Maurice Kirya is one artiste who has a unique blend of music, that has taken him places and worn him several international accolades and mentions. He has been on several international tours, something not many Ugandan artistes have gotten chance to do. His smooth sultry ballads, and guitar blend makes him a unique Ugandan artiste with a unique sound. He is very cute too and grossly unavailable which has made him a hit with the women folk. Exposed Uganda caught up with him to talk about his life, music and lifestyle.
Exposed: Who is Maurice Kirya?
I am just another normal guy trying to exploit the most of his potential to change the world through music. I was born in Kampala to Tonny Munobbi and Sophie Baguma. I was raised in Najjanankumbi. I completed my primary at Nakivubo Blue, but did not get a chance to study what I wanted in University.
Exposed: What did you study at the University? Music? No, I wanted to study music management which is a course they don’t have at the university.
Exposed: How would you describe your teen years? Were you for instance a trouble child, the jewel of the family …?
I was in between both actually, I was a normal naughty boy who still respected people and cared about how he was perceived, I tried my best to be good, “I tried hard” Exposed: When did you know you wanted to do music?
Music has just always been apart of me, it was my voice even before I decided I wanted to be spiderman or superman, lol. (kiddish dreams)
Exposed: When did you eventually decide to take the art seriously? It was in 1995 when I decided that it would be music that would see me to the end. In 1999 it became my job.
Exposed: What music genre does your music fall into? I call it ‘mwooyo’ but it’s a mixture of Ugandan local, jazz, R&B, soul, and world music.
Exposed: Your music is different, how do you get the people who are used to the upbeat popular Ugandan music to appreciate it? It has taken a while and the trick was for me to identify my audience, my market and focus on it!
Exposed: How many albums do you have? (Details please) Over the past ten years I release close to 25 singles, but ‘MISUBBAAWA’ is my first official album, it has 12 tracks.
Exposed: How do you market your music? Through Internet mediums, through radio and TV airplay, public nterviews, recorded and live performances.
Exposed: Where do you record from? I record at First Love Studios, BlackSmith studios, Sound Kitchenstudio and Swangz Avenue depending on the flavor I am looking for.
Exposed: Tell us about your first American concert (Texas) I was nervous, but excited to play at the SXSW music festival, which is said to be one of the biggest festivals in the world. It was me and my guitar and a very attentive audience, I gave it my best, and it opened a lot of doors for me.
Exposed: How were you received by the audience? They loved me, and understood it was my first time there so they handled me with gentleness, listened to every word I sung as a way to connect with my country! I was there way to Uganda.
Exposed: How did it feel being on a stage in a foreign land singing in a language not most understood? By that time I had got used to playing in different countries, but never had I played in the states which can be a hard market to impress.
Exposed: Tell us about your Paris Concert
It was held at the New Morning Jazz café, I had a band of four(Ugandan) the concert involved interviews by RFI, and was broadcast live on Radio France International. It exposed me to a Parisian market, and was a chance for me to boast about Uganda.
Exposed: How were you selected for the RFI Best New African Artist Award? I applied, sent in my work just like 500 others did. They look through your music, videos, live performances, interviews, musical history, and so much more.
Exposed: Which other musician was contending for the same? AY, Lexxus Legal, Winyo and so fourth.
Exposed: Why do you think you won? My music spoke a big volume to the judges…maybe!
Exposed: Tell us about your music tours: how are they arranged? They are arranged seven months ahead of time, RFI, or my tour manager,a lot of meeting occur before we ever travel.
Exposed: How were you selected to perform alongside Jordin Sparks? Her management and my team in Washington DC got in touch online, and her management liked my work and asked if I could work with them.
Exposed: How was the experience for you? Professional, memorable, and I was under her vocal and beauty spell. She is amazing and a friend.
Exposed: A lot of artists are so egoistic so much that they will not accept criticism even when it constructive. There is also a lot of jealousy and back biting. How do you survive that? What is your advice to fellow artistes? I advise artistes to let their work do most of the talking and to think of being relevant and inspirational to the young and upcoming. I survive these because I respect everyone and hung around positive people.
Exposed: What is your view on the trend of our country’s music? Ugandan music industry is growing rapidly. Artistes though still need to work on being more original and try to not sound the same as each other.
Exposed: Where are the artistes going wrong and where are they spot on?
They are spot on in the arts but they need to think bigger and expose their art to the rest of the world.
Exposed: What are some of the challenges faced by music in the country?
The issue of the copyright law has affected us all. If you are not protected you are as good a someone without a job.
Exposed: What else do you do besides music? I work with the youth by attracting them through music but to speak to them on how they can improve their lives and achieve their goals.
Exposed: You have rubbed shoulders with some of the best artistes from all over the world in the just ended tours and award events. What have you learnt from them that would benefit artistes here? Focus, discipline, direction, hard work, and to always be smart with the business side and how you present yourself.
Exposed: What have you learnt from the West African tour? People out there have no idea where Uganda is! Hahahah but they liked the music and now I know that most Ugandan musicians should travel out there because people do have a taste for our styles.
Exposed: Where do you see yourself in ten years? I don’t know, but I am doing the best I can.
Exposed: Of late Ugandan artistes are trying to do collabos with international artistes, who would you love to work with given chance?
Prince. I feel like I sort have his same mindset and I like his music.
Exposed: Are you dating, single or married? I am dating my guitar; she doesn’t yell back at me unless I tell her too! Hahaha
Exposed: You are quite the looker, and must get a number of stalkers. How do you handle them without turning them against you –since most of them are your fans as well? I am very gentle and polite with the fans, I don’t turn them away. If you respect a fan they’ll respect you back and also respect your boundaries.
Exposed: What was the worst case of a stalker you had?
Some dude who kept calling my phone at 3 am. Until I lost it!
Exposed: What kind of fashion style are you into? More euro-afro fitting clothing!
Exposed: Which car do you drive? I drive a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle .
Exposed: You and Vamposs are very different: in character, style and music. How was it when you were growing up?
We were so close, went everywhere together. Its funny that our styles are different, must be preference and character.
Exposed: How do you relate now?
We are brothers, we don’t even try, it works out naturally.
Exposed: Have you ever done music together? If not, have you ever
considered doing music together?
We worked a lot together when we were younger, we are working on a project now.
Exposed: Why do you love keeping a low key?
I want my music to be what’s louder than my lifestyle.
Exposed: What’s your life like? Give us a sneak peek
Meetings, travelling, singing, and getting a life for crying out loud! I love movies and small parties.
Exposed: What do you do for fun?
Movies, cafes, writing and sketching.
Exposed: If you were president, how would you go about the walk to work protests?
First I would not let my country down…so chances are I would only see people dancing to work.
One on One with Cleopatra Koheirwe
She has been there and done it all: acting, writing, dancing, singing, radio, TV! But what is even more interesting about Cleopatra Koheirwe (or Cleo as she is popularly known) is that despite her fame and greatlooks, she keeps a low profile – she is not in your face with the ‘I’m a celebrity’ attitude! She has a smile for everyone. Cleo has been dealt losses in her life but that has not put her down: she keeps a toothy smile and goes about life as a strong woman who is compassionate to the feelings of other people. We talked to her about her life!
EXPOSEDUG: Who is Cleo?
Cleo: I was born in Kampala, Uganda on 15th January 1982 to Jocelyn Rwekikiga and Anthony Bateyo. My father passed just before I was born so I never knew him except from photos and stories told to me by my mum and family members. I was an only child, grew up mostly with my mum. I studied at Nakasero Primary School from P1 to P7, Bugema Adventist Secondary School (O-Level) and Namasagali College (A-Level). I then did a Bachelors Degree in Social Sciences at Makerere
University and graduated with honours. Then I did a course in Journalism at the University of South Africa (UNISA), as a corresponding student. EXPOSEDUG: When did you join Obsessions and why?
In 2001. I love and have always loved entertainment! Anything to do with creativity; music, dance, drama, art, poetry…. name it!! I love. So when Obsessions was incepted in 1999, I was blown away by their professionalism. Their dance moves were perfect; the costumes on point, their theatrical plays were mesmerizing that I felt drawn to be a part of this artistic group. Good enough, they too spotted me at the National Theatre in a school play of Namasagali College; The Republic of Feminia. I was asked to join but when I excitedly told my guardians, they were not keen on it and worried I might lose focus of school. So they told me to wait until I joined University. In 2001, I joined the group. I had studied with a few of them at Namasagali College, so I felt part of a family.
EXPOSEDUG: Are there some things you did in Obsessions that you are not proud of?
I am a thinker and everything I do, it is after much given thought. I am also very cautious so no, I am proud of every moment I had while still in Obsessions. Everything we go through in life is a lesson and I believe it makes us the people we are now.
EXPOSEDUG: There has been talk that you guys used to have orgies in the Obsession home; that true?
That talk was simply malicious and untrue. We were like a family; we knew each other too well that most of us treated each other like brothers and sisters. It was only two couples that we had; Sharon and Ronnie, who are still together and have a son, then Natasha and Michael who are also still together and also have a son. Just like in
any other company, there is always some people bound to fall in love and that is life. EXPOSEDUG: Why did you quit?
I hate that word, “quit”. Why does it have to be “quit”? I am not a quitter. I did not quit, I resigned from my position as a member of Obsessions! I believe there is a difference. Quitting to me refers to someone leaving on bad terms but I had informed the management way before hand about my leaving and they were aware. It was not an easy decision to make as I had been attached to Obsessions. I still am.
That will always be a part of my life that I am proud of. I doubt they would have thrown me a farewell party if I had “quit”. After six years, I felt I had to go on into the world on my own as “Cleopatra”. I had played my role in Obsessions and being a part of it for that long helped me become a bolder, stronger, more hardworking and confident young woman.
EXPOSEDUG: How is your single music career going?
So far, so good. My first single Ngamba has been well received. It can also be used as a ring-back tone, but its video is not yet out. I am hoping it will be out by August. Performing alone on stage is different from when I was with my girls in Obsessions; it feels a bit lonely at times but the audience is always exciting and encouraging
that I get into it and perform to my best. So far I have had a few shows. I performed at The Pablo Live comedy show, the Go Kart Race charity show that was at Wonder World, Buzz Teeniez Awards, City Beat Party a few months ago and at Fashion Nite in Silk Lounge among other places. I love entertaining so I am enjoying it so far. I will be releasing single by single but I am in studio recording more songs. I hope people will connect to the songs and enjoy them too.
EXPOSEDUG: How did you discover that you had a talent in acting?
I don’t think I discovered it. It was a part of me since I was a little girl. I would act for people at home and kill them with laughter—not that I was funny, or maybe I was. Haha! I would look in the mirror and pretend to be talking to my reflection as someone else while making all sorts of expressions. Being an only child, my mother
would let me be as I had no one to play with so I watched TV a lot and that built my interest in acting. I was obedient though. I also used to take part in school dramas from primary all through to University where I joined Obsessions and kept on acting in theatre each year.
EXPOSEDUG: When did you eventually decide to do acting professionally?
I believe acting in theatre is professional too so I started acting seriously when I joined Namasagali College in 1999. There was no room for mistakes, you had to be on cue with your script lines and in sync with the other dancers so that is when I realized I could seriously do this. I felt happy while acting and my mother always believed in me and had foreseen me as an actress or someone in the entertainment
world. She had even wanted to take me to film school in USA after my O-Levels but she died while I was in Senior 3 so that never happened but I have taken that path so far and I believe she must be in Heaven smiling down.
EXPOSEDUG: What were you hoping to achieve when you decided to take acting seriously?
I hoped to entertain people and make them happy. I also hoped to be appreciated as a talented young woman and also to be able to work with lots of other talented people.
EXPOSEDUG: Did you get any formal training in acting?
Not really but I must say Namasagali College shaped me up more via acting. It was competitive and for you to chosen among the students to be part of a school production going to the National Theatre was a big deal. Just like you see in movies like Save The Last Dance or any other film that has a concept to do with music, theatre, film or dance. I was molded into a better actress because I started to take it
seriously. Everything I do, I do it with a passion.
EXPOSEDUG: What has been your greatest achievement thus far in your acting career?
Each moment in my acting career has been an achievement to me but perhaps I can point out Last King of Scotland as my best moment because it opened doors for me into the film world. I also met Kerry Washington, James McAvoy and Forest Whitaker and starred alongside them.
EXPOSEDUG: How did you get a spot to star in The Last King of Scotland?
I went for auditions at the National Theatre and later on was called and told I had been offered a role. I had to choose between two roles though, one had a sex scene in it and the other of ‘Joy’ was clean but shorter. I opted to play the role of Joy and it turned out to be the best decision. After the movie was released, my role seemed longer than the other I had turned down. EXPOSEDUG: How was the experience for you?
It was a wonderful and eye-opening experience! I learned some acting tips from James, Kerry and Whitaker. I was observing them a lot as they played their roles and how they got into character. It was amazing. I felt I wanted to do this forever. It was an honour to be in a film directed by Kevin MacDonald, he is a great film director.
Hopefully I will act in one of his other films some day, God willing.
EXPOSEDUG: How did it impact on you?
It was my first time to be on a set of a film production so I was keen on everything that was happening; how the lead actors were acting, how the shooting process was going and all. It was exciting to hear them say, “…and ACTION!” This was stuff I only watched on TV when watching ‘Behind the scenes’ of a film. I felt I could do this professionally. It made me appreciate film more. I also loved the fact that Kerry,
James and Whitaker were down-to-earth people yet they are very successful. I felt I was on the right track.
EXPOSEDUG: How were you recruited to star in Changes?
My friend, Brenda Nanyonjo, told me about auditions taking place at the National Theatre for a Kenyan TV series and that I should try out. I had been hoping to star in a series one day so I went and auditioned for the role of ‘Nanziri’. After about two months, I had given up thinking I did not make it but then I received a call from Nairobi and I was told I got the part. I felt so happy.
EXPOSEDUG: Which other soaps have you starred in?
The other series I have featured in is called Be The Judge which airs on KTN, a local TV channel in Kenya. It is a law series and I starred in Episode 10 as Lucy Mango.
EXPOSEDUG: Tell us about State Research Bureau (SRB)
I was called upon by the director Matt Bish after he had seen my work in other productions and he asked me to be a part of his cast. I admire his work so I was humbled that he considered me. I played the role of Faith Katushabe, the fiancé to Philip Mwesigwa, a role acted by Matthew Nabwiso. I star alongside him, Atiku Joel Prynce Okuyo and Peter Odeke. I did not have a lot of lines like I usually do in other productions. I had more action which was cool. I enjoyed being in SRB and it let me tap into that part of me that always wondered how it was for my father who was tortured and killed during the Obote 2 regime. I had to ask my guardians to tell me all they knew so I could try and relate my character to the story in SRB. It helped a lot. Acting in SRB was like therapy to me because it made me get in touch with that is a side of my life I tend to ignore or try not to think about. When he died, I was not born yet but all the stories told to me while I was growing up used to make me really sad, angry and wishful.
EXPOSEDUG: Which other films have you acted in?
Yogera, a film directed and produced by Yes That’s Us under film maker Donald Mugisha and a South African production house called Switch Media. I acted two roles of twins named Hope and ‘G’. Hope was a deaf girl so playing that character was most challenging but very exciting and educating. I had to do workshops for a month to prepare for it. I would meet with the deaf at Deaf Link Uganda, an NGO in Bukoto that assists deaf people and I learned how they respond, react and observe
things around them. They are very intelligent and focused individuals. I was glad I met them. This helped me execute my role as Hope well. “G’ was not hard but I had to make the two characters different from each other.
EXPOSEDUG: Is there anything common between you and the characters that you play in the films that you have participated in so far?
Not really but a few characteristics of some of the roles I have played are the same as those of Cleopatra have. For example, there some traits that characters of Nanziri, Faith, Hope and G have that I also possess. But the roles that are different from whom I am at heart are those of Lucy Mango and Joy.
EXPOSEDUG: What is it that you love most about acting?
I get to entertain, educate, inspire, comfort, relate to and motivate others through my acting. I also love that I get to be a person I would never be in real life like say; a queen, doctor, murderer, detective, teenager etc. Playing different roles is exciting and I learn different things from each script I have read and each production I have been a part of. Every role I have played, there has been a lesson learned. In every script or film or play, there is always a message relayed for the audience or viewer to pick so that is what I love about acting. I also get to travel depending on the film project and where it is being shot from.
EXPOSEDUG: Have you ever had a crash on your co-star or producer or actor?
How did you deal with it?
I do appreciate or admire someone good looking but I do not take it as crash because I will even say it to them that they look good or have a great body or smile or whatever feature it is that stands out on them. I do not think much of it or act upon it. Respect is earned but once lost it is hard to recover it; so I endeavour to stay professional and dignified.
EXPOSEDUG: What is your dream in as far as acting is concerned?
To be as good as it gets and inspire or positively impact as many people as possible to go for their dreams. Also, to smile all the way to the bank! Who wouldn’t want that? Haha!
EXPOSEDUG: What is your take on Uganda’s film and Industry?
The industry is slowly growing. Acting opportunities are coming up more often now as compared to back then when it was mostly theatre. There are people like Donald Mugisha, Matt Bish, Mariam Ndagire, Patrick Sekyaya, Phad D Rhymz and Oscar Henry Ssali who are trying to help grow the industry. I only pray that they all work together or support each other because at the moment I feel like some of these film directors are secluding themselves and hence separating the industry. A film industry should be one and not many, just like a music industry is. It should involve all actors, directors, producers, scriptwriters etc. If awards are put in place, let them encompass all Ugandan films, both those at the local and international market.
EXPOSEDUG: What do you think is still lacking?
We lack the support from sponsors or corporate companies. It is a struggle to produce a film in Uganda or even promote it without the help from big companies. The film industry has the potential of making a lot of money if people would be more willing to invest in it like the film staff is doing. I wish our local TV stations would screen more of our local productions than the Western ones or the Tele Mundos (Salvado) which I believe they pay a lot of money for. Let us support and push our own. In Kenya, most local TV stations play their local series and movies more than they air the Tele Mundo or Western shows. Another problem here in Uganda is the notion of saying, ‘I do not have money, or it is a small budget film.’ Some film people are genuine while others are just being stingy and want to exploit your talent by using your skill and then not paying you enough or you end up having
to follow them up to pay you in full. This annoys me. I do not like to be taken for granted or anyone else to be done the same. People should be responsible and respectful enough to pay their crew and cast on time or at least communicate because everyone has worked hard and played their role dedicatedly. This is why I only take part in film projects whose scripts touch my heart and I feel there will be
something the audience will learn or relate to. I do not only focus on the money. I could be offered a role that will pay lots of money but if I do not feel the script or that it is not in line with what I would love to be associated with, I will turn it down.
EXPOSEDUG: Now let us talk about your other role in television, once worked for WBS what qualified you for whatever you used to present?
Honestly that time I got hired to work at WBS TV, I was busy trying to clear at University for graduation. It was David Kazoora who called Ronnie Mulindwa, the Obsessions director and asked him to recommend one of us as a presenter and he said me. Kazoora then rung me and asked I go to WBS TV. I went there and was asked if I wanted to work in TV and if I could fill in for Doreen Kayongo on the Showtime Magazine show as she was going on leave. They wanted a face that was
already in the public eye and I guess I suited being that I was in Obsessions. I was nervous but I did the screen test as best as I could and I passed. That is how I got into TV.
EXPOSEDUG: Why did you quit?
Again, that word “quit”. And I never quit. I simply moved on after hosting Fitness Watch for almost four years. WBS is still family to me. That is why even after I had left, they would call on me sometimes to fill in for a presenter that was ill or absent on shows such as Jam Agenda or Showtime Magazine or ask me to host the Christmas Bonanza when it was Xmas time.
EXPOSEDUG: Tell us about your position at African Woman?
I have been with African Woman magazine since it started in 2005. I am the Celebrity & Features Editor. I do most of the interesting features in the magazine. In a nutshell, I interview personalities, write some main or small feature stories as well as events text among others. I also set the photo shoots.
EXPOSED: Are you a journalist?
Well, since I write for a magazine, have worked for TV, and am in radio which are all media related, I believe that makes me one. Only difference is that I am such a positivist. I love to write or say or represent what gives people hope, motivation and inspiration—something that adds to someone’s life, not take away.
EXPOSEDUG: Have you quit your job for 97.fm Radio City?
No I have not. I am still writing for African Woman. You do know writing can be done from anywhere; it does not tie you down. As long as you have a laptop or computer and an internet modem, you are good to go because you will be able to do your work.
EXPOSEDUG: What do you present?
I co-host a show dubbed The Jam with Hakeem Sagga from 3pm to 7pm on weekdays, and on Saturdays, I co-host with him on the Hakeem in the Morning show from 6am to 10am.
EXPOSEDUG: How did you get the spot?
Since I had a background of having worked in radio before; at Capital FM and another station that was known as KIU FM, I was called upon and asked if I would be interested in working at a radio station again and I said, ‘yes I would’. Was tested on the airwaves and the management liked how I sounded and the energy on the show with Hakeem so I was recruited as a part of Radiocity where we all ‘Love Life & Love Music’.
EXPOSEDUG: What thrill do you get out of Radio?
The ability to reach out to a big number of listeners and entertain them with humour, intellect, arguments and music just makes me feel like a part of their lives. I like it when they too participate and call in or send messages. It is fun.
EXPOSEDUG: You have quite a lot on your plate, how do you juggle all of it?
I do not see it as much and the beauty of it is that what I do co-relates with the other. Music, film and writing are all an art and I love doing them. I focus on what I have to do at the particular time. If I have scheduled African Woman interviews & shoots, I will focus on that, then when I have my studio recording session, I will
prepare for it and focus on that too, same applies to when I have a film project. I manage my time and ensure I communicate with my bosses or whoever I need to inform about my schedule so that there is no clash or conflict. It is not always easy but communication and preparation helps. I do what I say I am going to do and I endeavour to meet my deadlines or deliver well in all I do.
EXPOSEDUG: Do you ever get time for yourself? What do you do in your free time?
Yes, actually I do. I sleep, watch TV, do my laundry and some cleaning, spend time with family or close friends, play scrabble or listen to music or go swimming.
EXPOSEDUG: You have been in the limelight for quite sometime, how do you manage to keep a low profile?
Wow! Have I really managed to keep a low profile? If I have, that is great but man, it is tough! I guess it is because I go where I am supposed to go. I rarely just go out partying; wherever I go, it is because I am representing the company I work for or I have been invited as a guest. Most times I prefer to chill at home and watch
some cool TV series but once in a blue moon, I simply go out to have fun without having work on my mind.
EXPOSEDUG: Do you ever get stalkers? How do you deal with them?
I have not really had a stalker scenario and I hope I don’t. I take myself to be like everybody else so those who appreciate what I do are never scary. They are polite and nice and I like interacting with them.
EXPOSEDUG: What is the worst case of a stalker and how did you deal with it?
I have not had one but the only problem I have had for a while now is someone who always calls me as an ‘unknown caller’ and does not speak when I pick up. It is dead silence on the other line. I find this creepy like Scary Movie or something.
EXPOSEDUG: Are you dating? If yes, who? If not; why not?
I am not searching and not single but single. Haha! My work takes most of my time but the man who will fit into my life and let me fit into his will be the one.
EXPOSEDUG: What happened between you and Peter Miles?
What happened? What did I miss? Haha! Peter is someone I have known since high school. We studied together for a bit in Bugema Adventist Secondary School before he moved to Kabojja Sec. Sch. We are great friends and he gives me advice musically too as he has been in the game longer. We like to hang out together sometimes but I guess this excites some people.
EXPOSEDUG: Are you in a relationship with Maurice Kirya?
No, I am not in a relationship with Maurice. He is a very good friend of mine.
EXPOSEDUG: Lastly, what would be your advice to people who wish to
follow in your footsteps?
Go for it, work hard; do not give up. Nothing comes easy but if you really want it and it makes you happy, persist and you will achieve. Do what you love and you will feel happy to wake up every new morning, even when things seem bleak, you will be hopeful. Be true to yourself, be patient and be fair to those around you. Always pray; it will keep you sane and grounded too.