Ortega: Hello Babaluku, first things first; who is Babaluku?
Babaluku: Babaluku is the authentic spirit of our ancestors’ voice and wisdom manifested. How does he define himself? He is a humble fierce compassionate warrior moving with lions and lionesses.
Ortega: As a child of the great Apostle Deo Balabyekubbo, How did you end up in Hiphop?
Babaluku: Music is one ancestral gift passed on from many ancestors who came before me from my great grandparents to my grandfather down to my father (RIP). Using music as a tool for communication has always been a part of our lives. So growing up, my father was as much a musician as well as a preacher. From my early childhood i was blessed to learn from him the importance of expressing yourself through creative media. The medium for my generation just happens to be this lovely beautiful authentic Indigenous Hip Hop Culture which birthed the Luga Flow Generation for many of Uganda’s voiceless youth.
Ortega: What was your earliest influence that led you here?
Babaluku: My earliest influences were my father and his band which was call Strings Of Prayer Palace and also my late uncle Tom Bantubalamu who was a true arts enthusiast from playing instruments to dancing and singing, growing up i always wanted to be like him. Unfortunately he transitioned among the 7 people that died with my father but those right there were my primary foundational influencers. Of course letter on I would get introduced to the Mc Hammer, Vanilla Ice, The Furious Five, Krs One, Poor Righteous Teachers, Ghetto Boys, EPMD, Fuschinickens, Limit X, Phily Lutaaya, Paulo Kafeero, Fred Sebatta, Peterson Mutebi and so on.
Ortega: How did hardship early in life prepare you for future success?
Babaluku: Hardships of life have taught me the value of the experiences we create and the lessons we attain from the impact negative or positive. Losing my father at the age of 14 definitely came with so many uncertainties that any young African male can experience without having proper guidance and people giving hope and faith in your life at a time where you feel broken. But without regret I am grateful for the pain and all all the trials and tribulations for they have guided me to find purpose and find my self-worth giving me the opportunity to appreciate life, be grateful and not take anything for granted. But also it has given me the awareness of others’ suffering, of those going through the same story as mine, presenting me the opportunity to share my journey with them and offer my experiences and services to encourage them to rise and live their dreams
Ortega: Tell me a little bit about what you do?
Babaluku: I call myself a creative junkie, someone who is passionate about using creative platforms to build movements that create a lasting impact in people’s lives and their communities. I am very passionate about language preservation hence the creation of the Luga Flow Voice Brand a voice I am blessed to have participated in pioneering to inspire our generation to appreciate their culture and heritage by rooting their expression in the indigenous dialects. I am also very much interested in what I like to term as liberating education, the kind of education that motivates scholars to build holistic designed authentic curriculums beyond traditional colonial learning systems. So within that context I am proud to pioneer a Hip Hop Education Designed movement of who we call the Builders. The Builders are now exploring learning through the lens of Hip Hop as Indigenous Hip Hop Practitioners.
Ortega: How did you get to doing this?
Babaluku: My years spent in the Hip Hop Industry combined with my dedication to the liberation of young african minds, inspired me to embark on a journey of seeking authentic unconventional methods of learning. It’s on that quest that many ideologies and philosophies such as the Urban Indigenous Lifestyle or the BackTo The Source Builders Movement have been explored.
Ortega: And Why this?
Babaluku: I believe that colonial education has left our generation on auction blocks for sale due to the fact that its approach and characteristics have conditioned many to subdue their value with criteria approved by validation of emulation versus authentication. Meaning that our educational system is failing our young people by not providing an African centred approach in design to the information they are regurgitating. My efforts are to explore and support in offering alternatives to these conditioned approaches in these institutions. we all know they are not working.
Ortega: Do you feel that people should follow their passion and risk going broke? Or chase the money?
Babaluku: One must ask themselves, can I find value for my life without money and if I can do so, can I see my power and be able to separate my value from the value of currency, something that’s just a piece of paper. I am a true believe of value beyond money.
I will quote my Elder brother Hodari B. Davis; “Money is a tool and too often we think of it as a goal or an object. Money helps build money and it takes it to make it. Money is a magnet for itself, but it often repels morals, values and love. We work to lead with those things and then follow with money when and where we can. Our riches are in our minds and hearts not in our pockets. Money will not set us free but our minds, hearts and relationships will.” So yeah, I would definitely advise one not to sell their soul and the gifts of their spiritual wealth for any form or type of physical CURRENCY.
Ortega: What would you say is the best driver; hard work or smart work? What would you advise someone to use as their armour?
Babaluku: Hard work, smart work all one in a same are just ways to differentiate how one achieves their goals. We all have different stories and different ways in which we value our achievements or different journeys that lead us to our success. What is key and foundational is not losing the authentic truth of our stories for in there lies the power of knowledge and wisdom from lessons acquired plus our testimonials of both small and big successes we achieve in life. So as long as one is true and genuine to their vision and he or she has been blessed to find their purpose, dedication, resilience and commitment would be the armour to lead them to all they desire to achieve not forgetting the greater value in all this which is to serve.
Ortega: Why didn’t you feel the urge to follow the mainstream path and instead chose a path that was so contrarian at the time?
Babaluku: The ideas that mainstream is the only way for one to see success is one that I have always defied. Having the opportunity to be raised in the west I witnessed first hand the negative lucrative conditioning systems that were designed to demoralise humans and enslave them to toil for pennies. The heavy force that drives mainstream is the spirit of Consumerism which preys on our ability to value the true essential factors of life, weakening our minds to become dependant on products designed by we humans to destroy us and this beautiful planet we live on.
If you are inclined to a conversation of rural vs. urban and who created these terms to define people’s landmarks or deem one advanced and the other behind you can see what complex our people are suffering with in today’s cities and villages. Any way to support my people to move closer to their own ancestral ways of defining themselves, reclaiming their self worth and exploring narratives of memoirs of their great history of the land helps me understand why liberating education is important in today’s Africa and yes at home here in Uganda. We need to be aware of the images and strategies mainstream uses so we can make sound choices to promote the technology that promote health,self love, awareness and wealth in our communities
Ortega: Which people did you look up to as you grew up? And why these people?
Babaluku: I looked up to my father, he served so many people throughout my entire childhood in that as I got older the heart of service would just be a natural way of living for me. Today as I continue to strive on to live my purpose I definitely can look at his story in the mirror and reflect on his lessons that have guided me to become the person I am today.
My mother, a warrior, woman of compassion and grace, a mother of nations dedicated to her call of service in the Kingdom of the most high with a huge heart for the widows and orphans always willing to live without so other women can stand on her shoulders to rise. One would ask for more but my parents did their best to live a life that reminds us never to forget where we came from and that’s the only true reason why I made it back home. So to them, and the God they served, I will always look up to.
They say history teaches so I look up to all our great ancestors who gave their lives for the liberation of our people for it’s their efforts that guided our blueprint to the conversations of liberation in the Africa of today. Ancestors like Patrice Lumumba, Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah, Thomas Sankara, Winnie Mandela, Idi Amin, Muammer Gaddafi, Angela Davis, Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr. and the list can continue, for them we continue to carry the responsibility to further their works of Justice for all with the restoration of dignity for our people on their hearts.
Ortega: What is the biggest failure you’ve had? How did you handle it? What did you learn from it?
Babaluku: My biggest failure was at 21yrs of age working hard for an entire year throughout the winter and summer then spending all my money on a car that almost took my life. This for me at the time where materialism was the way youth feel validated or feel like they are in style and trending put my whole life in perspective of what things in life truly had value. My take away from this situation was to not take life for granted but to also start investing my mind in developing ideas that inspired meaningful creative ways of living and sharing. It’s these perspectives that guided me to my outreach always bridging the gap lifestyle.
Ortega: Do you think there is a purpose for our existence? If yes, what is that purpose?
Babaluku: There is definitely purpose to each life that enters this universe, the world today may make some people feel otherwise due to conditions or circumstance of their physical environment but our lives are definitely designed with purpose. That purpose differs for all of us but it shares a similar end goal which is to live our live in service to others. Your spirit and your soul are the foundational key elements to experiencing your purpose on your journey here for once those two leave your body, then it is all but a box.
Ortega: What is the one thing that you believe that most people would disagree with you on? Why do you hold that belief?
Babaluku: I believe that our ancestors play a vital role in our lives by daily guiding and offering wisdom through their spirit that lives within us. The reason I share this belief is to highlight the fact that our major suffering as a black people stems from disregarding our foundations, whether willingly or by force choosing to submit ourselves to our oppressors’ ways of thinking and living.
Many young Africans today never get that opportunity to explore the great power that is hidden in a simple genuine conversation about the greatness of their ancestors. They all seem to have that colonial beatdown religious mentality of the word ancestors meaning witchcraft or representing evil forces. I am of the belief that if we can only access the power within our ancestral narratives and gifts we truly can awaken our town and villages even cities into powerful communities that celebrate and embrace diversity, culture and tradition offering our generation the opportunity to grow rooted with their authentic values.
Ortega: What is the book you’ve re-read the most and why?
Babaluku: The Sacred Path Of The Warrior by Chogyam Trungpa The practices, perspectives and disciplines you explore open you to your inner exploration of your authentic radical truth inspiring you to open and widen your capacity to hold space for others as we all journey through life.
Roots by Alex Haley – I mentioned earlier that History Teaches this one was to deepen my understanding of the impact of slavery on our relatives from the diaspora. Growing up in the west one has to be equipped with the information to be guided through a violent society that still imprisons and kills black people due to systemic racial construct designed to keep our people in chains.
Thomas Sankara Speaks by Thomas Sankara when community groups in Africa are struggling to come up with ideas and ways to develop and sustain themselves our Ancestor Thomas Sankara left us this blueprint, his ideas, his vision, his provoking thoughts can only lead one whose seeking impact to act. These are the values and history we need to be teaching our children today class room.
Ujamaa Essays On Socialism By Julius Nyerere – The wisdom our generation needs has been captured and documented by our ancestors when exploring solutions to the problems of Africa. Today one must revisit the vision our Ancestor Mwalimu Julius Nyerere to draw from his wisdom of Cooperative Economics these are some of the sources that our young people today need to be drawing power and knowledge from to fully be able to contribute to our communities in this technology era.
Ortega: What advice would you give to a smart, driven University student about to enter the real world? What advice should they ignore?
Babaluku: If one thinks and researches it through, the majority of the people who designed these institutions never went to school themselves. What does this mean? While acquiring all the knowledge you feel you need to be equipped with in life’s journey, never forget that the only true and value of intellect to grow you and your self worth is your authentic experience from your day to day efforts of striving to create that which you envision beyond your classroom.
So don’t wait for graduation to be validated or certificates to qualify you for your dream. let everything else be complimentary to your path knowing that you are indeed the captain of your ship, regardless of where the wind blows you never give up on searching.
Ortega: What is the one moment where you judgement failed you? What did you learn?
Babaluku: In my field of work there is this notion to believe that people would generally have an automatic innate interest in making an impact in their community but as I embarked on the journey of being a community builder it took me a few battles to realise that my judgement of why I felt many communities were feeling entitled and ungrateful was due to a continued practice rooted in this aid for Africa syndrome.
I have come to learn that the word charity in itself is very misleading and has multiple hidden agendas designed by strategists whose interests continue to sustain the problems by targeting vulnerable communities in the name of support. After years of experience in this field I now take my partnerships based on the clarity presented with the interests that will best benefit my people without having to deal or affiliate with those entities that come with this do-gooder let’s go and save Africa mentality.
Ortega: How would you define Hiphop in your own words? What is the end goal of Hiphop?
Babaluku: As a pioneer of the Back To The Source Indigenous Hip Hop Practitioners and builders movement, my authentic meaning of Hip Hop is; Hip Hop is a universal divine transformative spiritual source of truth expressed through many gifts with the power to unify, uplift, heal, restore and save lives.
Many people in Uganda like emulating the commercial appeal part of the culture but hopefully this gives the younger generation the opportunity to put meaning to what they claim to be apart of. When one says I am Hip Hop that means that they are indeed in tune with that Higher Infinite Power Healing of Our People as my elder Minister David Taveres would put it.
You can also so reflect on this acronym of Helping Individual People Help Other People, all these expressions elaborate the responsibilities for those who choose to participate in the culture. For any other quality rooted hiphop conversations I will leave you this quote from my Teacha “Hip Hop is to know, it’s a form of intelligence. To be Hip is to be updated and relevant. Hop is a form of movement, you can’t observe a hop you gotta hope up and do it. Hip Hop is more than music Hip is the Knowledge, hop is the movement. Hip and Hop is Intelligent movement.” ~ KRS ONE
Ortega: Who do you think of when you hear the word “successful” and why these people?
Babaluku: I think of my story and the stories of many others I have had the privilege to serve and work with, those who against all odds regardless of what life presented them, they made a commitment to use the challenges, struggles and pain to inspire others to rise.
Physical success has a way of blinding people to the truth in turn misleading many causing them to fall short of the joy and humility that comes from embracing those simple things that give much meaning to our lives. I see our grandparents, I see our mother, I see our father those who are still blessed with life and are spending every minute of it serving and nurturing the next generation, I see my ancestors for without them I would never have possessed the skills the resilience and the spirit within my gift to claim any form of success. I see ultimate success in the eyes of those who over the years have grasped the truth of not walking around but walking through the fire. That chance that you made it out of your mother’s womb alive and made it to the age you are today, tell me you wouldn’t consider that success? self-love and gratitude goes a long way. You are the master, go your own strategy, look at you and see success.
Ortega: What big ideas have you changed your mind on in the last five years?
Babaluku: I am passionate about giving and helping others to rise but after walking through the fire and being refined I’ve had to reevaluate my approach to giving due to the fact that sometimes your help can be a hinderance to one’s growth given you continue to be too attached to the idea that you have the best strategies for their life.
With that being said I am blessed with joy to be working with a generation of young powerful leaders whose movement and organisations were inspired by my Indigenous Hip Hop Story and the Luga Flow Movement. It sure feels good to mentor and contribute to greatness in others always living them better than you found them.
Ortega: What’s a habit you’re most trying to change right now? What are you working on?
Babaluku: To some traveling is a luxury but to me it has always been work where I am always on the road performing, presenting and searching for partnerships to further the vision I seeded upon my return to Uganda in 2005. So 13 years later I am still on the road and now that I have a family and a household to run I am looking at changing this habit to grow into a well balanced space of cultivating land and building some huts for me and my young lions and lioness to be enriched with those ancestral blessings.
Currently I am working on The Back To The Source Indigenous Hip Hop Builders Retreat. The Retreat is designed to explore the transformative power found in reconnecting emerging hip hop communities to their indigenous spirit. In solidarity with indigenous people around the world we have embarked on this journey to reconnect the youth to ancestral wisdom, knowledge, language and land. In celebration of the spirit of Honorable Marcus Garvey’s message of “repatriation is a must” I created Back To The Source based on the ideology that “reconnection is a must” for the legacy of our people to be restored.
Ortega: Do you have a life philosophy? How would you break it down?
Babaluku: My philosophy is we are a spiritual being having a human experience in the flesh so everything we do during our time orchestrates and paves way for those who will come after us so it is our responsibility to be mindful of the power within us for it can build or destroy generations. Our young minds must be offered relevant information today so that they are well equipped to preserve and serve the continuity of their ancestors’ legacies. We can’t continue to promote institutions designed to disconnect us from our authentic truth and voices, we have to deal with the trauma of all atrocities that have reshaped our relations and interaction with our selves, our elders and our land and this can only be achieve when the conversation of reconnection are explored as key contributors to the healing and liberation of our minds.
Ortega: What’s the most common mistake you see people make over and over in your line of work?
Babaluku: I see people funding projects that barely make any impact on the ground but I guess with NGO’s and charity programs being a trend in our country one wouldn’t escape such effects. I only hope that more people with the right intent and heart can be positioned to benefit with such opportunities but that’s usually a rare case so from such experiences I resorted to zero tolerance to any third party engagement, I only affiliate and collaborate with those seeking to engage direct impact practices.
Ortega: If you had to design an education system, what kind of system would you design to prepare a child perfectly for the world? Would that education involve Hiphop?
Babaluku: Experiential learning would be the way to go, break that colonial spell and start activating our young boys and girls with african centred learning tools for cultivating and nurturing human potential.
Today in Uganda we have graduates who still have zero experience and etiquette to the professions that they supposedly graduated from is very disturbing. Parents are not aware that they are sending their children to killing fields, boarding schools alone are a model designed from the blueprint of the concentration camps, how can our parents send their little kids to an equivalent of residential schools for the Aboriginals here in north America, I mean they do a great Job of killing your child’s character, beating his culture out of him and brainwashing him or her with western values as the set standard for success.
It’s ridiculous to me and I can’t stomach it, I am always feeling sorry for those little young ones I see very early in the morning or late in the evening walking back home. The outdated curriculum only affirms the poor education that’s made accessible to students due to lack of access to programs that educate both the parents and the student on the quality of education provided by the system.
The fact that many parents at least the majority have come from that colonial conditioned perspective of education and our young people are forced to study profession for status and pleasing their parents, it’s hard to not speak out about the huge need for alternative Liberating Education that can free our generation to thrive as young rooted powerful professionals. Keep in mind not everyone can afford the tuition at the international school which in term also thins the opportunity gap for other.
There is definitely a serious need to redesign the educational approach in our nation, if you wondered how this all relates to Hip Hop I would invite you to google the most vibrant force activating youth from underprivileged communities to rise, learn, shine and lead. The fact is you will be amazed by what young creative ghetto youth have been able to achieve through their access to the arts as platform where your willingness and dedication to learn from others becomes your foundational space of access to Unconventional Liberating Education.
Indigenous Hip Hop is definitely going to continue cultivating a dream space for liberating education by offering new approaches to learning whether it’s english, math or science, let it be preserving our history language and culture – Hip Hop is here to breed brilliant informed scholars and leaders in our communities and around the world.
Ortega: If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why?
Babaluku: KNOW THEY SELF for in knowing yourself you come to terms of being in tune with the reason of why you are here, if you are aware of the reason why you are here life presents more meaningful opportunities for you to serve, lead and grow, giving you a chance to paint your spirit on the souls of those you are blessed to encounter you on your journey here on earth. The journey is for your soul so dive within and take a ride to explore your years of greatness.
Ortega: In 2000 years, everything you’ve ever done will be dust. What legacy does Babaluku hope to leave behind?
Babaluku: I believe my spirit will leave on when I am dead and gone back to dust, just like the spirits of those who went before me who are still present guiding me on my journey. Looking through the eyes of my son and daughters, my legacy will be that of a soul journeyer who died affirming life encouraging others to lead forward exemplifying the power of service as our sole purpose here on earth. For the genuine souls I have been blessed to touch through song a curing truth will always live through those melodies and sounds reminding my generation the power in the gift or music.
Ortega: What scares you the most and why?
Babaluku: Being scared is something I don’t subscribe too in life being that I have seen many of the great who went before me resting in coffins and came to a conclusion this body indeed is all but a box once our souls and spirit is taken you realise how precious it is for one to be free. So the only thing I fear is fear itself.
Ortega: What is that one thing most people don’t know about you? What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
Babaluku: That i inherited my father’s spiritual wealth but stayed away from churches for years from being bitter about how these so called Reverends, Prophets, pastors, family and friends all these preachers became arrogant after he passed on. God blessed them indeed they all know who they are. I am a preacher’s son from the original Kiwempe era, those of you who know the true warrior of the gospel can make sense of that term. As far as an absurd thing that I love, it is my lone wolf self. Over the years I have grown to appreciate my solitude simply me by myself and I am grateful for life and all I have been given ready to exit when he calls, only to realise he is giving me breath still because my assignment is still in motion.
Ortega: When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?
Babaluku: I sing, I play a song or I quietly wail in my spirit, I pray, I channel my ancestors’ voice and listen to be guided through the wisdom of sound or a drum most importantly I allow myself to recognise energy moving through me that allows me to witness my process of transitioning or transforming through that moment.
Ortega: Speaking of family and children? Is there any way your life changed after you brought children to this world?
Babaluku: If your life doesn’t change there’s definitely got to be a problem with your state of being. When you birth souls, in that, is a great gift of a mirrored reflection of the future you kind of imagined but weren’t so sure on how it would all manifest, you are presented the ultimate opportunity of being able to nurture, lead and guide these young warrior in training to master the foundation of how they will start creating their own journeys, so definitely this lovely beautiful responsibility changes every cell in your being and raises you to a realm higher service.
Ortega: What is the one quote that speaks to you the most and deeply and why this quote?
Babaluku: We are physically tested but spiritually protected -it allows me to weigh in through all my constant life challenges with wisdom. It affirms the truth of the matter that I am not alone. It gives me the heart to forgive and accept forgiveness it clearly outlines a powerful truth that all i possess in the physical will perish inspiring me to focus and invest more genuinely in the things of the spirit.
Ortega: Which 3 of your possessions do you count as most valuable and why?
Babaluku: None! I entered this planet with nothing and I will leave with nothing so I free myself from the burden of being attached to things.
Ortega: What are your rules for health, wealth, relationships and happiness?
Babaluku: a)health – be ware of what you body consumes b)wealth c)relationships – build meaningful connection d) happiness —use your gift of discernment and surround yourself with the right energy
Ortega: You started the Bavubuka foundation. What was the biggest motivation? What has been its biggest impact? Where do you see it 50 years from now?
Babaluku: The motivation behind starting Bavubuka Foundation came from my childhood dream of wishing to make it in life, growing up in Makindye many of my childhood friends would always sit in the evening and we would count stars just talking about all the things they wish they can do or what they would be able to make happen in the future. This seeded the thought of the Bavubuka Allstarz Vision, so through my gift of music the spirit of my childhood desire to share and build not only for myself but also my peers kept growing inside me. So after my musical highlights as a legendary Indigenous Hip Hop Luga Flow pioneer and member of the Bataka Undergound (Squad) I felt there was more to the music than just recording and performing. So I took on the challenge to venture into movement building believing that through using music and the arts we can transform and unify diverse communities.
Our biggest impact has been our contribution to the youth voice in Uganda / East Africa / Africa and many other indigenous youth around the globe who use Hip Hop Culture to create and innovate new approaches and skills of community peace building. Just through our vision of the Luga Flow Movement today in Uganda you have young men and women rapping proudly in their indigenous mother tongues representing their culture proudly that is something I know my ancestors are very proud of seeing that in the past Hip Hop was only relevant through our colonial language.
Our vision paved ways for authentic young creatives’ voices to gain ground in the arts industry. Another crazy impact that even some hip hoppers might not know is how the Luga Flow Hip Hop Story was used by Google at the black Googler Network conference to encourage politicians in uganda to use technology which led to Uganda being be mapped on google this was when ex Vice President Gilbert Bukenya was still in office.
These are some of the many ways that our voices were echoing in various platforms and channels making way and room for the future that is today. 13 years later we have indeed participated in inspiring and raising a generation that alone is worthy of giving praise to the most high and counting our blessings for being able to contribute to the lives of our fellow youth and children who have now grown to become leaders in their own communities.
Bavubuka Foundation 50 years from now will be a spiritual space represented by the physical hearts of the young leaders we continue to impact year in year out. Our vision is heavily grounded in seeding generational and legacy impact. We would have established our space designed to inspire others from the stories of the great men and women who strongly fought and advocated for youth voices in Uganda