Ugandan artist JC Muyonjo has an EP out “If We Try”, a distinctive project, an introduction to who he is as an artist. Muyonjo is a multi-talented artist; a painter, singer and songwriter. He’s among notable soul artists from East Africa who are out to create their own distinct space. The singer talks candidly about his music, influences, personality and future plans.
“I define my music as thoughts, stories and experiences with melody. When I write, my hope is that I have done justice to those particular moments of inspiration because I know people relate to authenticity deeply and that is how you stay with them and they with you eventually.”
Afroway: How do you, personally, define your kind of music? But first how have you been?
JC Muyonjo:Very fine thank you, hope you are as well. I define my music as thoughts, stories and experiences with melody. When I write, my hope is that I have done justice to those particular moments of inspiration because I know people relate to authenticity deeply and that is how you stay with them and they with you eventually.
Afroway: Would you consider yourself a ‘soul-ja’?
JC Muyonjo:Haha, oh definitely I do. I have fought and stood for what I believe in regarding following what I love to do. Also, soul music is the biggest influence on my walk as a musician, I can’t run from it even if I wanted. I always find my creativity thriving there.
Afroway: Who are some of the artists that you really connected with earlier in life?
JC Muyonjo:Surprisingly the first music that really moved me as a child was hip-hop. An uncle of mine called David had cassette tapes with a lot of 2 pac, Ll cool J and DmX. I definitely wanted to rap and that is how I got into rhyming schemes eventually. Then my Dad had Lingala music from DRC on heavy rotation in our house. He also collected country music particularly Dolly Parton whose writing I came to appreciate so much that I had learnt all the words to one of her albums because I constantly played the album and sang along to the lyrics booklet. Then I discovered the force “Michael Jackson” who showed us that we hadn’t seen anything yet really. However, when I listened RnB and Soul, I was locked. First it was Blackstreet, Tevin Campbell, Lauryn Hill, The Fugees, 112, Usher, Alicia keys, John Legend, Musiq soulchild and later grew to appreciate Maxwell, D’Angelo, Jonathan Butler and did my research on Jazz and blues too. I will also give credit to Maurice Kirya who was that one musician in my country that showed me that it was possible to be different here too because I had never related to any of the music in my country at that time in all honesty. I was 14 when I first saw him on TV and I knew this was a guy in whose footsteps I would follow.
Afroway: Would you say you come solely from the school of harmonies and real singing or receptive to digitized production?
JC Muyonjo: Well when I had just gone mainstream back in 1012 I was all about traditional live music and how it was uncompromised and unadulterated like most of the popular styles we know. But I look back now and I know I was really green because digitization opened and created endless possibilities in music. Now I am about “what unique crazy music can you make with the little you have?” I don’t care if it is digitized or traditional as long as it is epic and reaches the standards I respect and one of them being lyrical content. That I care about a lot. So, it is an unlearning process for me still to not be so glued to a particular way or believing in a rigid notion on how music is created.
Afroway: How much attention do you put in your vocal arrangement?
JC Muyonjo:Well I do pay good attention to it however my main point is “Can they hear what I am saying” the vocals are deliverers of the content.
Afroway: Do you have that ‘hands on’ in all your production?
JC Muyonjo:For all the songs that I have released under my name yes, I was really involved in what they sounded like in the end apart from 2 which I knew where in safe hands because I am very selective with production.
Afroway: If you were a music instrument, which would you be?
JC Muyonjo:I would be a saxophone hands down. Haha. I don’t know which other instrument comes to moving people emotionally. To me it is only second to the voice.
Afroway: Tell us the story behind your latest EP ‘If We Try’
JC Muyonjo: My last E.P was a collection of who I was and what I cared about at that point in time. It had many directions and was not thematic. I felt I had to put it out for people to know what I was really about as a musician and person. I had previously appeared on enough rap features and felt like a voice for hire without a story. I needed the EP out to make an introduction of who I am as an artiste and what kind of sound I was about. It was also experimental to me as this was the time I was breaking out of a box too.
Afroway: You are also a digital painter, tell us about that side of your life
JC Muyonjo:I have always been a visual Artist. I actually developed my skills as an artist way earlier than the music ones. Digital painting evolved out of my traditional skills and it has been very instrumental in my survival. Art has a huge responsibility in my life. It feeds me. It has stood in the gap where music hasn’t met those ends and I am too grateful for it.
Afroway: How have the artists you’ve worked with influenced your music?
JC Muyonjo:Many learning experiences, I can write a long paragraph. However, I will say I have learnt from both bad and good experiences and one thing is your reputation goes before you. People eventually want to know the person behind the good music (if it is). So, character is key really. So the few I have worked with, I have learnt what to do and not to do. These influence my beliefs which reflect through my lyrical content.
Afroway: Any lined up performances?
JC Muyonjo: For now I will be performing at one of the most exciting live events in town called “Akadope Weekend”. Looking forward to it.
Afroway: What should we expect from JC Muyonjo?
JC Muyonjo:Working on improving my production and currently composing/writing. I am also looking to collaborate more now. So, will hold out on an album till that itch is scratched.
Afroway: In your own opinion what is the state of Uganda’s music industry?
JC Muyonjo:The Industry has grown yes but it is lacks real intentional and organized structure to propel it to a better level. The avenues to earn well from are limited, it is a bottle neck in a certain sense. However, a lot of good music is being churned out by many relentless artistes and sparks of hope are noticed here and there. Better to be ready without the opportunity than having it and not being ready.
Afroway: Which is your favorite hangout spot in Uganda?
JC Muyonjo: Not a party guy at all. I noticed most of the times I was out, I was performing. However, I appreciate time at the cinema watching a nice movie when I can. Plus, I love Art exhibitions and unique cultured Artsy gatherings.
Afroway: We all got that quirky side of us, tell us something odd about yourself
JC Muyonjo: I don’t have a favorite dish or meal. Those I have had this conversation with get frustrated at this fact. But how can one have that yet they haven’t tried 30 percent of the food in the world? So, I am not ready to trick my mind into believing that I have had my best yet. For now, as long as basic food is cooked well. I am good. I am not picky with food.
Afroway: Aside from music what else are you involved in as an African influencer?
JC Muyonjo: My long-term vision and goal is influencing the education sector as far as I can reach specifically in Africa and most especially the arts that have been really neglected because our leaders are really blind to the untapped power of influence and change in that sector.
I intend to get involved in education because it is a viable direct channel in shaping younger minds. The minds we will target are the ones that are neglected and I know how that feels and the missed opportunities that trail behind such actions. My dear mother started a school which is in the process of growing into a community school and that is how her vision and mine eventually align. This is where all this will be birthed.
Plus I am a practicing Christian and believer in Jesus Christ man, I am called to love…to love whole heartedly because this is what draws people to God too.