these kids are unfor-ghetto-ble! the triplets ghetto kids from uganda raised our flag high while we slept…


Unforgettable

THE Ghetto is normally defined as “a part of a city, especially a slum, occupied by (a) minority group(s).”

The people who live in the Ghetto are normally downtrodden, poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged.

In the days when we started switching things round, turning paradigms on their heads, and rebellions started being considered heroic, the ghetto became the ashes from which the Phoenix rose.

It was the pile of waste from which arose the dazzling bird flying in the distant skies into the brilliant sunshine.

You’ve probably guessed what’s causing my gushiness right now. It’s those fantastic Triplets Ghetto Kids and what they have done for you, Uganda, for the last so many years.

Most probably like you, I first noticed them because of Eddie Kenzo’s ‘Sitya Loss’ – which I saw on stage being inappropriately presented at a ceremony, but fell for in a big way and joined about 30million other viewers who have watched them dance it on YouTube.

Eventually, that song garnered the 30million YouTube hits purely because of the way those children were dancing.

Two years ago, at a friend’s wedding party deep in South Africa, I noticed that the DeeJay there elected to play ‘Sitya Loss’ at a high point of the evening and the locals knew the dance! I wasn’t taking the challenge sitting down and showed them where I was from, to their utter amazement as I didn’t look as agile as the children did in their video.

That night I mentioned to my wife how those little children and their jolly, frolic dance steps were ultimate Ambassadors for the Republic of Uganda, because just by twisting about like them I identified my true origins to the South Africans and was pleasantly accepted.

At the heart of my comment then was the memory of their main benefactor in Uganda trying hard to find a sponsor for the children’s group. A few years before that they had fallen on difficult times, living in conditions none of us would wish for our own children, and being hired out to entertain at pitiful rates.

I couldn’t help much, besides raving about them at Event Planning meetings so they could get hired more often.

Then some months ago my own children started talking about international musicians being in Kampala at two different occasions. The names were people I had never paid attention to, and when I investigated further I found them to be massive in music stature – but amongst the youth rather than my own age group.

The man behind that video explained later that he “stumbled upon” the Ghetto Kids on YouTube and just because of that he made the decision to come to Uganda to find them: http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/hip-hop/7752560/french-montana-uganda-unforgettable-video-twitter-interview.

This week, that big name, French Montana (who has 2.74MILLIION followers on Twitter and was worth US$8million by April this year), was bursting with pride on social media – international social media, not just a casual WhatsApp group here in Kampala – about having taken these Ghetto Kids to Hollywood to perform for the first time ever at the world famous BET Awards ceremony.

French Montana actually spent WEEKS in Kampala shooting the video for that song ‘Unforgettable’, which has so far logged about 120million plays on YouTube alone. The song featured Swae Lee (whose partnership with his brother has a net worth of US$6million and on his own has 314,000 Twitter followers).

Did any promoter of Uganda make use of him or acknowledge him while he was here? Was he offered any freebies in national parks or eating Rolexes or touring cultural sites or hitting nightclubs or drinking Coconut Waragi? Somebody, share photographs, please? Did we go out of our way to get them to spend a bit of their millions on this economy?

The Ghetto Kids’ performance with French Montana and Swae Lee at the BET Awards was unquestionably the highlight of the night! Every Twitter feed on the internet lit up with bright, enthusiastic, teary, adoring, loving, exciting comments about the Ghetto Kids. This isn’t the first time they have performed in the United States, mind you, and one of their past performances where they are dressed in the Uganda flag is approaching 1million YouTube views from less than a year ago. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7Gd0ekTTyQ).

And, a short while later, an equally ecstatic French Montana took up his phone and Re-Tweeted – in the middle of the world’s biggest music event – most every tweet about the Ghetto Kids. He paid to take them there – using his own money to promote Uganda, on top of using his 120million view video (except for the last seconds of it).

People like DJ Khaled took photo opportunities with the Ghetto Kids. This guy, who is worth US$20million and has 3.42MILLION Twitter followers, stopped his life to take a photograph with the Ghetto Kids. In that photograph, and almost significant, was Chance The Rapper (who has 4.49MILLION Twitter followers), a highly popular Hip Hop start and BET nominee this year – also squeezing into the photograph.

DJ Khaled Ghetto Kids

And now we are hearing reports that DJ Khaled PAID US$10,000 to take that photograph with the Ghetto Kids! #Dammit! Why do we sleep so much and laud the WRONG people in this country?!

DJ Khaled is known as the KING of snapchat – a more popularly used social media platform than Twitter, and gets more than two million (2,000,000) views PER SNAP/STORY he posts!

When the Media Centre lauded the Ghetto Kids on Twitter this week and used #UgandaTourism, I couldn’t help asking how much “we” are promoting these kids.

See, I wasn’t just talking about the government and the Uganda Tourism Board, because how many times have I personally hired them to do an event?

Of course the uppercut aimed at the Tourism marketing people will not end here. A promoter of Uganda, on realizing how many YouTube hits those Ghetto Kids have collected over the years, would have snapped them up long ago!

After visiting Uganda and falling in love with the Pearl of Africa, this French Montana launched a campaign that gave US$100,000 to the Mama Hope Initiative, and Ssuubi Health Centre in Budondo, Uganda. More than that, he rallied various other global celebrity musicians to get involved and they did so. One of them, The Weeknd, donated his own US$100,000 to the Suubi Health Centre.

Among the other celebrities who have joined in on the #UnforgettableDanceChallenge and now know where Uganda is because of the Triplets Ghetto Kids are Travis Scott, Drake, Juelz Santana, Chris Brown and P. Diddy.

French Montana as an individual is so amazing that the stories being told about him and his time in Uganda sound like fantasy. One tale has it that he bought dinner after one of the video shoots for about 500 people who had shown up to participate and watch the filming. Most celebrities of his stature DEMAND that they are feted, rather than spend their own money on the people around them!

Actually the whole country should stop and think. If we had given those children the equivalent of what one “big person” in politics gets when they travel abroad…

….how much more these Triplets Ghetto Kids from Uganda would be ‘Unforgettable’! May God bless them abundantly, and wake the rest of us up out of our annoying ignorance!

taking a delicious peace to the world from the villages of Uganda


MONTHS ago, in response to an article I had written about books, a side-conversation began on email in which I was introduced to one Richard Sobol, about launching a book he had written on Uganda.

He already has four books about Uganda – ‘One More Elephant‘, ‘Breakfast In The Rainforest‘, ‘Abayudaya‘ and the one in question last year, ‘Delicious Peace‘.

The tone of the conversation seemed to suggest that the books were not already available or even known in Uganda even though they were about this beautiful country and its fantastic people.

I prodded a few people in our tourism sector but there was no interest whatsoever in his recent book even though books as a medium of communication are taken quite seriously in the ‘developed’ world, so much so that editors painstakingly comb through manuscripts to erase marketing-poised mentions of brands and other items that could benefit too much.

Breakfast In The Rainforest‘ (2010), for instance, is available on Amazon Online at US$7.99 (Ushs28,000) and piques the interest of most readers in the mountain gorilla. In fact, a couple of online reviews end with people saying they wanted to visit after reading it – even though it is classified as a children’s book.

By the way, Sobol is a photographer-writer, so his books are very visual.

Breakfast In The Rainforest‘ even carried an afterward by the actor Leonardo Di Caprio, to prove how popular Sobol’s work can be; and his other collaborations have been endorsed by the architect Frank Gehry, Robert F Kennedy Jr., and carried by publications like Time, The New York Times, Paris Match, Audubon, and National Geographic.

So I looked more keenly into his recent book, the one my contact, Author and Librarian Cathy Kreutter, was suggesting be promoted in Uganda.

Delicious Peace‘ led me straight to Namanyonyi, in Mbale, where the book is set, and I wasn’t reading it – I started at a YouTube video documentary about it that featured a 48-year old peace-loving coffee farmer in Mbale called J.J. Keki.

j-j-keki
This is J.J. Keki (Photo from: http://www.jewlicious.com)

He is also a musician, he said, over a video shot of himself singing with his village mates playing some simple instruments behind him. He wore a skull cap that I thought was a katalabusi but got distracted at that point in the video because suddenly I was watching the September 11 plane attack on the World Trade Centre!

 

Then this J.J. Keki, Mbale farmer-musician, told us he was in the United States and right at the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001 when the planes struck! He wanted to tour the place but it was hit and he had to flee the subway while watching the second building fall. Covered in dust, he fled along with thousands of others.

“That is when we learned that there were terrorists and these terrorists were connected with religion. When I flashed back to Uganda I said we should begin something. We have coffee, so maybe we make a co-op of Muslims, Christians, and my religion, I’m Jewish, and then we can teach the world how to work together,” he says.

Enter Peace (Mirembe) Kawomera Grower’s Society – the focus of ‘Delicious Peace’, a film about peace, harmony and coffee.

I was flabbergasted.

The rest of the story is gripping – not like the television dramas we hear about at award ceremonies, but if you respect peace, innovation, hard work and the triumphs that seemingly simple people achieve where complicated, rich, highly educated, urban-dwelling people many times fail to be useful, then you must watch that video, read the book, and read about Mirembe Kawomera.

I found that Mirembe Kawomera has been so successful as a coffee growers cooperative that they became certified as Fair Trade coffee suppliers into the United States – though not without challenges, as you will discover.

Plus, their music is on an album released by the Smithsonian Folkways project (in 2012) at US$16.98 (Ushs60,000).

“Village guitar groups and women’s choirs sing to stress the transformative impact of Fair Trade prices and to encourage their neighbours to join the coffee cooperative. Accompanied with xylophone, drums and other traditional instruments, these farmers sing of the benefits of interfaith cooperation and, through music, teach new cooperative members how to produce great coffee,” says an album description.

And more: “J. J. Keki, the founder of the cooperative, says: ‘Use whatever you have to create peace! If you have music, use your music to create peace. For us, we have coffee. We are using coffee to bring peace to the world.”

And they are doing it in Lugweri, Luganda, Lugisu and some English.

Is he on the list of national medal recipients? I haven’t heard his name yet. Is he on the list for a Nobel Peace Prize, in this world where the whole President of the United States can see no way of bringing people with divergent religious beliefs together? Not that I have been told or can find on the internet. Is he or is the cooperative even on a list of special exporters maintained by the Uganda Exports Promotion Board and Uganda Coffee Development Authority? Ask them – their email addresses and phone numbers are online, and so are the names of most of their officials.

On what list are J.J. Keki and the people of Mirembe Kawomera (Delicious Peace)? My list of good Ugandans doing simple things to make this country look and sound good.

I respect them highly for that, and thank them for giving me another brand of coffee to try and buy rather than any imported brand with a name that means nothing as important to me, personally, or all of us, nationally, as Mirembe Kawomera (Delicious Peace).