One On One With Abaasa, An Artist and Producer, Shares on His Musical Journey and The Upcoming Rukungiri Mixtape

Abaasa Rwemereza poularly known by his stage name “Abaasa” is a Ugandan artist and producer who has been known for the uniqueness in his music. The multi talented artist is set to release his debut project, a mixtape titled “Rukungiri” that will be released early September this year. In this exclusive interview find out who he really is, what he thinks of the Ugandan music industry and some in depth info on the “Rukungiri” mixtape.

Who are you? How did you begin this whole thing of music?

I was born, raised and went to school in Makerere…while at school is when I first got introduced to music and playing instruments, so we would jam around mostly to Hillsong music, then I got into singing when one of our singers wasn’t around…

In 2013, I got an opportunity to go abroad for studies in audio engineering in Los Angeles, SAE (School of Audio Engineering), it was a nice learning experience to bring back here, I learnt to also produce music, then started making samples and sharing them with Ruyonga and this is what became of me. 

And am also into music and sound for film. I finished in may this year, 2015, and am now a working audio engineer, and this is my first project out of school and currently working with Novel band, where we do live sound for events.

Which projects as a producer have you worked on?

I have produced for Ruyonga on his Victory Music album on a song called “Tukutendereza” and on Glory Fire on songs “Mubiri” and “Cross Fire”. And also The Mith, I produced about 2 or three songs off the Destination Africa album.

I have also worked with Lillian Mbabazi, she started a live band in 2010, and I was blessed to be one of the first members, but that was purely live performances, and not production.

Production and collaboration wise, I have been pushing for working with rappers, because hip hop has a different sound, as a genre its produced differently from pop music, from the way rappers write their music to the way they rhyme, its very good and real, so I thought it would be best to fit my work in hip hop music, so I want to put my voice on hooks and that’s the idea behind collaborating with the rappers.

How would you describe your sound as an artist and producer…

When the song is made its not like… I made the song, it’s like the song God made and am there. I am just a guy on the computer. If I can describe my sound, its rhythmic, based on drums because I am a drummer.

Its also based on vocal melodies, that means the music sounds much happier…with lots of movements here and there.I call it Liquid Afro. I had to come up with that, because of the liquid movement in the music, small things contributing to the movement and Afro because of the African drums…haha

How do you feel working with mainstream industry as a Christian…Are there lines that you draw?

The problem in this country, people draw the boundaries and that sets how musicians will act, and also affecting how people will respond to the music. If I make a Gospel song people will listen to it in a different way, people make music and say Jesus looks at the heart and they end up slacking and not work so hard.

I  don’t think a line should be drawn, we all need to come together and do this thing, I can’t say that I don’t work with this artist because he is a Muslim or this and that, you have already created a stereotype in your mind and yet this is what is supposed to bring us together, music.

Yes, the lines are there but based on me as an individual, I don’t just put it out in the music. If you want me to do something I don’t agree with, I will be like, I don’t do that. Music is for everyone. You have to stop playing church and making yourself feel better than everyone else and tell the people about the Gospel.

Its a narrow minded way of thinking that its all about growing the church, we need to go out there and take the message to the people who need it as much. Things have changed…there are Gospel artists on mainstream media and mainstream artists that are making Gospel music.

How do you view the Christian as opposed to the mainstream music industry?

Mainstream, less stingy, they don’t hold back as much, even in the Christian media there those who don’t hold back, but its coming from a different point of view because its worship. The mainstream is supporting your art, but the Gospel arena supports the message. It all trickles down to whether they will buy my CD or ticket, or if they expect the show to be free because its a gospel event.

So there is support from everyone. When I see Ruyonga am like he can preach, and when I see Bebe Cool, I will go like this guy is too bad. So many things come into play when you say you are a Christian or Mainstream artist.

Personally am a Christian who does secular music, i don’t want to draw lines between what I can or can’t do because its all part of me, am not saying that I grew up from a church and that am going to be all perfect.

This is a serious issue, but according to you, what is secular music and how do you embrace it?

Its a message that doesn’t do a lot with the supernatural, it has to do a lot with a relationship you have with an individual or an object and not necessarily with God. There is bound to be people who are going to ask questions, is he really Christian? why is he doing secular music? he should sing about God.

Not every Christian sings hymns everyday…being a Christian still means you are living the normal life, every day like everyone else only that there is a different spirit in you, and you view life from a different perspective. We all face temptations, move in a taxi but its just that you are living life in another way.

So this is between me and God, and he has blessed me with this gift, and what is there but to sing, I sing about what I go through every day, I sing about what I know.

You have hinted that you are planning to release a mixtape titled “Rukungiri”…How many songs are on it? Whats on there?…Is it finished?…What should we expect?

It’s called Rukungiri, a mixtape, it has 8 songs, based on experiences I have gone through or I go through, wrote it at the end of 2013. At the beginning of 2013 I went to study abroad, I always think when i travel, my native home is in Rukungiri (a  district in western Uganda), whenever I go away I always reflect on how life is back in town and what I need to do differently, thinking about stuff and when I return I come back refreshed.

The Rukungiri mixtape is me reflecting on what I have gone through and situations that have happened…am putting them in song in such a way that someone can use them as a bridge. There are times you go through a situation and you put up a wall and your like there is is no way anyone is going to know about this, and yet God wants us to use these experiences to encourage others.

I wrote this mixtape based on the instrumentals, I wrote the music based on them, if I wanted the song to be sad, I will make a sad instrumental and then I would think about what experiences I went through in that particular mood and that’s how I wrote all the songs.

I hope to drop it with a video, hopefully early September 8th. I will also make some CDs put it up online as well..I have already released “Ntegyerize” (DOWNLOAD HERE), which is the 4th song on the mixtape, which means ‘am waiting’. The idea of the mixtape is a story with 8 episodes, based on two characters of a boy and a girl in a relationship, and at the  4th song, they have kind of split and there is a distance between them and things aren’t working out well and all they have is the good times to hold on as they are waiting.

And so after the tape…

The plan with these beats was to build Abaasa as the artist, how can i grow this artist, what should i put in his path to grow him, how am I going to move him out of his comfort zones, how to make a bold statement, that’s the idea behind “Rukungiri”, I would love to build him, I have a small plan in mind and along the way whatever comes in and works we will go with it. So am planing to perform this music, I have been doing that.

There is a CD am going to make, the music is free but we want to dedicate CD sales to a cause that is close to my family’s heart. What i want to do with the profits off the CD is to support Cancer patients because when you get to hear the amount of money they need for some of this treatment, its a lot of money.

I can’t raise all the money but we can all contribute, one step at a time. My sister is in charge of that and we want to see how to get to the cancer institute or a cancer organisation that supports people who need the treatment abroad.

Who have you creatively been working with on this tape?

I am the one who sits on the PC but there is a whole bunch of guys that are producing this music. I have been working with writers mainly Twongyeirwe Isabel on ‘simanyi’, Charite Kabahita on ‘Maze’ and Chira Cristina from Romania on ‘Hometown’ they were basically helping me with lyrics.

I thought it would be be helpful that I worked with other good brains so when the music comes out we have a very different project so that people don’t feel like its just me, it will sound like that these guys are actually working.

I have guitarists like David mute, Paul Mayanja and Isaac Senyonjo on the Keys, Baru and Don from Dustville Records, Nelson from C19 is mixing and mastering the project.  I cant valuate what they did, but they have really been essential to how the project sounds.

What you will eventually hear is a product of so many brains in Uganda, I feel like we have it so much here in Uganda. the potential is so big, we can start anything from labels, to schools, to studios, everyone should get into what they can do.

This project was about me showing that, if you have something to do, get some people to support you and support them too and you will get a good product.

Do you have any guest artists featuring on the album?

Yes, there is a rapper called Patrobas on a song called “Home Town” its a song about Uganda, Tina Trafford a Ugandan from Canada on a song called “Maze” and The Mith from Uganda too. You need to listen to the tape, to get the idea of the sounds and feel the vibe they were working with, I wanted them to sound like themselves but on an Abaasa project.

As we come to the end of this, what is in session for Abaasa in the nearby future…?

I want to perform the tape, get onto a couple of shows. I feel like people need to hear this music. May be at the beginning of the next year i want to get into another Abaasa mode but I want to first perform this tape and my face isn’t that bad after all [hahaha]

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