Every two years, a group of Empower scholars have the unique opportunity to travel the US and share the powerful music and dance of their culture, acting as young ambassadors of their African heritage. This performance phenomenon is what we call Spirit of Uganda. Each tour serves a dual purpose to raise awareness and funding for our Scholarship Program and also to provide both our Empower scholars and American audiences with a life-changing experience.
With training officially underway for the 2014 tour, we have some exciting announcements! First, our tour directors Peter Kasule and David Kasata have hired legendary Ugandan world-music artist, Rachel Magoola, to join the production team. Also, in January, two very important guests from the Spirit of Uganda US production team came for their first visit to Uganda: Lisa Booth, Booking Agent, and Dan Ozminkowski, Production Manager and Lighting Designer.
We’ve connected with some of the tour’s key leaders– Peter Kasule, Artistic Director, Lisa Booth, and Dan Ozminkowski– for a short interview to get the inside scoop on this next chapter for Spirit of Uganda!
Spirit of Uganda training in Kampala.
1) The past month has been an exciting one for Spirit of Uganda with the hiring of Rachel Magoola. How do you think she will help influence the upcoming tour?
PETER: I want Rachel to help us show where our music culture has come from. She gives us a new dimension and will help us adopt new changes in our genre of music. She’s also an encouragement to our students.
LISA: Based on all that I have now seen, I think it is important for Spirit of Uganda to distinguish itself even further from the “cultural dance show” and begin to reflect contemporary Uganda as well. The decision to hire Rachel Magoola fits into this idea perfectly and will allow the show to celebrate and express both Uganda’s rich artistic heritage and its modern vibe.
2) Lisa and Dan- you’ve been involved behind the scenes with Spirit of Uganda for many years now. How has your visit to Uganda shaped or changed your approach to working with the upcoming tour?
LISA: I think the trip was crucial in terms of providing me with context for the Spirit of Uganda. I was able to see both raw material “in situ” as well as other groups performing similar shows of varying quality primarily for tourists. What distinguishes Spirit of Uganda is the excellence of the performers, the quality of production values, and a flow of material ideally suited for the concert stage. Spirit of Uganda performances also exude joy and celebrate excellence. The Empower students are not just performing for a few extra shillings, they are proud of what they can accomplish and have reason for hope about their futures!
DAN: I have traveled with a number of these students since 2008, and had grown familiar with many of their life stories, their dreams, and their accents. However, it was not until this trip that I truly had a glimpse of the unique differences in culture and performances between the Banyankole of Western Uganda and the Busoga region of the East of the Acholi people of the North. I began to connect each face with a unique district and a special history. The power of these students’ performances lies not just in their skilled training and their drive for perfection, but also in the very unique blend of backgrounds and traditions that they bring to life onstage.
3) Which student or students have shown the greatest improvement over the holiday break training? Why?
PETER: I would say Milton and Hassan. When we first started training, they both had never really danced before and couldn’t keep a beat, but they continued to bring the spirit and energy to every training. I have definitely seen an improvement and see potential in how they can really develop. Throughout the holiday break, our focus was on working together as a team. Next, we’ll be shifting our focus to finding individual fortes.
4) Who are the standout leaders in the group and how have they displayed their leadership during training?
PETER: Jimmy and Rajab really stand out during training. They excel in leadership, are interested in learning new materials, enjoy what we’re doing, and they’re adventurous in trying new things.
5) Finally, what can Spirit of Uganda fans expect in the upcoming tour? What elements will make the 2014 tour the best yet?
PETER: For the first time, we have a sense of what changes we want to implement. I’ve always wanted Lisa and Dan to come visit Uganda. I’ve wanted them to see the culture and meet the people. Now they can get a real feeling of where we come from, the raw material, especially life in the village. It’s a lifestyle, a culture.
DAN: My experiences during this trip absolutely armed me with inspiration for next year’s tour. As a lighting designer, I always strive to paint a story or an emotion onstage in a way that makes the performance more relevant and intimate for the audience. There is no way to describe the insurmountable beauty of the land or the immense strength of spirit and ambition in the hearts of the incredible people of Uganda and, indeed, the remarkable young members of Spirit of Uganda. Bringing to stage just a handful of the textures, hues, sights, and kinetic energy from the true spirit of Uganda may be just what it takes to allow an American audience to more fully experience why we so believe in this talented company and their bright futures.
For more information on the upcoming tour, visit the page on our website or follow us on important source