By Mark Kawalya
It has been almost two years since the doors to the entertainment industry were slammed in an attempt by the government to pull the plug on the spread of COVID-19. Artists who depend on the industry for their daily sustenance found themselves without a source of income, whilst new artists lacked the traditional platforms they could use to kickstart their careers.
Although their audiences are still at home, the arts industry is undergoing a transformation as it works to stay relevant.
While most sectors have been given the green light to open, the creative industry is still closed because the government believes it has the potential to become a super spreader of COVID-19.
Young artists are showcasing their talents through virtual performances that take on a digital format. When the government closed the entertainment sector in March 2020, 29-year-old Nicholas Muhanuzi’s music career came to a grinding halt. “I made my living from physical performances in different centers. I used to sing in different churches and at crusades. “
Since there is no clear sign of reopening the entertainment industry, he has resorted to online shows and recording videos while singing that he uploads on different social media platforms.
“I have recorded some songs that I uploaded on YouTube and online for my fans to watch frequently,” Muhanuzi says.
Another artist has taken the same route. Leyna Kagere, who started her music journey in March last year just as the country went into its first lockdown, utilizes online shows, which, in a twist of events, has seen her get fans from across the world.
“Now I have lots of followers on my social media accounts following my virtual concert performances. I believe by the time the country opens fully and allows the entertainment industry to reopen I will have more fans,” Kagere said.
For Smart Kakooza, online shows have enabled him to get an easier entry into the music industry, unlike what the situation would have been if he had relied on traditional means like television, which focus on established musicians.
Stand-up comedians who are among the entertainers that have been hit the hardest due to the need for live audiences while performing but they are also embracing the online formats for their content. Alex Muhangi, of Comedy Store Uganda, has partnered with Fezah, a digital airplay monitoring and artist booking platform, to start an online show.
The show, which airs every Friday, has developed a sizeable following of fans who regularly tune in and watch,
“We had to find an alternative to reaching out to our clients through online shows,” Muhangi says “We tried online shows, which were convenient for our fans. You can watch from wherever you are. “