Ever imagined tuning in to your favourite news channel, to discover that the news is now being read in hip-hop style? It’s hard to imagine, but it’s happening!
A group of young Ugandan hip-hop artists-turned-journalists are changing the traditional way of delivering news, entertaining and educating Ugandan audience. The group report a rapped version of local, national and international news on their weekly five-minute programme, NewzBeat.
The NewzBeat ‘rap-orters’ are: Sharon Bwogi, Uganda’s “queen of hip hop” known as Lady Slyke, Daniel Kisekka, know as the “Survivor”, and teenage rapper Zoe Kabuye, known as MC Loy. Nine year old Zion Sheebah, Lady Slyke’s daughter also proves that age is no barrier to talent, as she has begun co-anchoring with her mother.
NewzBeat started in February 2014, and is broadcast in both English and the local language Luganda on the popular channel NTV every Saturday afternoon and evening before the station’s traditional news bulletins. The show covers stories from women’s rights to sexual violence, corruption, censorship and politics, and Lady Slyke describes it as “educating with rap.”
According to her, it aims to “promote diversity and visibility for marginalised groups” and “push the boundaries of press limitations” in Uganda.
“At first we had some complaints, people were saying ‘We’re not really understanding what you’re doing’,” But today, people from all walks of life follow the programme, including businessmen and government ministers.
“People keep asking for more and asking me questions about certain topics,” said Lady Slyke, 28, who also raps professionally at venues across Uganda. “I think they love the whole flavour.”
The NewzBeat team aim to extend their influence across Africa. They have set up a Swahili-speaking branch in Tanzania, where a mini-season of four episodes recently aired and another four are set to run in the lead-up to the country’s elections, scheduled for October.
With a more appealing version of the news for young ears, and a presence on both TV and YouTube, an increasing number of young people are tuning and listening to this rapped version of the news, entertaining themselves and staying informed.