It was a Wednesday morning in August when I was called by Sylvester Kabombo Coordinator, The Youth and Hip Hop Uganda. Sylvester wanted us to meet urgently. On meeting with him he informs me that he had chosen me to be part of the set going to perform under the Youth and Hip Hop Uganda stage at the Bayimba International Festival of Arts 10th anniversary this year.

Honestly speaking I was so excited and immediately after my meeting with him, I called my young sister and told her of what had happened for trust me, I didn’t see such space coming this year. I never shared it with anyone for close to three weeks because I didn’t know what to say though of course a friend of mine in the industry knew that I would perform.

Shirley behind the Mic
Shirley behind the Mic

When the pictorial details of the event were finally shared with us (artists) who were going to perform, other people knowing was no longer a question to debate. This was another step as we had to share with our different circles to invite them for the show and we were told we are going to perform on one set together. As young rappers who had been in the previous boot camp editions in the previous years, everything became more exciting. Imagine meeting up with people you had never interacted with for the first time for a performance.

Kristien  a rapper from the East, hailing from Soroti and Jo’Ge ,participated in the 2015 edition which was held in Mbale, I was in the fourth edition (2016) which took place in Fort Portal and Tushi Polo was in the 2014 edition that took place in Gulu. It was the first time we were performing together as a team from boot camp.

Kristien is a flight operations’ officer at Entebbe International Airport while Jo’Ge – whose actual name is George Ebonyu is a performing rapper and hails from East Kaberamaido district. He is a finalist of Environmental science and Kyambogo University. Tushi Polo on the other hand is not only a rapper but also an actress in Urban TV’s drama series titled ‘Taste of Time.’

Shirley & the Crew During Practice
Shirley & the Crew During Practice

It was thrilling to work with a team of very talented musicians who not only sing but purse other careers alongside their music just like me.

When we started rehearsals, everything started budding in our minds. We started living the dream we were dreaming for the past weeks. Personally this was going to be the first biggest platform I was going to grace in my young career as a rapper and performing artist. We were rehearsing with Kaz Kasozi, a renowned producer and artist with the ‘Little Room’ studio in Makindye –Kazungu. We were also engaged by the Trio Tabbu band, an amalgamation of three artists from different bands. These were Kaz Kasozi, Lawrence and Ronnie!

Everything was fun especially because of the way Kaz commanded the drums, then Ronnie on the Piano and Lawrence on the Bass guitar strumming all way ending in a consonance of such great music. I was challenged to perfect everything when I held the mic. We had three days of intense rehearsals and everything got better each and every day. We could no longer wait for the final performance.

It was really a grand experience having an audience rapping along to my songs during my performance. I could feel the vibes especially when my choruses were sang out and fans made me repeat my lines over and over again. This kind of exposure gave me so much determination to keep my dreams alive. I would like to thank those who have been there for me and supported me like Sylvester Kabombo, Nase Avatar my producer, Kaz Kasozi and the Trio Band, of course not forgetting my family and all my other friends. I really appreciate. How I have managed to keep where I am as a female rapper?

Kaz Kasozi on the Drums
Kaz Kasozi on the Drums

Hip hop being a male dominated genre, it’s quite difficult and easy to come through as a female in it but a lot comes with it. I personally have not been here so long but yes I won’t deny it’s not been easy for me to get to where I am. The hustle is real let nobody lie to you about that. I have managed to keep where I am by diversifying my hustle, I don’t only sit back and wait to go to studio to record my music or shoot any videos. I wake up every morning and go to work but besides my work and music I also farm and deal in craft work to try and raise money for my basic needs and for my music production.

The greatest challenge I have faced so far is promotion. Promotion is harder than writing your song and stepping to studio to record it. Promotion is a whole wide range of something I can’t even define because recording a song is a different thing all together from promotion. It requires a lot more than just sharing the song with friends and family or colleagues because you are expected to share it with the media houses, the DJs you know all those you think can help move the song but only if it was as easy as just giving your work to them then everybody would have an audience.

Performance Time
Performance Time

My word to other females looking forward to joining the game, should ensure they are willing to endure all that comes with it, because it’s not easy out here so don’t start what you won’t finish.

The other is they should have a backup plan like another source of income because this is just an investment you will be making and if you are to earn from it, it won’t come soon. This also helps to eliminate the saying most people say “we get used by these people” because according to me, you will only get used if you can’t stand on your own. If you have your sources of income right, that producer/video director or promoter won’t strip you because you’re paying your bills so we need to really work hard.

I would like, in a special way thank Bayimba foundation for giving us a platform at the festival and Africalia for supporting our rehearsals and final performances.

Thank you for the support and hope to drop more music for my fans.

Shirley  Akeso

Accounts Assistant


Gifted, talented or determined? Shirley May’s star moment.

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