Zoe Kabuye aka MC Loy is part of an interesting team of hip-hop artists who team up to deliver a weekly TV bulletin in an attempt to reach out to younger audiences in Uganda.
What sets them apart from the regular news is that they call themselves “rap-orters” and use rap to broadcast the news with “rhyme and reason”. The show, called NewzBeat, airs every Saturday on Uganda’s NTV channel, right before the regular news bulletin.
Kabuye was rapping for several TV and radio shows when, at the age of 13, she was invited by Sharon Bwogi to join NewzBeat. Bwogi, the presenter of the show, is known as Uganda’s “queen of hip-hop” and goes by the moniker Lady Slyke. NewzBeat thus aired its first show in 2014, with Lady Slyke, Daniel Kisekka a.k.a. Survivor, and Kabuye as MC Loy.
The show, run by young people, for young people, aims to “promote diversity and visibility for marginalised groups” and “push the boundaries of press limitations.” It is aired in both English and Luganda, the local language, and tackles controversial and relevant topics that reach out to Uganda’s youth that prefers music to newscasts.
Teen rapper Kabuye, now 16, raps on the show about topics such as corruption, Uganda’s controversial anti-gay law, which was compared with anti-semitic Nazi Germany laws by some, sexual abuse, education and Uganda’s ID card programme.
“8 out of 10 unemployed, even with a degree or a diploma, finding work is still a drama. Too many job seekers, and too few job creators.”
Kabuye herself believes in the motto, “Education for all, no more corruption” and thinks it is crucial for the youth to be aware of what’s happening in the world and around them. She even put her demands to the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, saying:
“Yes, I am proud to be a Ugandan, living in the beautiful motherland, the pearl of Africa that grows every day and night with mega malls, roads, hospitals, education system and so much more. But we need some more and I wanna be the first female president of my country – Uganda, the pearl of Africa.”
The press faces heavy government censorship in Uganda, and issues like corruption or criticism of government officials have become increasingly difficult for journalists and media-houses to cover, who are subjected to frequent censorship, arrests or bans for the same.
Rap, however, is a rare medium that defies government regulations and falls under free speech. It has also turned out to be the perfect way of reaching out to Uganda’s population, whose average age is 15.5, by combining pop-culture, music and news-reporting.
NewzBeat has already gathered a wide, popular audience for themselves, which has surpassed the youth to even include businessmen and government ministers. They have plans to expand across Africa, which may soon be a reality.