From his home in London, UK; he spoke to ChimpLyf’s Bruno Agababyona about his life as the ‘Mukiga nomad from Kihembe Village destined to influence the world’ like he is widely known by his peers.
Many people know you as the ‘Mukiga nomad from Kihembe Village destined to influence the world’; tell us, how much of a nomad have you been? Where have you been and what have you done there?
I have been literally to all places. Studies and work have had me traverse the globe. I was born in Kihembe village, Kanungu District where I finished my primary studies at Kihembe Primary School. Lived and studied in Kampala. Lived, studied and worked in in Swaziland, former Bophuthatswana Homeland in South Africa, Canada, USA and now UK.
You know nomadism never used to be a life of a Mukiga but things have changed. So people find it humorous when I say I am a Mukiga Nomad but it’s true, don’t you see? The influencing the globe bit is also true you know. Everywhere I have gone; I have made a contribution and with the same token improved myself.
What was your childhood dream and how much of it have you achieved so far?
You might find this unusual but my dream since childhood has been to be happier today than I was yesterday. So be it going to catch mad fish or graze goats in Kihembe or playing golf elsewhere, I have always sought happiness. So have been career choices. Whatever I have pursued, I have sought happiness. Happiness is my dream and in many ways I am living my dream.
You were an IT expert employed by the Commonwealth Secretariat for 8 years, 18 years across the board; how, why and when did you take up Talent Management as a serious occupation?
Coincidentally, this May 2014 is my 1 year Anniversary since I ended an 18 year career in Information Technology to focus on Talent Management, public relations especially in entertainment.
Together with my wife and business partner, Grace, we founded Grajoh Talent Management & Public Relations; formalizing what I had in more than many ways done, albeit informally, over the 18 years.
Grajoh is growing, learning and growing some more. We have 6 official executives: 4 based in London, UK & 2 based in Uganda. We work with an additional 8-10 paid staff depending on the magnitude of a given project.
Grajoh runs events including the 2beloved Gala, the Grajoh End of Year Concert, Afrikafest, special projects and gets involved in few community causes from time to time.
Grajoh currently manages and does PR for the diversely talented and skilled:
- Anne Kansiime (Comedian)
- Patrick Salvado (Comedian)
- Iryn Namubiru (singer/performer/songwriter)
- Hazel Mak (Singer/Performer)
- Grajoh also has 2 DJs – Mac Pro and Shady Shahid.
You must be a very busy man since you have so much on your hand yet you also have a family. How do you attend to all your responsibilities and commitments?
Very true. I am a very busy man but 2 key things to note. In whatever I do, even before I got into self-employment, my family is the fulcrum. My family is everything really so I make time for it. Any work that doesn’t support that has never been my kind of work.
Something so cute about what I currently do is that my youngest son gets to hang with the celebs; something that I only saw in movies when growing up.
Where, how and when did you meet Anne Kansiime? The first time you saw her; did you predict that she would turn out to be Africa’s most respected female comedian?
Now here is a surprise! Anne Kansiime was ‘discovered’ by my wife Grace. Apparently in one of her Malawian Women discussion groups, people had been sharing and enjoying Anne’s clips and she learnt Anne was from Uganda. She pointed me to it and don’t get me wrong but her Rukiga-English had me take a few listens. Grace and I decided that night that we would bring Anne to outside countries as Anne likes to call them. We did. We first met in 2013 in London, United Kingdom. We sponsored her to host our inaugural 2BELOVED GALA.
Yes we knew she would be huge. She had the talent and what she needed was support and management. To get her to where she is, and she is just getting started, meant taking a risk on her obviously as I was still in fulltime employment. But risks are me. Yes, we had and still have a vision. I wanted to internationalize her, have and continue to. The benefits accruing are evident from her current national and global stature. Anne is doing well where she is but will become even bigger, it’s just a matter of time.
With all the success registered so far especially on the international scene with Anne Kansiime becoming a global phenomenon, almost every Ugandan artist would desire to be signed by Grajoh, What criteria does Grajoh Talent Management use to scout for and sign talent?
Talk about it! It’s overwhelming. You know Uganda has got talent no doubt and many just want help to take it to another level.
I wish we could grow fast enough to take on more but you know that’s unrealistic. More realistic is the hope that new formations will emerge and together we can support our talent.
It’s annoying yet motivating to see how other countries have invested in talent. Artists are arguably the best exports of great nations. Look at the US or Nigeria. The industries their successful artists have built and the employment opportunities they offer in the home countries and elsewhere. The corporate world needs to extend their sponsorship arms and indeed the State. Yes, Government etuyambe and I’m not joking. See how Nigerians are running the show? The state and corporate world are involved. It’s economics.
Meantime we have posted our official criterion on our website at www.grajoh.com but quite frankly it’s a deliberately slow process even if only to allow us to grow our capacity. That said, the current main ingredient in our talent recruitment is the personal connection. There has to be that connection without which it won’t matter what talent. I deliberately seek that connection. Of course the Artist has to feel the same way.
How have you kept your artists disciplined and enabled them to defend a clean sheet in the roving eyes of the media as far as discipline and professionalism are concerned? How do you manage conflicts that may arise involving the artists?
Easy! They are desirous of being disciplined and that really makes it easy. They are human of course and can error but they are conscious of the potential negative repercussions. They are aware that discipline and professionalism are key to their success.
Conflicts? Oh I have heard all sorts of allegations but honestly, I haven’t come across any yet amongst the artists I manage.
Thing is we are blessed with a diverse group of talented and focused artists who are fully aware of what they want. They also appreciate that there is enough room for all of us. Moreover, I deal with each artists differently and professionally focusing on each one’s goals.
Many of the shows that have been organized by Grajoh have registered prodigious success with many of them being sold out days before, what is your winning strategy at Grajoh as far as events management is concerned?
We give the glory to God, apart from having capabilities and resources to move Grajoh forward. I believe God has a big hand in what we do and are doing. We pray, praise and thank him in all that we do.
Our strategy is professionalization but also marketing which we have taken to another level. We have also been received warmly and do get the support from the community who seem to want new ways of doing things. We pride in good and exemplary hospitality for our performing artists.
I will tell you what though, Grajoh has a lot of work to do as recently witnessed by some challenges during the recent Afrigo 40th Anniversary Concert in London. Our rapid success set the community expectations so high and with that, comes minimal if any tolerance for less. So yes, we are growing and will continue to grow but are also having to learn so fast.
We have a Major event dubbed AFRIKAFEST UK2015 coping up this Oct 3, 2015, our second in a row. On this occasion we have many more and international artists including comedian, Anne Kansiime, Zambia’s singer/performer Mampi Mukape, Burundi’s Kidum, UK based Ugandan Mc Moseh, UK based Malawian Hazel Mak and co-hosted by BEFFTA Founder and CEO Pauline Long. Now that is massive and international and likely will be bigger than our previous event. So we have moved venues to The Troxy Arena which is way bigger, has modern facilities, more security/safety and loads other conveniences for our customers. The new venue even has a better booking/ticketing system. We have even had to acquire a professional event coordinator to move things along.
And as we’ve done for the last 2 years, we are hosting the 3rdAnnual 2beloved Gala in London on August 29 hosted as always by Anne Kansime, and Grajoh End of Year on Dec 06. There are awesome and exciting related announcements yet to be made.
Yes, our customers should expect more and better.
You must have a lot of money now. Where do you get all the resources to successfully run all these programs yet personally, you are based in London?
Hahaha…you man don’t make me laugh. Even people who own money minting machines don’t have a lot of it! As to where I get the resources from, I saved to invest in this, it has always been nearest to my heart. Remember I had very well paid jobs for over 18 years? But certainly we need and are going after sponsorships and we will be looking for public investments once Grajoh is listed on the London Stock Exchange. Meanwhile, we are receiving increasing interest from private investors and seriously considering the various interests. So, yes there is and will be money to do this. We just want to make sure we do it professionally and exemplarily.
What is the role of your wife, Grace Mujungu at Grajoh? I understand she is the other half of the company’s management?
My wife is a co-founder/owner of Grajoh Ltd but also does most of the operational and financial planning stuff. Huge role this is. She is Mama Grajoh if you will.
And tell us; how, where and when did the Mukiga nomad from Kihembe Village meet the belle from Malawi, and the two later get married and start up this amazing venture that is now perceptibly revolutionizing the entertainment business across the region?
Not here sir, not yet. There will be a book at some point to which the rights have already been bought by our legal adviser who is also an excellent writer. But in a nutshell, Grace is a wife, a mother, friend, business partner and we pretty much complete each other. Visit www.2beloved.org for more insight.
Where do you see Grajoh in the next 5, 10 and 20 years?
We have periodic business plans which like building blocks, we are using to attain our overall plan. Without getting into much detail, Grajoh will grow over those years or decades if you will. Our moto is from good to great. Our mission and more can be assessed on our website www.grajoh.com The Almighty God has a hand is this.