East African Music Hits the World: IIDEA Project Hakuna Kulala Won’t Let Us Sleep

Hakuna Kulala is an Incubator and a digital label for Young Producers in East Africa. Through collaborations they are building bridges within the region, creating opportunities to collaborate, to travel, perform and develop a strong regional identity through music. The incubator is the baby of our IIDEA partner Boutiq Foundation, an Ugandan community-based arts and culture incubator with a global vision to set up East Africa’s first music label geared towards releasing new musical genres from the East Africa.

Through the Hakuna Kulala Music Production incubator at least 120 young East African music producers at different levels of incubation were supported, from training to production, from production to performance. The aim was to create linkages between different East African music scenes, from electronic music of Northern Uganda connecting with Singeli music from Tanzania, or Metal bands from Kenya collaborating with Ugandan percussionists, or rappers from Kampala and Kigali collaborating together and creating important networks, friendships and artistic kindships.

Beneficiaries have grown in their craft, picked up new skills and have a better vision of their future as artist. Many artists are generating considerable revenue, and more events are organized around them, creating a healthier ecosystem.

We are happy to feature two of the many success stories:

Catherine Lalango (DJ Catu Diosis - Uganda)

DJane Catu Diosis at work

Catherine Lalango has been with the project from the start, back in 2018 during the Hakuna Kulala launch she is introduced as an upcoming DJ on the Kampala music scene, following the footsteps of another Boutiq female DJ, DJ Kampire. Catherine has a background in dance, not in music, but her work ethic and drive to carve herself a career in music quickly make her one of the most exciting female East African DJs of her generation. At Hakuna Kulala she’s able to grab every opportunity, improving her skills during DJ classes and benefiting from the network to perform over 15 shows in 2018. In 2019, Dj Catu decides to take it a step further, and joins the classes of Rey Sapienz as a new production student. She quickly improves and is now about to release her first EP. Since then, Dj Catu is in high demand in Kampala, she also takes part in our outreach program going to support Stone Town Records in Zanzibar and giving young women DJ workshops and doing a showcase performance, cementing our relationship with the Zanzibari organization. She plays twice in Kigali too, becoming one of our most championed ambassadors.

Tanzanian music “Singeli” taking over the region and the world

Artists are producing their music jointly at the satellite studios

As a label, our biggest success is probably the tireless work we’ve put in supporting the most impoverished areas of Dar Es Salaam, where in the neighbourhoods of Mburahati and Manzese a group of young kids have started a silent sonic revolution. When we first engaged with Sisso Records and Pamoja records the musicians there would share with us the difficulties of being perceived as thugs and not getting respect for their music. But by providing support to the studios, both material and curatorial, we’ve been able to present the sound of Singeli at the Nyege Nyege Festival and it has gone viral since. At the festival over 15 artists were presented, and since then the sound has been picked up by every major music publication on the planet, as well as featured articles in the Economist, the Guardian and Resident Advisor, the number one music publication. Since then we’ve helped them re-engage on new terms with local Tanzanian media outlets, and they are now featured regularly on radio E-FM, featured in Air Tanzania’s first on-board magazine, and considered by important music critics as the most avant garde sound on the Continent. Moreover, Sisso and Rehema Tajiri have completed an East African tour (Kenya, Uganda, Kigali) and the singeli DJs and MCs have a combined 25,000$ worth of international bookings, with many more on the way. Given that most of the Dar Es Salaam based artists do not speak English, our field officer Abass Jazza has been instrumental in making the connections and building the internal capacity of the studios. The next step is to build more management capacity so that in turn, they can run their own homegrown label, but for now they have greatly benefited from our existing structures.




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