Julius Kyazze is one of the Directors at Muyenga based Swangz Avenue where he also doubles as the Business Development Manager. Among his duties is talent development, new ventures and growth of the company. The other director is Benon Mugumbya, a former musician turned producer.
To many, Swangz is just a record label managing artistes. But to Kyazze, it is primarily a production house producing music, videos, commercials both radio and TV. Everything else including the record label falls in there.
Swangz Avenue is celebrating their ten year anniversary with a concert themed ‘Swangz All-Star’ where Jamaican-American reggae dancehall super star Tarrus Riley will be the headlining performer this Friday 31st August 2018 at Lugogo Cricket Oval.
The main focus of this ‘All-star national music celebration’ campaign is to celebrate, appreciate Ugandan music as well as celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Muyenga based record label that has nurtured some of the biggest artists the country has today.
Today, they have Vinka and Winnie Nwagi as the only artistes signed to the record label.
Swangz Avenue partnered with a number of corporate companies on this project including; Bell Jamz, Pepsi, Africell Uganda, Capital FM, NBT TV and Mestil Hotel among others on this huge project.
Despite his extremely busy schedule, Julius Kyazze accepted ChimpLyf’s request for an interview. He talked to Rowland Bon Gaucho at Lugogo Cricket Oval about his involvement in Swangz Avenue, how far it has come and what to expect on Friday evening.
Congratulations, ten years is quite an achievement. Briefly take through Swangz Avenue’s journey to where you are today.
Thank you Rowland. Well, like most long stories of life, there is usually a roll coaster of events; you have ups and downs, big moments, really difficult times to deal with. But ultimately, it is those tests that sharpen you. You know iron sharpens iron. It is those trials and tribulations that get you better. And after you overcome them then you look back and you are actually grateful that you had to face that and stuff similar to that because they shape who you become. It is such that has shaped Swangz over the years.
What exactly is the ‘Swangz All-Star’ Concert about?
It is a celebration for ten years; what we have done and gone through, the journey from 2008 to date. It is just one giant celebration. It is a celebration with all those we have worked with. We came up with a way to include everyone, the DJS, producers, artistes, song writers, media, partners and fans. We came up with a way to take the celebrations to as many fans as possible. We partnered with Bell Jam and did country wide tours and then a grand finale here on Friday, 31st August 2018 to party with all we have worked with. And that will be reflected in the production as well.
How did you decide that you wanted to be in the music and entertainment industry when starting Swangz?
Starting Swangz was not the point I decided whether I wanted to be in the music industry or not. We have always been involved from way back. As you know, Benon’s journey with music dates from way back and he did not start in Swangz; he started in school where he was already singing. Myself, I have been involved in music still from school in many different ways. Swangz is just a chapter in the journey. I have always done business with music way before 2008 when Swangz started. My journey with music really goes way back, may be even twenty years.
As a person, how would you describe Julius Kyazze?
That is not for me. That is for people to tell who they think Julius Kyazze is. For me I just do what I do, live my life the way I live it. It is for people to define the Kyazze they interface with. So I don’t think that is not for me.
As a talent developer, when signing artistes to Swangz Avenue, what considerations come in play?
When you find the right talent, you know it. For Swangz, we don’t usually just look for who sings or dances better or has the best voice. You have to have something unique. We look for those with something different to offer, that x-factor. What are you offering that hasn’t been offered? That is our guiding principal. We don’t sign followers, we want to sign trend setter who are going to start something fresh. Otherwise, where is the excitement doing what has been done already!
Why Tarrus Riley?
One, we knew we were going to do a big concert one way or the other, whether with a big name artiste or not. That is why when we broke the news for the concert; we didn’t break it with Tarrus. We were looking for an artiste who is musically good, and also identifies with our values as Swangz. We thought he ticks most of our boxes for the kind of artiste we wanted to celebrate with. Also we wanted an artiste that Ugandans would love to see.
What do you consider Swangz Avenue’s biggest achievement so far in the ten years?
One of the things we celebrate most is touching lives of people; through our works, the different commercials we have done. It is always fulfilling for us. For instance, we worked on campaigns with UNICEF and Stanbic Bank and we know that are going to be life changing. Knowing that we are doing something that is going to put a smile on someone’s face or make their business better, makes us very proud.
You cannot make ten years without challenges, what are some of the toughest you have faced?
At Swangz, we look at challenges very differently that we even forget they are challenges. We have a culture of always looking at them as opportunities. We have had so many but we refuse to look at them that way. We have always managed to turn around what seems to be a challenge to make it work for us. But of course there are those moments you end up in and ask yourself if there is a positive in them like when we lost Sera. There are those moments you never get answers to; you always ask, but God why!
What does the future hold for Swangz Avenue?
We don’t know what it holds for us. But we know we want to be a better Swangz in future. We take each day at a time. For as long as we are better today than we were yesterday, then we know the future will be brighter and much better.
What makes Swangz Avenue stand out from the rest of the production houses in the country?
We simply do us and focus on our stuff as Swangz.
What strategy does Swangz employ to promote music for its record label?
Good music promotes itself. First of all, it has to be good music that people are always going to want to listen to. But there are also sometimes when we thought we have produced good music and it doesn’t work. Sometimes, we are also wrong.
Basically, what is the role of a record label?
Music labels are just companies in the music business. They help organize musicians and run their business. The same role any company plays in an industry is the same role record labels plays in the music business. You can choose to work by yourself or work with a company but it always helps when you have a team of people. However, there is no right or wrong way, whether you sign for record label or not. It doesn’t make either option wrong or right. What works for one artiste may not work for the other. Some artistes are good in that set up and others are not.
What is Julius Kyazze’s typical work day like?
I am usually up by 5:30am, work from home office from 6:30am up to like 9:30 and then go to my day time office either at Swangz or elsewhere depending on events. My days are very confusing. But I know I have an hour of personal things like prayer. I usually juggle between the different offices for most of the day. I am rarely in one place. I retire between mid-night and 1am.
How different is this Swangz All-Star Concert from others you have organized before?
This is different. It is going to give so much value to those attending the show. Imagine watching over eighteen artistes for a ticket price of one and watching Tarrus Riley. Even the level of production is different especially for the local artistes. No one is performing on CD. They are all performing with a band. They have been rehearsing for two months, so it is already special in many ways.
Of all the artistes who have passed through Swangz Avenue, who stands out for you?
They all stand out because everyone has had something special about them. I don’t think we have had two artistes who are similar before.
Besides Swangz Avenue, what else are you into?
I don’t think I want to disclose that. But I am into very many things; events, bakery, manufacturing, app development among others. I am quite spread out in my business portfolio. I am trying to diversify as much as I can.
That is quite a lot, how do you manage to strike a balance between all those?
Systems, most of my businesses, actually all, have structures set up that always support the business without depending on just individuals. They are self-sustaining and can survive without my involvement. They have teams; my partners are all credible and solid contributors.
Having taken the showbiz direction in your career, do you have any regrets?
No. I am actually lucky to do what I love. I have never felt like I am working in this industry because I do things that excite me. When something starts feeling like work, I let it go. I thank God that I do what I enjoy because for all my working years, I have done things that make me happy and could do them for free.
As Chairman of the Uganda Musicians Associations (UMA), what is your take on the Bobi Wine saga since he is a member of the association?
It is really sad what happened. As an association, we put out a statement requesting for him to be treated and he is now getting that treatment. As a member of the association, we are glad he is improving and is with his family.