By Byaruhanga Felix (@theninjafelix)
The genre has definitely been full of activity in 2016, R.O.W. Records and O. Nation rapper OPU recently concluded Phase 1 of his project ‘Reading Is Cool’ (RIC) and the team from TheTribeUG.com was there to gain insight into what the initiative was all about, read on;
First, jog us through project ‘RIC’ is all about?
Project RIC in full is reading is cool, after I put out ‘Drink Party’ I realized that music has this power but then what are we using this power for, why don’t we just take the influence and switch it to push something good but I wanted to promote something I was passionate about which is reading right after hip-hop.
I ran into the headmaster one evening on a visit to the school and while interacting with him found out that school library had no librarian, in the short term, first thought was to do a concert to fundraise money to facilitate a librarian but realized that the challenges were deeper to tackle with a one off so the thought switched to crafting a long term plan hence project ‘RIC’ was born in April.
We needed and then sought government endorsement through Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) with the goal to roll out in about 81 schools in Kampala, KCCA suggested that we first try and perfect the model in East Kololo Primary which took us 10 weeks and now we’re here to showcase the progress.
As a rapper, you’re trying to present solutions to the challenges that these schools have but what do you expect kids to attain through project ‘RIC’?
We have had our focus on the area of public speech so we hope the kids’ self confidence can shoot up because we’re dealing with quite a number of under privileged, the whole concept of reading is what we want kids to take away from this, to read about any subject and be able comprehend and for them to know that they are entitled to an opinion and can polish it with the reading, we have also had motivational speakers like singer JC Muyonjo and a country manager come through to interact with the kids.
You’ve been championing the ‘Half Corporate, Half Street’ mentality, which mindset do you approach this with?
I think I am now a mixture of both, my mind sees things in both colors, from a rapper’s perspective it adds relevance on the business side but then again from the humane side, it gives me a cause to work towards beyond just seeking the fame. I am an old boy of this school so minus the kids just watching me on TV, how do I give back and add some value to my roots, this is how.
Most rappers in Ugandan hip-hop tend to hit walls as they approach the corporate world to solicit support for their projects, which trick did you use to get the support?
I wouldn’t call it a trick, in fact before embarking on this project I was pushed by a book I was reading at the time ‘Building a Social Enterprise’ by Muhammed Yunus, he emphasizes using one’s skill to do good and so to answer this question I don’t think there are any walls, rappers need to stop looking at it from the ‘me’ perspective and look at it from the perspective of whose lives they want to improve so KCCA was open to the project because they are also tackling a literacy issue.
To anyone reading, what would you say is the future for project ‘RIC’ and how does one get involved?
We’re opening up to cover about 81 schools and targeting about 5000 pupils to join the club, the program has been divided to run in the first and second terms and this brings Phase 1 to a close, we will begin Phase 2 next year and we shall have more schools participating in the project.
Besides KCCA, which other partners are on board?
We have partnered with a social enterprise called EWA Africa and Mufasa Tours; most of the potential partners were willing to support the project after the test and trial.
So, what’s next for OPU as a rapper?
We’re now working on house concerts to focus mainly on target groups and weave in the more serious fans.
Remarks from KCCA.
How do you see the future success of the project?
OPU came with a plan decrying the state of his former school and we had to partner with him, we are very appreciative of the effort and encourage other old boys to emulate him, the progress made since April is almost equivalent to 10 years of work in terms of the progress of kids’ reading culture and self confidence.