Navio: My dream of East Africa united by music

Navio: My dream of East Africa united by music
Navio and Vivian Tendo hold a press conference after their arrival in Juba ahead of their Eid celebrations. [Sheila Ponnie, City Review]

The Ugandan rapper Daniel Lubwama Kigozi, better known as Navio, is no stranger to the music scene in East Africa and beyond.

The 38-year-old who was part of the award-winning hip hop group Klear Kut which introduced the term “Ugaflow” to describe Uganda’s hip hop scene, has now trained his eyes on an ambitious mission to unite the East through music.

On April 8, the Democratic Republic of Congo officially joined the East African Community as the seventh member, which means Navio’s dream just got bigger.

According to Navio, East African countries and musicians should begin moving the region to the next level by collaborating as one people to achieve great success in the industry.

“The fact that we don’t think of the next country when it comes to the music industry, especially when we release our hits, has harmed us as artists. There is no reason why this tiny enduring song released here shouldn’t be released on the same day in Nairobi, Kampala, Burundi, and Djibouti,” he said.

Navio said pushing for East African unity was the way forward in the development of future generations.

He made the statement upon his arrival in Juba on Saturday ahead of the Eid al-Fitr celebrations.

“Of course, many things bind us together such as language, customs, and civilizations. We are quite familiar with one another. That is how I believe we should think of ourselves.”

He says the goal is to collapse East Africa into a single unit, and to show the world that musicians from here can work in Uganda, Kenya, and other parts of East Africa and beyond.

He discovers talent

Navio was born to engineer Daniel Serwano Kigozi and physician Dr. Maggie Kigozi. He is the youngest of three children. While growing up, Navio listened to a lot of music including his elder brother’s huge collection of rap music from artists such as Run–D.M.C., MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, and the Beastie boys and would try to mimic them.

When he was about 10 years old, his mother heard him rapping in the living room, and came over and asked whether it was Vanilla Ice rapping. She was so excited that she took him to Baava studio, owned by Hope Mukasa, to record a song.

At 16, Navio formed the hip hop group, Klear Kut with his four closest friends: Tom “Tha Mith” Mayanja, Jonathan “J-Baller” Leslie, Abba “Langman” Lang, and Habib Abdul Hussein aka Papito. The group’s debut album, “Mind, Body and Soul” (2000), was a huge success and generated the several hit singles including “All I Wanna Know” (with Juliana), “Remember”, and “Let’s Get It on”.

He says that it is time for South Sudanese artists to collaborate and consider themselves international artists rather than merely South Sudanese artists.

“In reality, we have the worst example of Africa behaving as a unit when something is released in Ghana on the same day it is released in Nigeria and elsewhere; we need to unite our music. That is how you must carry yourself.”

He stated that there is room in the industry for people to strive to exhibit their best side, which he believes should be the fans, and that this is the only way for him to survive in the profession for more than 20 years.

A lot of times, you see an artist who you think is on top and you have a lot of strategies for how to push yourself to that level, and eventually, you are like.

 “I can’t wait to reach that level or you believe that there is an only one available spot, which is the number one spot. That is completely untrue of music, “the superstar emphasized.

He cited the Nigerian music industry as an example, saying people are divided right now over who is the biggest among the Banner Boy, Whisky, or Davido.

According to the singer, there is no number one slot in Nigerian music, as everyone is pushing and taking the music to the next level, and some newcomers, such as Fire Boy, are making waves.

So long in the industry?

He says what has made him relevant for long in the music industry is the principal of not striving to impress next month, but instead, focusing on his followers

“My first goal is to impress my followers. So, rather than competing with someone, I look at what they’ve accomplished and admire them. They teach me as well. It is important to learn from the next generation,” he says.

He opines that when people think about competition among themselves, particularly personal competitiveness, it’s a waste of time, and you’ll end up bringing the entire business down with your minor hits.