‘Rap-orters’ tell news hip-hop style
KAMPALA — Newzbeat makes a catchy change from a standard news bulletin: Ugandans call the broadcasters “rap-orters”, a youth team of hip-hop artists-turned-journalists rapping the headlines.
“Uganda’s anti-gay law is making news/ Some countries have found it befitting to accuse/uganda of treating gays as German Jews/nothing to gain from this and more to lose,” rapped the artists in one recent episode.
That song focused on a law signed by President Yoweri Museveni banning homosexuality, which drew widespread international condemnation. US Secretary of State John Kerry likened it to anti-semitic legislation in Nazi Germany.
“President Museveni says he won’t bow down to the West/uganda has a right to decide what’s best,” the rap continued.
Hearing the news in hip-hop style may sound strange. But in Uganda, where the press faces censorship pressures and the country’s huge youth population often takes little interest in current affairs, a programme where “rap-orters” broadcast with “rhyme and reason” has become popular.
Newzbeat, screened in both English and the local language Luganda on the popular channel NTV every Saturday afternoon and evening before the station’s traditional news bulletins, took to the air last year. said the student, who has been rapping since 2009 and now juggles her “Newzbeat” commitments with her homework.
Kisekka (40) said that in the beginning many viewers dismissed the show as “just entertainment”, but they have come to “appreciate the art form and start listening to the news”.
People were now taking rap more seriously, the artist said.
“It is not just talking about women and booze and all that, it’s delivering the news,” said Kisekka.
For the future, Newzbeat staff are looking at recruiting specialist “rap-orters” to cover fields such as science and technology. They are also keen to expand across Africa.
In Tanzania, a mini-season of four episodes recently aired and another four are set to run in the lead-up to the country’s elections, scheduled for October.
“Media belongs to the power of the day,” Bwogi rapped in one episode. “The Chinese have CCTV/THE British have BBC/AND we too are making our voices heard on NTV.”
NEWZBEAT’S host Sharon Bwogi AKA Lady Slyke (left), writer and producter Daniel kisekka aka ‘Survivor’ (centre) and rapper Zoe kabuye aka ‘MC Loy’.