Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Discovering Obumu through Hip-Hop: Scott Macklin and Jonathan Cunningham Teach Media Skills Workshop in Uganda and Beyond

A break-dancer shows off his moves at the Galaxy Dance Project facility—a dilapidated, old school in Kawempei, Uganda
A break-dancer shows off his moves at the Galaxy Dance Project facility—a dilapidated, old school in Kawempei, Uganda

It is a dry, 98 degree day in Namasuba, Kampala. The promised rainy season has yet to arrive in Uganda and no water flows through the township’s spotty infrastructure. But this place is far from barren.
Rhymes gush forth like a waterfall. Drum beats punctuate the dusty air. And throughout it all, camera shutters are poised to capture the defining moment. Class is in session.
Welcome to the “Obumu Media Lab,” a digital storytelling workshop for the hip-hop youth of the Bavubuka Foundation. The five-day, immersive learning experience was crafted by Associate Director Scott Macklin and Comm Lead student Jonathan Cunningham and executed on a trip to Uganda last month.
Discovering Obumu through Hip-Hop 2
Macklin laid down the foundation for this journey back in 2009. He just didn’t know it yet.
That year marked the release of Macklin and wife Angelica’s film, Masizakhe: Building Each Other, a documentary that explored Nelson Mandela Bay’s (Port Elizabeth) hip-hop artists and their mission to better South Africa’s ills through cultural activism.
Thousands of miles away, Silas Babaluku took notice. A tour-de-force in Uganda’s community activism and music scene, Babaluku has long advocated for the empowerment of Ugandan cultural identity through hip-hop. Ten years ago, the multifaceted artist created Luga Flow, a rapping style that injected Ugandan lyrics and indigenous instruments into the English-language dominated genre. Then he founded the Bavubuka Foundation, a nonprofit organization that connects youth to the arts in hopes of strengthening native identity and uniting diverse communities.
Masizakhe’s community-centric message seemed a perfect parallel for his mission. So Babaluku contacted Macklin and invited him to Kampala to screen the film and lead a conversation on the subject.
From left: Jonathan Cunningham, Silas Babaluku and Scott Macklin discuss the curriculum for the “Obumu Media Lab” during Babaluku’s brief visit to Seattle.
From left: Jonathan Cunningham, Silas Babaluku and Scott Macklin discuss the curriculum for the “Obumu Media Lab” during Babaluku’s brief visit to Seattle.

Macklin knew he could do better than that. He contacted Cunningham, his student and the Manager of Youth & Community Programs at the Experience Music Project (EMP) museum, and began brainstorming. And when a fortuitous flight layover brought Babaluku to Seattle, the two presented him with a media production curriculum that would enable the youth of the Bavubuka Foundation to articulate their unique heritage and experiences.
“It went from just a screening to [creating] participation,” Macklin explained. “The activities we designed are rooted in what we teach and how we operate here in the Communication Leadership program. I wanted the students to come away with a fundamental understanding of how to craft an action idea, and how to have that focusing element drive their aesthetic decisions and production. We even wove in some readings from Rob Salkowitz’ book, Young World Rising, and Hanson Hosein’s Storyteller Uprising.”
An “Obumu Media Lab” student holds up two of the workshop’s texts, Comm Lead’s Hanson Hosein’s “Storyteller Uprising” and Rob Salkowitz’ “Young World Rising.”
Gilbert Frank Daniels, an “Obumu Media Lab” student, holds up two of the workshop’s texts, Comm Lead’s Hanson Hosein’s “Storyteller Uprising” and Rob Salkowitz’ “Young World Rising.”

The workshop would cover a wide breadth of material, from maximizing the potential of available technology (cell phones) and photo composition to interviewing skills and developing an engagement strategy for the final product. But no matter the lesson plan, the guiding principal was always the same—community-centric storytelling, or “deep hanging out” as Macklin likes to call it.
“The idea is to make stories with people, not about them,” Macklin said. “We’re not there to get the story, we’re not there to take your picture. We’re there to develop a story together—it’s a way to disrupt and challenge the co-optive, colonizing practices that a lot of the world has been run up against.”
Babaluku was sold, and on March 1st Macklin and Cunningham took off for Africa. Once there, the two set up shop at the Bavubuka Foundation, a learning facility (complete with computers and finicky WiFi) that doubled as an artists’ collective with a live-in crew of musicians, fashion designers and craft-makers.
In that dynamic space, Macklin and Cunningham welcomed a class of 20 energetic students, ranging from 12- to 22-years-old, ready to create. The mission of their media production was to explore and capture the meaning of “Obumu.”
“Obumu is an Ugandan word meaning togetherness or unity,” Macklin said. “It gets at community activism, cultural production and artistic activity that serves humanity. There’s no equivalent in English. But according to Silas [Babaluku], the word isn’t necessarily used in contemporary language. Part of the work was uncovering its heritage and tradition in a contemporary setting.”
To do so, Macklin assigned activities that challenged the students to explore their identities and played to their artistic strengths. Instead of writing papers, the musically minded were asked to compose lyrics about “Obumu” and then lay them down to Babaluku’s beat in an indoor recording session. The scripted performance was followed up with an outdoor freestyle session, accompanied by traditional Ugandan instruments.
A submission for the Six Word Memoir assignment in the “Obumu Media Lab.”
A submission for the Six Word Memoir assignment in the “Obumu Media Lab.”

The students’ diverse backgrounds played a huge part in the storytelling—each of the media lab members was a proud representative of the neighborhood s/he hailed from. Macklin asked them to create a multimedia Six Word Memoir that would reflect their upbringing. To accomplish this, they dedicated the latter three days of the workshop to on-site, district visits.
The first stop was Eye Ghetto, an area bisected by a murky water canal, with the modern architecture of the “haves” on one side and the piecemeal homes of the “have nots” on the other. Macklin’s students lived in the latter. But what may look like abject poverty to the uninitiated, was actually a center for creativity and commerce for Eye Ghetto residents. The crumbling wall that bordered the canal doubled as both a canvas for graffiti artists and a community gathering place. The tin shack beside it housed a TV, a PlayStation and an entrepreneurial young resident who charged visitors for game play.
An “Obumu Media Lab” student stands on the “have nots” side of Eye Ghetto’s water canal.
MC Flower Vanessa, an “Obumu Media Lab” student, stands on the “have nots” side of Eye Ghetto’s water canal.

Macklin and Cunningham witnessed an even more drastic repurposing at the class’ next stop—Kawempei. There, the group explored a half-demolished, old school building, turned sports and activity center. Its dusty field and wrecked rooms became the stage for the Galaxy Dance Project, a collective of break-dancers who regularly practiced and performed in the space.
“The big surprise was seeing what people did in these conditions and contexts,” Macklin marveled. “These guys and gals were some of the most amazing B-boys & B-girls that I’ve seen.”
Ugandan youth play soccer in the dirt field by Kawempei’s abandoned school, turned make-shift community center.
Ugandan youth play soccer in the dirt field by Kawempei’s abandoned school, turned make-shift community center.

Building robust creative and collaborative spaces out of little to nothing became the centerpiece topic at Macklin’s post-film discussion. The original goal of Babaluku’s invitation was carried out at the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, which hosted the Masizakhe: Building Each Other screening. The event drew a crowd of 80 Ugandan influencers from all realms—from hip-hop to cultural affairs.
The film’s content anchored a dynamic conversation amongst the diverse attendees.
“You have all the industry stars, who get all the play on the radio, and then you have the community stars—the folks who have made a conscious effort to make a difference in their community through their art and activism, who don’t necessarily get the press or the headlines,” recalls Macklin. “So the question was how do you create a space for the pop stars and community starts to work together? It was really this exchange of how can we best utilize the limited resources we have in order to be a benefit to each other.”
Employees of the Embassy—who likely had never seen that many “hip-hop heads” in one place together—were wowed by the turnout and spirit of the screening.
“This is such a wonderful opportunity to bring everyone together,” said Lisa Larson, a Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy. “It’s so fun to see people’s mind blown.”
Macklin, Cunningham and Babaluku pose with a crowd of attendees at the “Masizhake” screening at the U.S. Embassy, Kampala.
Macklin, Cunningham and Babaluku pose with a crowd of attendees at the “Masizhake” screening at the U.S. Embassy, Kampala.

The full impact of the screening remains to be seen, but one thing is clear—the story of the “Obumu Media Lab” is far from over.
All the media produced by Cunningham, Macklin and the students during workshop week will feed into an “Obumu” documentary, a meta-film that will address both the implementation of the Lab and the deeper meaning of its moniker. The venture was so successful, that Cunningham will dedicate a quarter of Comm Lead independent study to make it replicable. He’s developing a curricular guide for the workshop so it can be implemented in new locations without Macklin’s or Cunningham’s oversight.
Now the two will take their Ugandan insights and educational formula to EMP’s Pop Conference (April 25-27th) with a “Hip-Hop, Digital Media and Social Change in Kampala” presentation. The Museum’s annual gathering of artists, educators and influencers celebrates innovation, creativity and music that puts the world in motion.   Macklin’s mission to empower burgeoning, Luga Flow hip-hop artists with the digital tools to define and disseminate their cultural heritage was a natural fit for the conference.
“The ability to create, curate and share stories from whatever community you’re from is really important,” Macklin concludes. “Those stories become the bridges for understanding for folks from other communities, the footsteps to finding common points of interest and working together. The amazing commitment and energy exemplified by the ‘Obumu Media Lab’ participants can be an example for us all. The hope is that their stories will have a ripple effect here.”
To get a sneak peak at the “Obumu” documentary and view the Obumu collective’s stunning collection of photos from the trip, make sure to attend Macklin and Cunningham’s Scene Shifters panel on Friday, April 25th at the EMP’s Level 3 Event Space, from 2 to 4 p.m

Monday, April 7, 2014

Stand Tall Education Network family AFFIRMATION

The whole school has already changed by the development achieved from the creative project thus far. by the end of the day, We left the whole school from the principle, teachers & the students collectively believing the were champions & thus the song title "I BELIEVE, AM A CHAMPION"
THese are collective moments that indeed lift our souls to give us the zeal to continue to push forward on this journey of Empowering young Generation around the world One youth at a time & sharing the spirit of Unity. We would to appreciate our family of Bavubuka Acoustic SOUL Movement family for leading over 90 students towards this accomplishment.

Bavubuka Foundation Meet & StandTall Education Centre in a creative Workshop.

Bavubuka Foundation is grateful for a collaboration of music creative  visionaries - for sharing their heart and passion with those youthful at heart at Stand Tall Education Network. The recent past day, our team of artistes, fashion designers, emcees, Photojournalist among st other spent time at Stand Tall Education Centre to collectively create an experience that will change the hearts young people at the school through different skill sets.
Day1 Experience with Babaluku cultivatineg the minds of the young ones.
Poetry & Creative Writing session

 Bavubuka Acoustic SOUL Movement's Richy, Omutaba Ngoma, Herry & Giovani engaging the youth in the indigenous Music Experience. "Can U Believe AM A CHAMPION"

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Uganda’s Luga Flow Legend Babaluku

Bavubuka Community today celebrates brother babaluku-uganda-hip-hop

Luga Flow legend Babaluku is one of the most visible and respected artists making an impact on Kampala’s expansive hip-hop scene. As a pioneer within Uganda’s hip-hop realm, he’s one of the first emcees to make rapping in the native Luganda tongue popular rather than deferring to colonial English. One can easily learn more about Babaluku (formerly of the Bataka Squad) from the 2008 documentary Diamonds in the Rough: A Ugandan Hip-hop Revolution that covers his journey from his crew’s early days playing shows across Uganda to eventually rocking festivals in the U.S. with Michael Franti.
Currently Babaluku splits time between Kampala and Vancouver, BC, where director Juan Andres Hodgson shot the recent video for “Batulidewo.” Production-wise, the song knocks, and coupled with the at times, gruff and heady lyrics rapped in Luganda, “Batulidewo” has the feel of a radio single. When asked about the track itself, Babaluku told us, “The song is meant to be a confidence booster for the people who follow the music industry in Uganda… It’s about standing strong and not only being able to inspire but really design what the future of hip-hop in Uganda looks like.” He also expressed optimism that “Batulidewo” might see a proper release on a compilation called All Spiritual, which would drop on his own B Dynasty imprint before the end of the year. Given that he was working on a string of videos in Uganda during our time together, expect more material and visuals from Babaluku in the coming months. Until then, watch the “Batulidewo” video below

The Art of 6 WORD MEMOIR

As people's attention to read media get short & shorter, many people around the world have come up with different ideas of how to get their messages out clear and precise. Twitter invented sending out messages in only 130 characters while other people have started to compress their video messages in 40 seconds or Less.

During the Obumu Media Lab conducted at Bavubuka Foundation, Professor Scott Maclin from Washington University - Seattle introduced a technique to the youth leader in hip hop community of Uganda of using only six words to express yourself.

The 6 word memoir was introduced to instigate youth to think to start using the visual media to carry their messages across.
I this post, We will be sharing some of the 6 word memoir media that has so far been generated & how it has already started impacting the youth in their communities.

"Buzz Buzz Goes The Bumble. Obumufy!" ~ Scott Maclin
"Hip Hop Connecting Powerful Political Voices" ~ That Kid Bil (Ugandan Allstarz)
"Peace, Love, Foundation, Family Building Together" ~ That Kid Bil (Ugandan Allstarz)
"Spoken Word Bridging many Art Forms"
"She Dreamed... And so it Was" ~ Christine Michelle
"We Heard, We Came, We Obumufied" ~ Gilbert Igabe
"The Joy of an African Child" ~ Chimey Mc
"Create and Share    to change Perspectives" ~ Ras Kasozi

Nas Discusses the 20-Year Impact of Illmatic with Dr. Michael Eric Dyson (Video)

Georgetown Professor Michael Eric Dyson and iconic rapper Nas analyzed the current state of hip-hop during a conversation in Gaston Hall.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Brother Tha Black Boi Pays pilgrimage to the Temple of Lugaflow (Bavubuka Foundation International Headquaters)

On a quest for solid foundational bricks much love to Sista Anna Clare for guiding our comrade from the west Africa; Tha Black Boi to the temple of LUGA flow the home of the true indigenous hip hop builders it was great sharing the spiritual vision and aspirations beyond all mica and stages much love to brother kedford kattanyenje for jumping in on that quick cypher moment these are indeed the cornerstone moments designed to inspire all emcees in the continent and beyond to reconnect and build Wanlov - Ghana in the building and of course Pigeon music had to come up more vim fam you next chale!   Bavubuka Dynasty legacy builders much love to the Ug Hip hop Archivist for capturing the indigenous cypher
Tha Black Boi & Babaluku at Bavubuka Foundation Head Quaters

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