The Keep is the restaurant we started in Jinja, Uganda as a way to support our work on the ground here. It’s also been a great way to network with folks here and connect with individuals and organizations that need our help.
Live music performance really fit the vibe of The Keep. The acoustics in our place are amazing, and it’s an intimate venue. Since we don’t serve alcohol, we also draw those who are a bit more serious about hearing good music.
But the connection with the artists was unexpected. As it turns out the music scene in Uganda is complex and in dire need of something different. Young musicians are drawn more by the promise of big money rather than a love for music. This is spoiling Africa’s deep musical roots, and as anyone that understands professional music will tell you, money is a poor motivator when it comes to producing good music. The scenes is dominated by auto-tune and fruity loops. Poor synth drum loops have replaced the soul-stirring sound of African drums. Twenty-year old synth tracks have replaced background vocals and “real” instruments, not because it’s better musically, but because that’s what “everyone else does” and the music producers (which all charge a fortune for crappy work) just do it that way.
The connection to technology is a clear one. Since a very small percentage of people here have even the most basic computer skills, there are very few knowledgeable producers.
We do computer training to help people get jobs and to change their perception of what’s possible for technology.
Once we started inviting local musicians into The Keep, we found another avenue for training and empowerment. Now, thanks to donors in the US, we’ve got some professional gear and we ratcheted up the quality of our live performances beyond anything available anywhere else in the country.
On my recent trip to the US, my good friend Bruce donated an amazing acoustic electric guitar and my friend John donated a bunch of Shure mics and an mbox. Combined with the camera Syngress donated a while back (payment for filming the author interviews for the final Stealing installation), we’re now recording our live performances to create Live CD’s, video DVD’s and online video copies of their performances. We provide this as a service for our artists to give them a step up.
Needless to say, these services would ordinarily cost more than a young artist could ever afford.
I’m excited about our work in the music community, and I’ve found that there are so many music geeks in the hacker community, and this now makes sense to me. There’s logic to music of course, but good hackers and good musicians understand that there’s an out-of-box thinking that defines true talent in the industry. So thanks to everyone who has donated to help us along. We’re still in the market for good music gear, so please let us know if you’d like to donate your old gear to our cause. We’re outfitting a music studio and we’ve already found a young guy to train as a sound engineer so we’ll use just about any decent equipment you throw our way.
So with that said, I’m going to be uploading lots of live performance videos in the next few weeks which include talented local artists as well as international guests. Thanks again for the support and enjoy the clips.
I’d like to open with a video from a friend of the family, Ryan, who is a really talented musician. But this song is not serious AT ALL. IT’s about pickles and that’s just mean because there are no Vlasic pickles here.