INTERVIEW: A Chat With Sylvester About The Bayimba Hip-Hop Boot Camp.

For the past six years, Bayimba Foundation and it’s partners have been organizing the “Bayimba Hip-Hop Boot Camp”  through which up and coming rappers/artists undergo an intensive two-week residential workshop aimed at conveying music industry skills.This training was started to provide first hand skills training and create opportunities for recording, performances and employment for youths or young rappers in Uganda. Applications to the 7th Edition of the hip-hop boot Camp are ongoing and you can access the application forms here.  At the top of Boot Camp there’s Sylvester of the legendary duo “Sylvester & Abramz” who stirs the hip-hop ship at Bayimba as the “Hip-Hop Coordinator”. Sylvester comes as a seasoned veteran in the hip-hop game who knows the ins and outs of the hip-hop industry. His credentials go from being a rapper to an entrepreneur  who  spearheads one of the most successful clothing labels not only in the hip-hop space but in the Ugandan fashion industry all together. Over the long weekend, we had a sit down with the UG hip-hop OG to talk everything Bayimba Hip-Hop Boot Camp and of course the Sylvester and Abramz album.

What pushed Bayimba to pick interest in  Ugandan hip-hop and created the boot camp for hip-hop instead of any other genre?

It is known the world over that the hip-hop culture resonates with young people. They feel attached to the culture because it’s relatable and the project was designed for them. Initially the hip-hop Boot camp was a part of a bigger initiative locally implemented by Bayimba Foundation called Youth & Hip-Hop Project which focused on all the hip-hop elements in the then countrywide workshops that we held. The project was drawn by the Center for Culture and Development, and its first 6 year phase was funded by the Royal Danish Embassy in Uganda with the overall objective of empowering youths by acquiring artistic (hip-hop) as well as development and leadership skills. After the success of the first phase, fortunately Africalia got on board for phase 2 and our main focus shifted to the Rap element (music product) in the boot camp and other elements presented in lectures as well as many other accompanying relevant short courses.

This year will be 7th year of the Bayimba Hip-Hop Boot Camp, how has the journey been so far?

The journey hasn’t been smooth all the way, we have had several challenges and they have made us who we are today. It took us time to generate a network of enthusiastic rap practitioners based in the upcountry regions because back then there were very few events or projects organized to include them. Most of the events and projects were based in the central region. We also realized that artistes in far to reach areas found it hard to download forms and apply due to poor internet connections in their respective areas. Through our past regional workshops, the boot camp and its previous beneficiaries we have managed to have a rich database of both central and upcountry hip-hop acts.

What has been the greatest achievement and greatest lesson/challenge of organizing the Bayimba Hip-Hop Boot Camp?

There’s has been several achievements and challenges, I don’t know which supersedes the other. But what I can say is that, knowing like-minded people, sharing with them what you know and learning from them too, and seeing them grow into sensational artistes has been one of the greatest achievements. The greatest challenge is making sure that we keep the momentum of having new faces or applicants from upcountry to be a part of the camp. It’s much easier to get emcees from the central because they are so many in our network which is not the case for upcountry.

How’s this 7th Edition with support from Africalia going to be different from the past editions of the boot camp?

In the programme this year we have added Music Management and we will look at the structure of the music industry and the role of each part. We will look at song writers, performers, publishers, record labels, agents, managers, promoters, phonogram producers, executive producers, online retailers, collective management organisations, mechanical royalties society, distributors and retailers etc.

We have also added Body Percussion, and these are sounds made using different body parts and maybe performed on their own as accompaniment to music and/or dance.  A human body as an instrument can be viewed in a number of ways one can use it to make rhythms/ beat patterns and these include walking which often is referred to as stamping or stepping, Clapping, Body Orchestration (Drumming on different part of the body), Singing and talking, and Snapping fingers. There will be more to learn from these short courses in addition to a long list of others as indicated on the course outline document.

As a tradition that we started last year, we have also included the short Bonfire Night Performances were participants are selected to showcase their own music before an audience of fellow participants, tutors/facilitators and audio producers. Each none performer pays a small fee and the money collected goes to showcase artiste of the night. This created a lot of excitement last year and we are hoping to make it bigger and better.

In the boot camp application documentation, it’s emphasized that “Female Rappers are encouraged to apply”. Over the years, how have the female rappers gained from this boot camp more than their male counter parts and also what’s your view on female rappers’ position in the Ugandan hip-hop Industry?

Female inclusion was one of the key points when the entire project was kicking off and I must say that annually we face this challenge of having female participants on board. That’s why the few good ones we get we make sure that we  shine a light on them to inspire their fellow aspiring or emerging artistes to embrace such opportunities when they present themselves. I believe that some are just too slow to react to opportunities, it’s not that they don’t get to hear about them because we try to be as loud as possible. But in conclusion since 2013 we have had different female rappers in the camp. The number has been less but giving the platform to new faces all the time and that’s something worth mentioning. I am certain that we will continue getting more new acts.

My view on female rappers’ position in the Ugandan hip-hop Industry is that, the contribution of the few we have had over the years can’t go unnoticed and history will always remember them. There are some names you can’t fail to acknowledge unless you’re biased. But I urge them to share opportunities and also take some time to impart skills to others who look up to them. I believe, that at whichever level you’re on in life there’s someone out there you can help. You don’t have to wait until you build mansions or release 100 albums to help.

It has been 6 Years and 6 albums. Which of these 6 albums would you recommend to a person to listen who is just getting to know about the boot camp for the first time?

Eeeh! Kino kika! Oba where should I start? Personally I would recommend all the albums because each has some good acts that are really worth lending your ears to.

In no specific order who are your Top 5 Rappers who have undergone through the Bayimba Hip-Hop Boot Camp so far?

Aaah! This is another hard one because we have had soooo dope rappers many over the years. Since 2013 we have hosted more than 100 artists and choosing top 5 out of them means listening again to 6 albums. Not easy. Let me see…. Tushi Polo, Leumas Owabajaja, Byg Ben, Sandra UG, Mamre Snare,

Before you go I’ve to ask this for the Ugandan Hip-Hop fans out there, when are we getting the Sylvester and Abramz album? Or even a documentary?

At the moment we are doing so much and our time is divided but hopefully before next year 2020 ends we will be able to put an album together. The documentary film has ever been discussed but we didn’t time into it. Maybe we should give it a thought and see what comes up since you have also raised it. But what we promised each year is a concert and look out for one before this year it ends.

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