Viva Riva! This Congolese Movie is Vivacious all the way

Viva Riva

Viva Riva! makes good on its promise of sex, oil and scandal. The Congolese film noir written and directed by Djo Munga has been racking up awards at international film festivals with Time Out New York calling it “one of the best neo-noirs from anywhere in recent memory”. The film is showing at Cineplex Cinema, Garden City and for more insights into the mind of it’s first-time director, this interview by This is Africa tells more about Djo Munga.

TIA: What inspired you to make Viva Riva?

DM: I wanted to make a film that would allow me to talk about the reality of Kinshasa, and at the same time be entertaining, but I didn’t want to do it through social-realism, the typical documentary-like style of filming when trying to “capture” Africa, because that can be boring. I wanted to communicate to the masses. Culturally speaking, the Congolese — and black people in general — we have a need for cultural products that represent us in ways we can be proud of while remaining entertaining. This doesn’t mean I want to make films that ignore the problems; that’s not the case. I just wanted to experiment; I wanted to make a hugely entertaining film that could also reflect the last 20 years of Kinshasa’s history.

TIA: I notice that African filmmakers can feel pressured to make films that are politically charged or socially engaged. Did you feel that pressure?

DM: Well, I don’t see it as a pressure. I think it’s necessary at this stage in our history, as Congolese and Africans, to have a political point of view. There are some important issues that we should talk about, and it’s perfectly normal to talk about them, but I think the way we talk about these issues is also very important. In other words, the form the message takes to reach the audience is important. The way I see it, knowing the level of literacy in the Congo, you can’t as a filmmaker go, “I’m going to make a film about this complex situation and if people don’t get it that’s their problem.” 

I was inspired by what Latin American writers did many years ago. I remember a guy by the name of Eduardo Galeano; he wrote the book… I forgot the title in English but you can check it, Les Veines Ouvertes de l’Amerique Latine (Open Veins of Latin America) and actually he was explaining the history of Latin America, but he did it as a soap opera to make it easy for people to understand and to be entertained. When I read that book as a student, I was like wow!, maybe this is the way we should do it. We need to find ways to reach the masses when talking about important issues, and you can do this while being entertaining.

TIA: I hear that most of the actors in Viva Riva! weren’t professionally trained. What was the rehearsal and casting process like?

DM: In Kinshasa, like in many poor countries, you have a lot of artists – I mean people who are doing what they do for the love of it; it’s the meaning of their lives, and they don’t do it for the money or for whatever reason. So in the misery of Congo we have a kind of luxury to have all these artists available and ready to work. So I said to these guys, “You have a lot of talent and you are good at what you do, but let’s go into a workshop where you will learn the techniques of working with the camera, and of working in film. And they came and worked for two months, you know, just discovering their bodies and how to work with the camera, etc. And after that, we stopped for a year — I mean I sent them back to their daily lives and they came back the next year for production. Then they started to work with an acting coach in terms of developing their characters and [learning] how to get deep into a script. After two months of this, we started rehearsing. I gave them the script, and they rehearsed every day, maybe like three hours every morning. So yeah, it was a real pleasure. It didn’t feel like work, to tell you the truth. We had a lot of fun…I think (laughs).

TIA: I think most creative works reflect the artist in some way. If I am right, how do you personally relate to the characters of the film?

DM: (Laughs). That’s a tricky question. Well, I relate to many of them, so it’s difficult to say which one is closest to me because all of them are a part of me in a way. So I can see how “the commander” was more or less like a tyrant, but suddenly she was stuck in a situation and she started to change and then she becomes someone else — that happens to all of us. 
And with Riva, I can see also the way he avoids facing problems, and how his family’s problems are like mine. So all of them are like me in some ways. I think the way I write stories, I mean because I have many characters, is a way of putting yourself in various situations and trying to be as true as possible to the character and different situations.

TIA: The film has been traveling the festival circuit for a while now. Where are some of the places it’s screened?

DM: All over the world, more or less. We showed it in Kinshasa first as a test, then we screened it at the Toronto Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, at festivals in Austin, Texas, France, England, Ireland and Hong Kong. It was very surprising that the film sold out in Hong Kong. This says something, actually, because we often think that China’s too far from us, and I thought they might say this is not for us. But why should they say that? People are interested in stories, no matter where they’re from. So for me, it was very good screening in Hong Kong. I was really amazed by the audience – they were really warm, they liked the film, and I had a really exciting interaction with them afterwards, so I was really happy; I was really pleased with the audience.

TIA:  So are you surprised with all the positive reviews that your film has earned? 

DM: Totally, totally surprised. Look at it from this point of view: I studied in Europe, in film school, so from the European point of view, you have this sense that, well, America is only interested in American films which is basically Hollywood and maybe some independent films, and that the rest of the world really doesn’t exist and Africa exists even less. That’s the point of view we had. But then the film was shown at the Toronto Film Festival and an American distributor was the first to buy the film and actually, the film’s first theatrical release [in the States] will be in New York, which is a sign really, a really big sign that maybe I was wrong to think the way I did. I mean since September, when the film opened in Toronto, it went really deep into my mind – I was thinking what does that mean to me now? It also broadened my vision of America: So “Okay, we like your film,” so I’m welcome.

They took this film as they would a French film with Catherine Deneuve; I mean, she’s a bigger actress but still, it says something. Also, as a black person, it says something that I don’t have the feeling of [being] a sellout or someone who made a film just for Westerners. I feel like I’m just a filmmaker who made a film that people enjoyed. So it was definitely a big surprise, and that surprise was confirmed at the SXSW Film Festival and also yesterday, when I came to Baltimore, by the reception I got. So yeah, all the positive reviews have been a big surprise, a really big surprise.

TIA: It seems like our cultural backgrounds often influence the ways in which we interact with films. How has the reception been different in different parts of the world?

DM: African audiences loved it, at least in Congo; it was a big thing. But I was surprised that people [at film festivals] in America found the film violent. There were a lot of comments about that. I was surprised because they have all these action movies and TV shows on American TV. So there must be a reason why they find the film violent. I think maybe it’s because of the way the film is shot – it’s a bit different from the films they’re used to seeing. It’s not shot like a documentary but I think it takes you close to the characters the way a documentary takes you close to real people, so they get into the story more and feel the violence a bit more. 

In Hong Kong, they said the same thing. They said we are used to Chinese action movies, but we know they’re not real. But in Europe they didn’t say that. They felt it was different, so those are the type of reactions I received. 

Africans didn’t comment on the violence at all. Maybe because part of it was reality, I don’t know, but the African critics and journalists have been very, very supportive of the film – especially Nigerians. They feel that maybe this film is a change or offers a possibility for change for the industry in the future. I hope it will. And I’m really happy about it.

TIA: One of the recurrent criticisms of the film is that it portrays African women in negative, stereotypical ways. How do you respond to that?
DM: Well, some have said “he portrays women in a negative perspective,” but others have said I’m a feminist. Of course, I prefer to think of myself as a feminist. 

Women face big problems in our society, especially in Congo, and I think I’ve tried to address these problems through the film’s female characters. Nora, for instance, is a beautiful woman trapped in her world and in a particular life, but with Riva, maybe she has the possibility to escape. Then there’s the commander who is maneuvering in society and tries to be free, but she can’t really, and her friend, Malou, and also the women of GM. It’s like different perspectives on Congolese women I tried to put. I don’t think I was negative in that sense. I tried to look at reality and of course, I could talk about the happy women who just got married and life is fantastic and all that, but in a country that is 167th poorest in the world, life is not easy and especially not for women, so that’s what I tried to show.

TIA: Since this is your first feature film, perhaps it’s too early to talk about legacy. Nonetheless, how would you like to be remembered as a filmmaker? And will all your subsequent films take place in African settings?

DM: Well, if people remember the films I made and the stories I told and enjoyed them, I would be happy. When I think about Sergio Leone, I don’t think about him being Italian – I just think about the great movies he made. Or if I think about Fritz Lang, I don’t think of him as being German or going to the West and then coming back – I just think how great of an artist he was. So I think of myself as an artist, and as an artist I try to do films in different places – which I have done. I shot a documentary in Ireland a long time ago, I’ve had projects in various parts of the world, and it’s important to me that I stick to that.

TIA: So what’s the film industry like in DR Congo?

DM: Nothing. There’s no industry in the classical sense, because when you talk about an industry, it means that there’s a structure, it means there are schools, there are systems in place for raising funds, hiring people, making films, and also finishing the films as in doing post-production work with all these labs and infrastructure to release the films once they’re made in order to recoup your costs. That does not exist; we only have what I call “gunmen”, like me, and various directors. We try to find opportunities to make films, which is basically as tough as robbing a bank, but that’s what we do. But I hope there will be an industry 20 years from now. One part of my work is that I do training programs. I try to help young filmmakers learn their craft, so that one day they can make films themselves.

TIA: What is your advice to aspiring young African filmmakers?

DM: Study. It’s very, very important. I hope I don’t sound too conservative, but still it’s important to be able to read great writers – like James Baldwin, a fantastic writer, Chester Himes, a fantastic writer – they are all very big writers, including African writers like Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka. Those are some of the more famous ones. And also to watch a lot of movies, classical movies. I mean I strongly believe education is the key to development. It’s almost impossible to develop without an education, except for a few people.

TIA: What are some of your future plans?

DM: First I’ll try to survive, which means I’ll try to find a way to make the next film. And making a film is also interacting with the industry. It means having a story and finding partners to invest. You know, I’m just in the business like everybody else, and I’m a small fish. So I’ll see where there’s a possibility for the next film, and I’ll try to do something.

TIA: Who are some actors and directors that you would love to collaborate with?

DM: I think Number One on that list would be Forest Whitaker. If I have the opportunity to work with him, I definitely will. I would also love to maybe adapt a book by someone like Chinua Achebe, or Alain Mabanckou, who is a Congolese writer. I think it would be challenging, and it would be something very interesting to do. I mean if I had the money, I would definitely do it, because I would love to bring his (Mabanckou’s) work to a bigger audience.

TIA: Lastly, what is a common misconception about living in Kinshasa that you would like to dispel?

DM: Misconceptions… I think the biggest one is… I want people to know that Kinshasa is actually a safe place, that most of the Congo is very safe. People refer to the Congo as this heart of darkness and this place where you can’t really live properly, which is not true – not at all true. I think this is the biggest misconception about the Congo.

Interview by Yves-Alec Tambashe

African beauties with no winning purpose

The pre-finale hype surrounding the exploits of our Miss World contestant Sylvia Namugenyi came to nought at the London Sunday November 6 finale. Only a handful of the beauties from 113 countries, the 30 that made it onto the leader board, stood a chance at winning the jewelled tiara crown. Miss Uganda Sylvia Namugenyi was nowhere amongst listed as ace hopefuls in the new marking scheme. Contestants had to aggregate points from a number of pre-finale events that included athletics, swimming and a talent show.

Namugenyi’s Facebook cheerleaders had created the impression that our girl was racking up valuable points to getting a shot at the crown. But the leader board revealed otherwise initially getting all the 113 beauties compete for a Top 30 slot after which these were whittled down to the Top 15 and later the Top 7 from whom the Top 3 were announced to yield the ravishing but non-English-speaking Miss Venezuela Ivian Sarcos as the eventual winner of the crown. Miss Phillipines, arguably the one with the loudest in-house cheerleaders was first runner while Miss Puerto Rico came third.
Namugenyi’s visibility at the Earls Court glitzy event, which had a delayed screening on Citizen TV, was reduced to two fleeting headshots. There was the introductory one at the start when all the contestants’ are revealed according to their nationalities, and a random one after the winner had been announced. The fact that “U” is one of the last letters in the alphabet guaranteed her “front row” visibility. Contestants from the “T-Z” countries were introduced last thereby guaranteeing that they stand at the front every time the 113 beauties appeared at a go.
But it was token participation from Africa yet again in a contest that seems to prefer fairer girls to darker complexioned ones. Angola, Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe had contestants at Miss World 2011.

Only South Africa and Zimbabwe managed Top 15 slots. Miss South Africa was the lone African amongst the Top 7 who made it Q&A segment as part of the 2011 Miss World crème de la crème. Miss Ghana also came away from the contest with tangible results after her “Beauty with a Purpose” project to start an education initiative for Accra’s slum-dweller toddlers got a thumbs-up.
Otherwise for the most part of the two-hour show, it was fairer faces over darker-complexioned ones, something that seemed to lend credence to Miss Uganda 1996 winner Sheba Kerere’s gripe about “racism” at the now 60-year-old beauty showcase. One couldn’t help but notice the cameras seemed to prefer the “white” contestants over the “black” ones even during the highlights cutaways. The isolated moments where the camera locked onto a black contestant, the screen “captions” revealing her nationality were deliberately left out.

Nigeria’s Agbani Darego is the lone Black African to have won Miss World in 2001. She was also the only black person amongst the judging panel at this year’s Diamond Jubilee event. For Miss Uganda, Sylvia Namugenyi, it is either a [post-Miss World] life of oblivion like most of her predecessors or one with a sense of purpose where like Miss Kenya last year she could bring attention to herself by inviting Miss World 2011 over to officiate at an event that celebrates Beauty with a Purpose. Miss Kenya 2010 already beat us to turning jigger eradication into the next celebrity international pastime.

DTF Day 3; Dance Givens and Clichés

It has become a given for dance choreographer Jonas Byaruhanga to shuffle his Keiga Dance Company performers at their annual Dance Transmissions Festival (DTF) appearances. Exclusive To No One featured a new crop of (six) dancers, most of them rookies displaying wet-behind-the-ears contemporary dance talent. Their piece was an indicted on an ivory tower notion at Makerere University, Uganda’s top tertiary institution. It’s the one where students pursuing “nobler” courses like medicine, engineering, law and journalism looked down on their contemporaries pursuing careers in the arts.

“Musiru Ddala Ddala” (vernacular for extremely airheaded) is the stigma those pursuing programmes at the university’s Music, Dance and Drama department have to carry around. In the Keiga piece, the protagonist is a high school boy asserting his desire to be a dancer. The antagonist is the society that forces prospective dancers into more lucrative blue/ white-collar profession represented by the colourful garb and lingua franca synonymous with these so-called noble professions/ occupations.

It’s a tough call for the dancer in a society where the pursuit of a university degree is a rite of passage. Commoditised tertiary education means employment prospects override passion-driven occupations. But Byaruhanga does little to rescue weak dance execution by glossing it over with his superior dance technique. He could as well have done a solo with everyone else as a mere prop. Thankfully, there was renowned Latino dancer Sam Ibanda and So You Think You Can Dance (Holland) contestant Shafique Ssegayi to smooth over the stiff dancing by music video dancers amongst the Keiga pack.
Japan’s Testsuro Fukuhara’s appearances are also becoming a DTF cliché. His choreography is hard to digest for audiences at a nascent dance showcase. He put on a solo piece Space Dance this year. Last year, he literally danced in space, squeezing his portly frame through a [stretch] cloth tunnel hoisted above the audiences’ heads in the auditorium and ending on stage. This year, he came off as a fraud eliciting more conversation about his gender (the bald-headed dancer has a thing for wigs) than his Kung-fu-like routines. But then again it could be that the Butoh technique is not for baby formula audiences that saw it as nothing but a comic display of what dancing at zero gravity may look like. He utilised the entire breadth of the stage all-right but his music grated on the ear.

South Africa’s Mhayise Productions, Dayimanei gave DTF a worthy finale to the three-day festival. The cow-horn formation from Shaka Zulu history comes to mind in this homage to the legacy of the Nguni cattle. The female dancer literally wears cow horns on her arms in this hybrid multimedia dance theatre genre that is set around a cow dip.

A corset worn above a cow skin dress that ends in a tutu; choreography that infuses video projection, recorded soundscapes, music, live percussions and drumming; this male/ female duo was right on the money in enchanting the audience with izibongo, physical theatre and movement within the frame of an African yet contemporary dance theatre performance!

The post-festival conversation should now shift to the sustainability of DTF, which has now anchored itself as one of two showcases for contemporary dance in Uganda. It is a nascent festival, which should strive to create a well-oiled contemporary dance machine despite its glaring funding challenges (much of the support for this year’s festival was in kind). How about Byaruhanga looked at the raw talent on NTV’s Hotsteps Season IV reality dance TV show? After all some of today’s fine [contemporary] dance talent came out of Season I; Rainmark Escriva (a dance tutor in Sweden), Antonio Bukhar Sebuuma; Phillip Buyi now with Tabu-Flo Dance Company and Rosemary Atim.

DTF 2011: The Dance of Silence

“Explorations and Boundaries”, the theme for the 2011 Dance Transmissions Festival, sounded more than just a workshop coinage on Day 2. Tabu-Flo Dance Company’s Gavin Atuhaire and Rosemary Atim stepped out of their mostly Hip-Hop boundary (or comfort zone if you like) to explore the vast (and at times intimidating) world of contemporary dance. There was nothing shaky about The Roller Coaster the duo’s dance commentary on the tumultuous ride that love can be. Their choreography was as formulaic as baby formula, the plot very linear. Man cheats on wife with secretary, man returns home for nookie with wifey but the odd piece of red lingerie gets in the way. Man begs wife for forgiveness and as spouses are wont to be he takes her back.

The dance love triangle was done in 10 minutes but those two are budding [contemporary dance] talent waiting to be plucked.

Nigeria’s Ogunrinola J. Olabayo brought a much-needed dance aesthetic in his Port of No Return. It was inspired by a visit to Senegal’s Goree Island, the last outpost on the West African slave trade route before captured human merchandise was sea-bound. Python movements, wing flaps and occasional yelps peppered Olabayo’s deep choreography. Even his undress into loincloth was done with amazing precision. The soundtrack had thunder and African drums, he made little use of the row of water bottles and putting his head into a bucket was lost on me.

Rwanda’s Amizero Dance Kompagnie brought their A-game in a dance trio titled Les Larmes Noire/ Black Tears. “Three bodies expressing the hunger for freedom, taking you towards their story of pain and tears” the programme notes read. The signature traditional Rwanda wave-like hand movements plus accompanying head twisting made the piece authentic. Sadly for the spirited choreography, the soundtrack- spoken vernacular over a haunting flamenco guitar- eclipsed the imaginative choreography.

Anna Konjetzky opened the night with Abdrucke Folgen 2011, a multimedia solo that saw the audience leave their auditorium seats to encircle the petite dancer on stage. Hers were mostly Pilates-like routines mimicking the dance of silence. The only sound came from her heavy breathing amplified by the wiry microphone pasted onto her face.

South Africa’s Siya-Funeka Dance Company’s solo was movement to a beautifully harmonised anti-apartheid chant. The solo dancer was stretching out his arm as if to shake our hands thrice to which no one in the audience responded. Kenya’s Tuchangamke Productions capped Day 2 with a very contemporary piece. It explored rural urban relations in a duet titled Orudo Na Jua Kali. The female dancer explores the journey at a superficial and societal level while the male dancer explores permeations of urban reality at a personal level with deeper resonance of his environment.

It was too many things happening all at once; the male dancer oscillating between tube-fiddle playing and the female raising audience testosterone levels with a skimpy yellow frock. Eating a hard-boiled egg would have been easier to digest than this piece.

DTF 2011: Crosses and Dances with Death

Day 1 of the 2nd annual Dance Transmissions Festival had six servings of under-20-minute dance performances at Kampala’s National Theatre. Cathy Nakawesa of Beautiful Feet Dance Company opened the showcase with a solo that showed off her dance athleticism. Her stint at Senegal’s Ecole des Sables sure stood her in good stead as she executed Influence, a self-choreographed piece in which she asks; “am I the things that influence me, whether in submission to or revolt against them?” Her principal prop is a piece of cloth she desperately wants to wiggle out of. Nakawesa has the beautiful feet every dancer worth his/her salt should aspire to possess. She seamlessly weaved traditional hip-shaking Bakisimba routines from Buganda and Zulu kicks into one dance sentence, a testimony to her ability to fuse contemporary dance with traditional African movement despite her preference for a Eurocentric classical piano soundtrack.

Youngster Phillip Roy Buyi had the other memorable solo of the night. His piece Imagination had him swinging one arm and leg like a pendulum then progress to gliding on his head and later body-jerking free-styling to a Kwaito beat. He did not have to struggle to prove he was not a one-trick [Hip-hop] dance pony. He was pretty much in control showing off the musicality of his nimble dance body, one that can move to any musical genre thrown at him.
It is not time to write off industry veteran Rogers Masaba either. Insight had him dance around three props, a desk on which he stretched his legs upwards, his hands holding his torso in space, a bench he lifted off the ground with his posterior and a stool he leapt over a couple of times. For the most part, it was paced strides across the stage down to the first row of the auditorium and then back. This was a stage sage telling us through dance motion to stick to the things in life we can perform competently to the soundtrack of raspy jazzy sounds that were not always easy on the ear.

Truth be told, Clay Dance Company had cluttered feet of clay. Tribulation came off as doomsday prophecy dance that bordered on religious fundamentalism! Black black-clad males dragging a bony topless Jesus who is later roped onto a cross. Surrounded by white-clad angels, the now resurrected tunic-clad Jesus triumphs over the black-clad agents of bondage to rescue the wretched beings they had caged. Despite the out-of-sync choreography and dancers crashing into each other half the time, this was dance putty whose enthusiasm should be the joy of any patient choreographer.

The promise of resurrection may be the Biblical quid-pro-quo for believing in Jesus but the sobering reminder in Desire Kenneth Tereka’s Death is Calling was that we had to die first with the [white cross] coffin as our last accessory, one whose colour we do not have the prerogative to choose. Everyone has a dance with death if the group choreography in which the hesitant protagonist and the quartet from Hades that the grim reaper’s bidding was anything to go by. The fact though is we all have to succumb to our mortality at some point if only we could thank the pall bearers that hoist our remains into our final resting place six feet under.

There was not much to take from the weak tea choreography in Ngwanzu, the duet by DR Congo’s Busara Dance Company. It mattered little that the stern teacher and distracted student were identical twins momentarily gyrating to signature Soukouss music. There was contemporary relevance to the subject matter of their piece. Like the heart, smartphones are not so smart after all and are a metaphor for the dissatisfaction that riddles the better part of our lives. DTF II continues at the National Theatre on Saturday (October 22) and Sunday (October 23) at 7pm. Tickets: UGX 10K.


An artsy wreath for Muammar

I took some time off to hold a moment of silence in memory of Colonel Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi. I believe Gaddafi was an artsy fellow who came off as artsy-fartsy. One does not need to look hard for his imprint on the Kampala arts scene. Take the imposing Gadaffi Mosque on the Old Kampala Hill complete with a semi-circular arch and a towering minaret.

Even before it was completed- lying as a shell for a good chunk of the post-Amin era- it looked less of an eyesore compared to its hill-mounted Aya Hotel rival. Religious sentimentality, especially from those that still feel the mosque symbolizes a failed attempt at Islamizing Uganda, has made us fail to appreciate the mosque’s contribution to varying Kampala’s skyline that is mostly dotted by mirrored and tiled high-rise buildings that give our capital city an oversized bathroom feel. Perhaps students of arts history will marvel at its [four] bronze-coloured shimmering domes by day and the mosque’s aesthetically lit exterior on a non-load-shed Kampala night.

Before Tropical African Bank sold out to modern-day banking practice thereby desecrated a prized Kampala art piece, the mural outside the then Libyan Arab Bank at the Kampala Road/ Entebbe Road junction traffic lights was quite a revered tiled tapestry showing various global currencies. Any country with a functioning Arts Council or arts-philes with “balls” would have protested loudly at the installation of ATMs that necessitated destruction of part of the mural. Now that is another indictment on Kampala ever attempting to say vie for Easy African Capital of Culture status. That Gadaffi didn’t have sap in his fingers is well documented.

All those leaders whose AU bills he picked and all those pauper royals whose palaces (Toro’s Karuzika royal abode comes to mind) he refurbished can attest to that. Perhaps he should have paid more attention to turning Tripoli into a cultural hub that that megalomaniacal plan to become Africa’s King of Kings. I recall him flying fashionista Sylvia Owori and her bevy of Miss Uganda/ modelling beauties to Libya for an arts & cultural showcase. Or was that a veiled audition for Muammar’s next legion of voluptuous female bodyguards? Perhaps the literary world will acknowledge his contribution by way of his infamous Green Book. Sales must have spiked it onto a bestseller list now that the “king” is dead.

Uganda Cranes; So Close Yet So Far

“Nigeria is leaving under past glory” were the words of a Guinea official after Guinea drew 2-2 with Nigeria to deny them a berth at next year’s Africa cup of nations. So was the case with Uganda cranes draw with harambee stars. We used our past glory to think we were going to trample over the Kenyans. We failed to realize this was our sternest test in the Africa cup qualifiers. After the match, the Kenyan players claimed our pompous attitude was responsible for their resolute performance.

FUFA’s claim that luck was not on our side makes you wonder how a nation can be tied to bad luck for 33years. I believe luck favours those that prepare well. If the David Obua debacle hadn’t taken place then I would join the chorus of bad luck. It seems FUFA under estimated the repercussion of such a rash decision. This exposed the managerial incompetence at the federation, which has been a long time problem of all past FUFA administrators. If we are going to qualify for next year’s Africa cup of nations we will have to sort out all off the field issues that may affect the team.

Of course we can’t sort out all problems, but the ingenuity with which FUFA deals with such issues is what will matter. When we got a crucial win in Guinea Bissau, We got all bullish and started thinking we had already qualified. I believe that’s where we began losing focus. It seems like every failed Africa cup qualifier campaign, we convince ourselves that we have learnt enough lessons only for another to emerge. One wonders when we shall emerge from this learning stage and delve into the results stage.

Now that Lawrence Mulindwa has vowed to stay at the helm of FUFA, the fans, corporate bodies and journalists have duty to pressurize the governing body to implement drastic changes like youth development which will bring long-term changes and not short-term fixes. The Cranes scoring crisis should be solved at the angle of youth development. Geoffrey Massa’s poor heading, Moses Oloya’s poor first touch are all problems stemming from poor youth development. FUFA needs to engage the corporate bodies to finance youth development in all the age categories. This will ensure a steady conveyor belt of complete players, which will bring about competition for places in the national team.

Apple’s former creative mind Steve jobs once said “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me”. The October 8TH setback can only make us stronger if we prepare and organize a robust team that will compete well with the cream of Africa. The government through the sports ministry needs to put the football governing body task and instead of emerging only when there are wrangles in the football body. The future is bright for Ugandan football, only if all stakeholders are able to graduate from this lesson learning stage to tangible results.

53 Extra: Imitation Fails to Flatter

It is rather odd that DStv can decimate what was initially a continental show into a showbiz PR piece for one country. Studio 53 started off as a showcase of the positive attributes of the African continent beyond the stereotypical clichés of poverty, ignorance and disease. The show, which has since morphed into 53 Extra, now aggressively pushes DStv’s “Naija-cked” agenda where Nigerian cultural imperialism is being pushed down the throats of the rest of the continent.

A recent episode featured 2Face Idibia’s birthday- his musical compatriots P-Square fawning all over the birthday boy, equating him to an African Michael Jackson. It was probably the birthday party liquor talking, Hennessy perhaps which was the focus of the second insert, an all star music video the title sponsors of 53 Extra were bankrolling. Then it was on to putting faces to popular Nigerian radio voices (like the rest of the continent cares about radio talent that lacks the broadcast reach of say BBC, VOA or RFI). The finale was a bland interview about a continentally obscure music mogul Eldee a.k.a. The Don, who would like to extend his production hand by doing “collaboz” with artistes from Uganda.

Only the insert about the launch of Fashion TV Africa had a semblance of a pan-African angle although the possibility of African models and fashion designers showcasing in New York, Paris, Milan, London and Tokyo was not well articulated with show host Dolapo Eni choosing to focus her interview on the couple that runs the Nigerian fashion house Couture Africa. It is a sad commentary on a show that emerged as an offshoot of 2003’s revolutionary Big Brother Africa I in which a team of able TV personalities offered fringe viewing by taking us into the respective countries of the 12 housemates that had been confined to a hedonistic human zoo experience for 106 days. A brainwave hit the “creatives” at DStv and an idea for a continental lifestyle and travel show was birthed. A continental competition to search for a name yielded Studio 53, the digits being the number of African countries at the time before Southern Sudan increased it to 54.

Studio 53’s 2004 debut had former TV Africa Alice Chavundika news anchor as its first presenter. Generations’ Rosie Motene replaced her following a freak motor accident. Our own Gaetano Kaggwa joined Motene as co-host of the then 30-minute show in an on-screen chemistry in which they connected with field presenters that criss-crossed the continent seeking out travel hotspots, palate-teasing cuisine, haute couture, over-achieving Africans and folks that has made a life of themselves in the Diaspora. Those 300 episodes shot over five years continue to rank amongst the gold standard of great television, the continental armchair joyride they provided notwithstanding.

As subscribers whose stake in Africa’s premier pay-TV company is the fact that we pay top-dollar for more than just a crisp satellite digital signal (if only our screens didn’t post an error message every time it rained) and mp3-quality audio every month, it is time to demand for our pound of quid-pro-quo flesh. Nigeria may be a cash cow with 150-million reasons for DStv to suck up to them by way of all manner of tailor-made programming a la Naija Sings, Moments With Mo, Tinsel, Nigezie. But it is just one piece of the 54 African-nation pie despite holding a sixth of the continent’s billion-strong population. Studio 53 should be a CSR token from DStv to the rest of the continent. There is so much in a name for 53 Extra to continue masquerading as  a side-bar to the original. Not that it would smell sweeter if it were say Studio Naija/Nigezie/whatever.

91.3FM’s Flavia joins Channel O

Capital FM presenter Flavia Tumusiime is among a new bunch of Channel O VJ’s whose brief is to give viewers a peek at the different cultures and spaces within Africa. They will also be required to show how African music and musicians are reshaping the entertainment arena and standing up for recognition. The VJs will be going behind-the-scenes and giving viewers a wider picture of what goes on in the music and entertainment world that is rapidly growing in Africa as well as internationally. Viewers can look forward to coverage of events like countries’ Independence Day celebrations, interviews of who’s who of the African entertainment circuit , red carpet events and vox-pops of the man/ woman on the street about the fast-growing African musical talent.

Flavia, a 23-year old university graduate is also the current host of the Guinness Football Challenge. “My passion is in television, it’s where I feel my best,” says Flavia who cut her screen teeth as a presenter on WBS TV’s Teens Club. Whereas her most of her contemporaries at the time disappeared into the sunset, Flavia went on to try her hand at radio and hosts the weekday mid-morning show from 10am to 3pm on 91.3 Capital FM. She bounced back on TV as a replacement for Karitas Karisimbi on the lifestyle show K-Files (WBS TV, Wednesdays 8.30pm) when the show’s host took maternity leave. Flavia’s other new Channel O peers are Nigeria’s Edun ‘Denrele’ Olufemi (28)- host of Glo Naija Sings (28), Tanzania’s Jokate Mwegelo- a model and film actress, Kenya’s Joey Muthengi (26)- a radio presenter and TV actress, Ghana’s Stefen ‘J.Town’ Menson (27)- a recording artist and South Africa’s Maya Wegerif (19)- an intern at Channel O.

Channel O Africa’s [Ugandan-born] Manager, Leslie ‘Lee’ Kasumba says choosing this young talent will see Channel O further embracing the music loving population within the continent. “Each one of these VJ’s is awesome in their own right. Not only do they have a fundamental love for their country and music from their countries too. They also have a love for what is happening around them and can see African Urban music in the global space, which is exactly what Channel O Africa is about. They are passionate, hardworking individuals and as a team, they will take Channel O Africa to new levels,” says Kasumba.

Channel O launched as a 24-hour music outlet in 1997 but has of late lost some of its shine to competitors like MTV base and regional copycats like EATV and Sound City that mostly mostly East African and Nigerian hits respectively. It had thinned out presenter-format shows preferring to play [country and genre-specific] music back-to-back. The channel’s VJ announcement could be a desperate attempt at wooing back continental viewers who had shunned it for favouring music video works from one country.

Qwela, Ndere for 2012 Zanzibar Fest

Qwela and Ndere Troupe will fly Uganda’s cultural flag at the 2012 Sauti za Busara East African Music festival in Zanzibar. The music showcase is East Africa’s premier cultural event and is also a well-patronised cultural tourism activity. Next year’s event will be the ninth and takes place from February 8-12, 2012 in Stone Town, the idyllic island’s crown tourism jewel.

Other artistes that will grace the festival include Super Mazembe (DRC / Kenya) Ally Kiba (Tanzania) Nneka (Nigeria)  Tumi & The Volume (South Africa)  Ary Morais (Cape Verde)  Companhia Nacional de Canto e Danca (Mozambique)  and EJ von Lyrik (South Africa). Organisers require artistes to perform 100% live and the festival attracts 400 musicians from 40 groups. Half of the festival bill is from Tanzania while artistes from the rest of Africa and beyond comprise the other half. The musicians -established and upcoming- are drawn from multiple genres that include urban and rural, acoustic and electric.

The opening night of the festival extravaganza kicks off with a carnival street parade snaking through Zanzibar’s historic narrow streets ending at the principal venue at the Old Fort. It comprises a “beni” brass band, ngoma drummers, mwanandege umbrella women, stilt-walkers, capoeira dancers and acrobats. The main event then kicks off from 5pm till 1am each day for five straight days!

The island also buzzes with a range of parallel fringe events aptly called Busara Xtra festival also boasts a parallel “fringe” programme that includes screenings of music-themed African films like documentaries, music clips, videos and live concert footage. “Swahili Encounters” offers visiting artistes to collaborate with local musicians to re-interpret Swahili songs and present them on the main stage. Artistes can also benefit from the networking opportunities during the “Movers & Shakers” segment, which offers a daily networking forum for local and visiting arts professionals. There are also seminars and training workshops aimed at building skills for artists, managers, music journalists, filmmakers, sound and lighting technicians from the East Africa region coupled with fashion shows, dhow races, open-mic sessions, after-parties and open rehearsals of Zanzibar’s oldest taarab orchestras all arranged by the community. Local food and drinks, music, jewellery, clothing and handicrafts are close by in the festival marketplace.

“Festivals invigorate young people’s interest in local culture, give opportunities for artists and music professionals to meet and learn from each other, keep traditions alive, create employment for local people and promote Zanzibar as a model for responsible tourism – that honours and respects local culture,” says Festival Director, Yusuf Mahmoud, Festival Director. You cans sure take his word for it on this one.