• Oct 17, 2021 . 3 min Read
  • How Gulu City has changed the face of music and the entire creative industry

Charles Batambuze
NewVision Reporter
Journalist @NewVision

By Charles Batambuze

The elephant is a very symbolic animal to the Acholi. No wonder, stories of the trek to Gulu City by musicians to meet Gen. Salim Saleh (Rtd) have been told from different perspectives.

The stories bring to mind the, “Parable of the blind men and an elephant”. It is about a group of blind men who learn what the elephant is like for the first time, by touching it. Each blind man describes the elephant based on their experience of which part of its body they touched.

Gulu City has not only been a place of pilgrimage for artists, but also it is home to many like Eezzy, Laxzy Mover, Polite Mosko, Sean Simple, Liama, Loketo Lee, Romeo Odong, Bosmic Otim, Ruth Kurt and Okello Kelo. There are studios run by producers like Sai and Kaunda that exhibit high levels of technical know-how, the rudimentary recording equipment notwithstanding.

During my visit, four songs were recorded. I witnessed music video shoots capturing the remains of Acholi traditional life and architecture in the suburbs of Gulu City. These were by local as well as visiting artists from Kampala and South Sudan.

Renowned audio producers like Kroch, Davi, Washington and Michael Fingers have pitched camp in Gulu, working with local producers to make music. Artists are acutely aware that competition locally and internationally is hinged on quality productions. As such, audio producers are raring to boost their technological capacity.

Meanwhile, Kampala-based videographers were in Gulu to support local counterparts to shoot music videos. There have been surprising music collaborations to be outed soon.

From the foregoing, Gulu has not only inspired music detailing experiences such as Fefe Busi's song, Embozi ye Gulu or Bannansi’s, “Tukoye okuzungila e Gulu.”

About 862 artists graduated from a Mindset Change Training Programme which was instituted in response to the influx of artists to Gulu. The programme succeeded in uniting bitterly divided musicians.

It was also a source of vital information to artists on subjects like branding and its commercialisation, copyright valuation and use as collateral security- helping artists to leverage their music and brand towards financial success.

While many commentators believe that money has been the motivation for the influx of artists in Gulu, this instead took on a whole new meaning. There are 37 revenue streams for artists’ royalties which have kept them in poverty because they were all clogged.

The unclogging began in Gulu. For example, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), agreed to start paying royalties for all the music played on radio and TV, which will earn artists sh650m in royalties in 2021.

A conversation for artists to have a fair share of the sh70b, which the telecoms make from Caller Ring Back Tunes (CRBTs) has been restarted. The Government on its part has been earning 50% of this amount in taxes. In the same way, other users of copyright-protected works like public transport, hospitality, education, the public sector and professional entities are to be reached.

A new dispensation in the implementation of the Copyright law is emerging. It has sucked in regulators like UCC, URSB and others to support collecting societies like UPRS, URRO and UFMI collect royalties from consumers of creative content. This is so because most copyright-protected works have for the longest time been exploited for free, leading to financial losses to creators.

Copyright law reform on reciprocal protection of Ugandan content in the digital space and introduction of a private copy levy (PCL) are now on the agenda. The PCL on gadgets is estimated to result in the collection of sh68b in royalties.

 

A lot of work remains to be done to build a strong creative industry that was employing 386,000 Ugandans by 2014. The events in Gulu have laid a foundation for strengthening the regulation of the industry; providing Covid-19 financial relief to enable recovery of artists’ SMEs and; improving budgets towards culture infrastructure like theatres, cinemas, public libraries, galleries, museums and art markets as these require considerable investments.

The verdict is out that events in Gulu City continue to inspire positive changes. Artists have had the platform to advance key concerns to government and it is expected that a well-coordinated Culture and Creative Industry will emerge to be a major driver of economic development both now and in the future.

The writer is the vice chairperson of the National Culture Forum (NCF) and executive director of Uganda Reproduction Rights Organisation (URRO)

cbatambuze@gmail.com

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