Uganda’s entertainment industry has over the years seen improvement in all area including audio production, video concepts, fashion, cameras as well as color. Despite that progress, many local videos have failed to hit the international market however good they might be.
Currently, the video industry has more than 50 prominent producers and directors including Kim XP, Sasha Vybes, Darlington, Lukyamuzi Bashir, Marvin Musoke, Great Mike and Zyga Phix. Despite their quality, some of the famous local artist like Bebe Cool, Sheebah, Ykee Benda tend to go for foreign producers such as God Father (South Africa), Teekay (Nigeria), JBlessing (Kenya) and Clearance Peter (Nigeria). The main reason they give is to hit the international market.
Some local producers and directors think the artistes’ reason is based more on a misconception – that there is enough local capacity to produce videos of international standard due to advancements in technology. Darlington of 01 Media is the director behind many successful projects including Beera Nange by Sheeba and Kutama by Fik Fameica. He says local producers are competing favourably with their international counterparts, with some of them getting nominated for international awards including AFRIMA and MTV.
Darlington says that many artistes simply undermine the work of local producers.
“Some artistes think that working with international video director will make them go international. We can do it. Kisasi Kimu by Sheeba is now the only Ugandan music video nominated in the MTV Awards, but it was produced by Sasha Vybes,” Darlington says.
He says that the main reason why videos produced outside Uganda may look better is not that local producers do not do a good job, it is artistes who are not willing to give local producers sufficient money.
“Artists are very funny. They can spend over UGX 80 million when working with an international video director but when it comes to a local director they have a budget for just UGX 5m. And they want something better,” he says. “We always try to do the best with the little in order to produce good videos – sometimes these cannot be as good as those produced with good budgets.”
Zyga Phix of the Makindye based Virtual Media, and the director behind projects like Akkuse by sheeba, Nkalabuka by Agent and Tukyankalanye gwanga by Beckie 256 says that some artistes go in for international video directors to try fulfilling their dreams.
“Dreaming is for everyone. Sometimes when an artiste is still young they dream of doing collabos with international stars, producing videos with the best directors, and that is simply every artiste’s dream though many can’t afford,” Phix says.
Dreams aside, Phix says that some artistes just want to show off that they work with international directors.
“They go to the extent of lying to us how expensive their videos are. But once these projects fail to work they don’t go back. For example Bebe Cool. He did Love You Every Day with Clearance Peter; his video was appreciated and went viral. He then went back and did African Girl, and basing on the quality and print of this video, African girl was more expensive but people never appreciated it and Bebe has never gone back to Clearance Peter,” Phix.
Zyga says many Ugandan artistes like to produce quality video but they are financially constrained.
“The bigger the budget, the nicer the video, but many artistes do not have money to invest in them. Ugandan artists are poor because of their government. We do not for example have a copyright law which could at least help them earn from their music. Their music is played everywhere in bars, clubs, radios, television and artists are not paid for that, the only platform that pays musician genuinely is caller tunes,” Zyga says.
Zyga adds that the production challenge is harder with young or artistes without managers. “These are very difficult to work with. They always have little money to invest in the video but want their videos to look like that of Rihana or Beyonce.”
Ykee Benda, famous today for his songs Malaika, Munnakampala, Kyenkyebula, Superman among others, says producing a video with an international director has always been his dream and that he would do it again and again.
“Before any artist becomes a star we all dream of doing certain things but the limiting factor is always fame and money. Some dreams could be simple and others crazy. It doesn’t kill to go crazy some times,’’ he says.
“It is not that artistes do not appreciate local directors. Putting the quality of work aside, I felt like the biggest star in Uganda standing in front of God father. I couldn’t stop taking selfies and posting about every moment there. The quality of work I was to get was not on the list of my worries, but working with him was my best experience ever,” he adds
Showbiz is about many things – even hiring a foreign director just for the sake of it can pass. What is clear is that Ugandan video directors can do what others do, even better.