MESHACK: ‘My music advocates for social change in Uganda’
Patience is a virtue that can be difficult to practice in a fast-paced world, and it’s one that has been the subject of many songs throughout the years.
My Afrika Magazine reporter, Charmaine Brown (CB) had an exclusive chat with Ugandan artist Kayanga Meshack (KM) reflecting on his musical journey and the lessons he has learned so far as a musician whose songs major on patience, perseverance, and social change.
CB: Can you tell us about your musical background and how you got started in music?
KM: Born Kayanga Mukwaya Meshack, musically known as Vann Mesh, a Ugandan rapper, writer, recording and performing artist, creative activist, freelancing journalist, social worker, photo, and video creator. I grew up in a Christian and musical family, being raised by a mother who is a musician, all my childhood music was never something I looked up to, football being my priority hence my nickname was Vankhovic so I shortened it to Vann, and Mesh from my name Meshack to have ‘‘Vann Mesh.’’
In my final years of high school when I joined the church choir I met a friend who had a studio and he offered me a recording in 2015 to record my first song titled ‘Chemistry.’ In 2017, I recorded another song titled ‘Endowoza yo’ (mindset) even though by then I was not taking music seriously until 2019 when I recorded another single titled ‘Mu Yesu mulimu work’ which was my breakthrough on the airwaves and gave me an introduction into the gospel music scene in Uganda. From there I have never held back, recording more songs like Mpulira Yesu and Tambula, Omukono amongst others.
CB: Who are your biggest musical influences and how have they shaped your style?
KM: In my teenage stage, I was introduced to Western music specifically American rap and RnB music which I enjoyed so much, a few years I discovered local rappers like Babaluku, and Gnl in Uganda and others from our neighbors, Kenya and Tanzania that caught my attention. This influenced me to rap/hip-hop became my favorite music genre only to become a rapper too years after.
CB: Can you share any memorable experiences or milestones in your music career so far?
KM: One of my memorable experiences is the first time I heard my song playing on the radio or even TV which I had never thought about so much, I have been hosted on various radio and TV shows, concerts, and big stages, in 2020 my song ‘’Mu Yesu mulimu work’’ was nominated in the UG MTN hip hop awards and other awards like Royal gospel awards, VIGA awards since then, 2021 Katika hip hop artist of the year award, I also featured on a song about road safety titled ‘‘Yambala helmet (wear your helmet)’’ in 2021 initiated by Global Youth Coalition for road safety and Youth Arts Movement Uganda, in the same year I also featured on a song about climate change, youth empowerment and road safety, the anthem for the Global Youth Coalition for road safety which featured on the virtual event for the international youth day of 2021.
CB: Can you talk about any upcoming projects or releases that we can look forward to?
KM: Most recent is the release of my first EP of six songs titled ‘‘Sound of the Heart’’ which also had a release party in April 2023, and in August 2023 part of the delegates from Uganda for a training ‘‘CISU II’’ about open governance and digital security at MS Training Centre for Development Cooperation (MS-TCDC) in Arusha as a creative activist.
CB: How do you handle criticism or negative feedback about your music?
KM: Many times, negative criticism helps me to get better and to improve on where I can in that case so I don’t just take it as an offense to have such criticism. I have been challenged by a lack of funds to produce quality music, promotion, and self-esteem and I have managed to overcome them by creating friendships and partnerships with people who understand my vision and are able to give me support in any way they can like studio time and believing in myself more.
CB: What is the most significant lesson you have learned from being a musician?
KM: In my musical journey I have learned a lot, things like music are a process, it takes time, patience, discovering your strength and audience, connecting with the right people that add value to you, giving time to what you want to achieve, having consistency, respecting everyone, making research and trying new things that challenge you, and persistence, knowing that there are seasons and times for everyone and I believe that what I have mentioned above can be of much help to aspiring musicians.
CB: Are there any specific themes or messages that you aim to convey through your music?
KM: My music is basically positive music that talks about social concerns like domestic violence, and injustice in reference to the bible, advocates for social change, inspirational and motivational especially for the young generation to encourage create awareness, and equip them with knowledge through the music. The process of creating music for me comes in a place of experience most of the time, I write about everyday life experiences, love, challenges in life, good moments, or hard times to convey a message of hope and encouragement, with all this that’s when I hit the studio and we share ideas with my producer before we create the actual song.