When Quick Talk meets Ndere Troupe founder and leader Stephen Rwangyezi at the Ndere centre, it’s like a tango dance…
How old are you Mr Rwangyezi?
Well, I know I’m 59. I was born in 1955 but I am not sure of the date. I had to eventually adopt a date there is a photo in my father’s house when I am just a little dot, dated June 30, 1955, and that’s the date I eventually adopted.
Do you celebrate your birthday every year?
No! I have never celebrated it I don’t think it is sensible. The birthday will come anyway you won’t bring it! I celebrate achievements, not occasions. I think birthdays have become a craze. If you don’t send someone a card, you become enemies. They tell you: “You forgot my birthday.” Why should I remember?
But Facebook can remind you of birthdays.
Facebook? What would I be doing on Facebook? [Pointing at his face] I have my face here.
Hahaha, of course you have your face there!
You see, Facebook isn’t meant for our community. The economic theory of developed countries is based in scarcity… They minimise the number of people they get in contact with. But they have realized that they need people. They therefore started up platforms like Facebook and Twitter. These give them the opportunity to know so many people but from afar.
The economy of Africa is based on abundance. We welcome people. If I am to have friends, I want to know them, not just their names. I want to attend burials of their relatives and I want to drink with them in times of happiness.
Let’s talk about your career didn’t your parents tell you, “ah ah Stephen, men don’t do that”?
They had no problem because I grew up in a home where we sang and danced to express happiness. I was also self-sponsored so they could not say no to whatever profession I chose. It’s the societal perception of traditional dance that is backward and evil.
I tell you they do. Recently, we had a wedding at Protea [hotel]. The couple lives in London but their parents, who are very saved, stay in Kawempe. When they came to hotel and saw our drums, they said we had to leave.
When I told the girl, she almost collapsed. I told her that we will hide the drums and come out after people had eaten and the speeches had been made. We hid in the toilet! When we came out and danced. However, they stayed and even clapped!
I started Ndere troupe in rebellion of the brainwashing that had been done by colonialists they made African cultural practices seem inferior. You know women come here (Ndere centre) saying that our girls are not dancers, that they are prostitutes. Of course dancers are approached by some members of their audiences after shows.
Yes. Dancing causes happiness which can result in people thinking about sex.
Eh, so have you been approached?
Yes. By many.
Oh! Hahaha. How do you deflect their attentions?
I have a brain and the capacity to say no.
Aaaah, these are some revelations… ! What type of father are you? Are you the kind that discusses relationship problems with your children?
Yes, why not? Sexuality is not something to be ashamed of. But they decide whether they want to talk or not.
Oooh. Are you a romantic husband?
What is romantic? Giving flowers? Flowers are romantic in temperate countries. For me to give my wife a flower … [trails off while shaking his head]. That it is Valentine’s and I am running around with flowers?
Uh, I think you are unromantic…
The kind of romantic things we do I find suspect. Is a kiss romantic? Bazungu kiss because during winter, they are all covered and when loved ones want to touch, that is one part they can touch. But why should we (Africans) suck saliva and all that bacteria?
Yiyi, bacteria! How many people have been reported ill over a kiss?
Excuse me! When you get flu, what do people ask? What is romantic about flu? Let me tell you, romance is when someone makes you really happy, even if just they tell you a nice story. What is important to me is Ubuntu, valuing humanity and making the inner person happy. Flowers wither.
Yes they do. Onto music, which Ugandans musician do you enjoy most?
I like well-developed music what I hear here is not well- developed. I think Maurice Kirya is good though.
What is your favourite food?
Healthy food, not fried and as natural as possible. I like kalo (millet) especially with eshabwe and matooke, empogola. Fruits are good because they are prepared by the plant to have the best nutrients when a living organism is going to have a baby, it prepares the best food for the baby.
Do you take alcohol?
When I’m eating.
No. But I could take a beer or whiskey. In terms of taste, Tusker Malt got it right. I don’t want to get drunk though.
Brown we come from earth.
Preferred type of undwear?
Anything that can hold my gadgets and they don’t look rowdy.
Rwangyezi was Physical Education (PE) teacher before he pursued further education in Music Dance and Drama (MDD). He formed Ndere troupe in 1984.
Source : The Observer