A couple of days ago on a Najjeera bound taxi I encountered an amateur artiste who appeared in the incarnation of our taxi conductor commentating over the next taxi stops and alerting the driver to make stops where necessary.
He was cheerful youth in his mid-twenties who saw to it that we were all entertained through the speaker of a red and silver lined Itel phone, I assumed he owned.
It was a noisy phone; the kind that advertised its efficiency with a loud sound that saw to it that every person right from the ones sited at the front to the passengers who occupied the back seats where I was holed for the journey making myself busy on my phone.
After playing the track he looked at his immediate neighbor, an old man in his mid-fifties whose interest in the song could have been juxtaposed to that of a dog staring down at a plate of vegetables and with a quick flash of cream colored teeth he inquired for his neighbor’s opinion on the song he had just played.
The old man shrugged his shoulders as if in doubt and then told the conductor that it was a good song and even though a part of me wanted to doubt the old man’s review with the bias that the old man must be licking the amateur artiste’s feet to evade payment of the five hundred shilling fare from Ntinda to Najjeera, I found my opinion in harmony with his.
It was a good song, the lyrics which narrated a struggle from poverty to stardom were “on point” as my friend Arthur would have said and its execution was flawless (Yes I was feeling like an expert already.)
At that point the inside of the taxi burst into a hub of activity, everyone was suddenly giving their opinion of the song and it was mostly positive until a man in a blue stripped shirt sited just in front of me posed the million shilling question.
“Ku luno oluyimba olulungi enyo kiki ekikulemeseza okufuluma?” (“What’s hindering you from a breakthrough yet you have a great song?”)
It was an easy question and it needed no thought from the upcoming artiste, he just poured out his thoughts.
“Obuzibu ye connectioni” he said “Siyina munene gwe manyi mu ba yimbi abanene ate ne ba promoter ba saba sente nyingi, ” he grumbled. “akusaba akakadde kyoka nga amanyi nti nawe okyeyiya” loosely translated, (The main challenge is the lack of connections since am not acquainted with any popular artiste and at the same time promoters ask for so much money (one million) even when they know that amateur artistes are still struggling.
The result in the taxi was a series of disgruntled murmurs from the few remaining passengers, there was no element of surprise, no one exclaimed in awe because however unfair it feels, this is the phenomenon we’ve been subjected to in this country and to feign surprise would be the highest grade of hypocrisy, this encounter was just a small portion of what the Ugandan dream is.
Where James Truslow Adam’s American dream is rooted on the doctrine that life should be better, richer and fuller for everyone with an opportunity for each according to ability or achievement while disregarding a person’s social class or circumstances of birth, the “Ugandan dream as I learnt to refer to it takes a different approach.
For the reward of success; achieved through a better and richer life, the “Ugandan dream” takes on a different perspective that it embraces forcefully owing to the fact that there is hardly any equal opportunity and at the same time ability or achievement are not guarantees for success. This means that our “Ugandan dream” is channeled through a “connection” in order to help out ability and achievement which individually can’t vouch for a person’s success in his quest for a better and richer life.
Having worked hard, raised some little money to record an audio song an upcoming artiste with intentions of a breakthrough needed a connection which came in the form of a being familiar with a famous Disk Jockey (DJ) (DJ), artiste or record label. Failure to meet this requirement means that you have to force the connection.
By paying a Disk Jockey (DJ), radio producer or presenter a certain amount of money they added your song however boring, meaningless or disgusting it was to their playlist, in so doing you forced the connection and your song gained airplay.
In a months’ time your song was popular and the gigs increased with the song’s popularity they booked you for concerts and events and you finally got to live your dream, riches and a better life were finally within your reach.
The same scenario comes to life in the formal job sector, where one study’s for more than thirteen years or more of both Primary and Secondary school with big dreams to become an administrator, lawyer, engineer or doctor.
In this period parents pay between 8-20 million shillings (estimate) depending on the schools and almost the same amount of money is paid for university tuition just to see their children succeed in life because they have foreseen the benefits of education and believe the government when it says “Education is the key to success”
The now fully grown youths qualify in their fields of interest after graduating from university then comes the time for the job search which divides the job seeker into two categories; the one who is in the wrong country and believes in the American dream instead of his native Ugandan dream and the realistic graduate who knows what it takes to get the job which in real sense is just a phone call away from his reach.
The latter has the connection which lies in a relative, tribesman, family friend or a person their parent owes a favor and before he knows the job is his.
God is indeed great, the hard work has paid off amidst a large sea of applications theirs was chosen, but the seesaw was never level in the first place yet his narrative is a success story and he’s on a highway that only moves upwards towards achieving their life’s desires.
After two years or even more in certain instances five long years the former finally loses their patience, their degree no longer makes sense to them, their friends who dropped out early are making a life for themselves and depending on their level of humility some forget their degrees and delve towards humble work enterprising in areas like poultry keeping, baking or even piggery.
Sometimes the job seekers play by the rules, a female job seeker beds a potential boss with the promise of a job or if they can afford it they buy their way into the job, a small four hundred thousand shillings receipt for a job that pays a million Ugandan shillings is a wise investment; a sort of do or die in this case and the job seeker is a desperate animal willing to do anything for a job.
The pressure from home is too much, age gradually races towards you at Ferrari speed; you can’t wait to start making your own money which means following the “Ugandan dream” is not just an option, it’s the best option; but this doesn’t necessarily make it right.
Opinions expressed are finally under my byline