The electro punk rock of Ugandan Ecko Bazz
Ecko Bazz, the immensely talented 34-year-old Ugandan rapper, is finally having the best time of his life. As he goes from stage to stage across Central and Eastern Europe, performing to eager crowds enveloped in his cathartic performances, it feels like his mission is beginning to take shape. “I make music to express what’s inside of me for the world to see,” he says, “money has no value beyond paper and numbers – I don’t need a new car as much as I need to value what is real to me”.
There’s no doubt that this Kampala-based rapper has a sense of his own talent, neither here nor on his debut album. maso, which surfaced this spring on Ugandan underground label Hakuna Kulala. It’s fierce punk rock electronica MC’d by a voice that evokes the religious incantations of a doom ember – a demonic dancehall toaster blasting threats around a haunting, double, sometimes triple bass drum. time on the beat.
The title track is suitably an end-of-day thing. Ecko Bazz raps aggressively in the language of Luganda, the Bantu language of his tribe. A voice spitting blood, as vicious as it was agonizing. While on these tracks he references the injustices of life back home in East Africa, in person he is more disarming: “It’s a record of how I view life; on why my energy is the way it is. can work on ourselves to become better,” he says, “I just let it be, yo.”
It’s an album that sounds more of a man on edge. The track “Teli” is the distorted, paranoid voice of a man trying to make sense of his surroundings. Sometimes it is as if he were happily giving in to despair. It is neither meditative nor philosophical.
As he leans intently in the lobby of his hotel, Ecko Bazz is determined to leave a life behind as he forges ahead on this new journey. He explains it as a driving force which he has made a way of life: “I refuse to be controlled by the mind. Moving forward is my self-determination” he explains, “I keep the things that are not good for me in the past and never go back. All truth is in the future”.
As Europe opens up to the hard-hitting grime subs and thrumming trap hi-hats of his tour, the reality of his life-meaning performances settles in him: “For me right now, he doesn’t it’s not about whether you can survive on music. The first step to successful touring is how people relate to your work,” he says, ” [although] you want to go home with money in your pocket of course…” The sentence stops him there, as he struggles with the fact that you can’t live on Instagram likes alone, it’s is a thought that is quickly brushed aside. Tonight he’s in Venice playing a show in “a city they built on water.” The miraculous sense of living in the moment and all it can bring emboldens him again and is fueled in the grating fury of his performance later that evening.
With this tour as an unforgettable experience to build on, Ecko Bazz will return to Kampala to channel energy into new music in a place where he is already considered an anomaly. Where he is sometimes more respected than he is understood by his peers.
Back in East Africa, he feels “the mental state of many people is broadening” and the power of young people to ask the big questions of “how, when and why” is inspiring. Here, beyond the heavy obscurity of his sound, it is an immense hope that surges in him as he puts an end to it: “I want to travel all over Africa and all around the Earth, while freeing people’s minds… I want to be the key to their ultimate freedom. And with that, he disappears to roar into a microphone as if a failing world depended on him to do so.
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