts an annual Christmas party for the children where he invites other children from the neighbourhood to make merry and meet father Christmas.
Jimmy believes that children, more so whose parents have been imprisoned, need to be loved and cared for so they do not find the need to commit any crimes and end up in prisons as well.
Would you like to support children of prisoners or volunteer on family visits? Please call/text Jimmy on 0774739500 or send him an email at email@example.com
Turning Rubbish into Money In The Fight Against Unemployment
BY: MARVIN MUTYABA
Meet Calvin Matovu, a twenty-five-year old graduate from Makerere University who recycles wastes and rubbish into charcoal.
After attaining a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental science in 2013, Calvin searched for a job in vain. His life started becoming difficult as he had no source of income and he found it senseless to finish university and sit at idly at home.
In the struggle to fight unemployment, Calvin harnessed the idea of collecting wastes and rubbish from the community with his friends, to make some money.
“I asked myself, all this waste we collect and KCCA burns, can’t we reproduce a product out of it?’ Basing on my knowledge from campus, I came up with the idea of recycling wastes into charcoal.” Says Calvin at his factory in Erisa zone, Kyebando.
He set his plan in motion by gathering jobless youths in his community to create employment for themselves. Calvin and his team of seven started reusing wastes, especially organic wastes from agricultural products for example peelings from matooke. These are mixed with ash, clay, carbon and water to make a final product.
“At first we did not have market because people were already using charcoal from firewood with no clue about charcoal from wastes.” He says.
The idea of reusing garbage to make charcoal seems so unrealistic until he breaks down the process through which waste can be made useful and environment friendly.
“The raw materials include banana peelings, paper, clay, cow dung, cassava flour basing on your income level for example one can use clay or cow dung or cassava flour. The machines used are: a charring drum, crushing machine and a stick briquette machine. Peelings are collected and dried then sorted and grinded. Then they are burnt and put into the charring drum. The binder, which can be either cassava porridge, clay or cow dung is added to the wastes mix and the mixture is then poured into the briquette machine. the last step is to dry the briquettes to produce charcoal. This is done in the drying rack.”
Calvin and his team have faced a number of challenges but this has not stopped them from going further.
“In the beginning, we used our hands to mould the charcoal which was very tiresome and it left our hands spoilt with dead skin in the palms. Our quality also wasn’t that good. The market too was very low but we never gave up.”
“Use what surrounds you” is a common saying that we often do not give attention too, but instead, we keep asking our leaders for help yet what’s surrounds us can be very useful in our daily life.
Basic principles of Physics state that “Effort + Load = Work done.” Calvin’s hard work and desire to see his brilliant idea boom led him to overcome all the challenges that he and his team met. After months of several dynamics, critics and mental exhaustion, the season ended and he harvested fruits from his tree. Schools and some small companies started making orders for his charcoal. He has since received support from KCCA in form of a a manual machine that ended the hands era.
Calvin Matovu now he employs twenty young people from his own community in Kyebando. The charcoal briquettes they manufacture cost UGX 1500 and last for over seven hours, which minimizes the daily costs also reducing demand for firewood.
“Anyone can do this anywhere at any time.” He says in conclusion. “Every person should base on talent at least 50% of their daily economic activities.”
This is a guest post by MARVIN MUTYABA, a student at Makerere University Business School, currently pursuing a Business Administration in his second year. He is passionate about entrepreneurship, skills development and fitness.
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