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Frankly speaking with Joel Sebunjo

By The Independent Team

Joel Sebunjo, 30, is a folk East African musician who has been recognized worldwide for his skill in playing the West African instrument, the Kora.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

Music and travel.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

In music is when you create something and you are proud of it and perform it somewhere and thousands of people are attached, happy, and agree with your creation.

What about in life?

It is in travelling, being able to afford what I want, and have my name on a CD in a store somewhere.

When and where were you happiest?

In 2007 when I had my first international breakthrough. The Swedish Concert Institute contacted me to tour Sweden after they heard my music.

What is your favorite occupation?

Music and culture.  I have been a cultural professional for almost eight years and played music for over 17 years now.

Why is African culture unique?

African culture is not a loaf of bread that you need to market. You are wasting a lot of resources to write a million books about a given culture when the people responsible are not proud of it or if you pass a thousand laws on patriotism when the nationals do not feel it.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

If you are a creative, you never have time to judge yourself because normally people are judging us.

What is it that you most dislike in people?

I like people to do what they want. I never get annoyed because of what people do or say.

Which living person do you most admire?

YoussouN’Dour from Senegal and Salif Keita from Mali have shaped my ideology and musical dream.

What is your current state of mind?

My new album and project.

Which talent would you most like to have?

None. Probably – if I was failing, music.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

None. Probably I am not open- minded.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Taking the Kora and other local instruments from the villages to the global scene and bringing it to Uganda. I am among the first graduates of Bachelors of Arts in musicology at Makerere University in 2007. I was fortunate to get a world music diploma in Finland.

Which of your songs do you love the most?

Nakato from my first album. It is a traditional song from Central Uganda that I re-arranged to feel very modern.

Where would you most like to live?

Brazil and Jamaica.  The people in Salvador are related to Africans because of slavery.

What is your most marked characteristic?


Hardest decision you have had to make?

Whether to live here or abroad because I have the opportunity to live anywhere I want.

Which books are you reading?

The White Man’s Burden by William Easterly

Who is your hero of fiction?

Of course not Jack and the Bean Stalk, I do not read such books that focus on heroes. I read issues.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, Léopold Sédar Senghor  Stephen Bantu Biko

Any from Uganda?

None. A hero is much more than those who debate or build hospitals.

What is your greatest regret?

Sometimes when you are taken up by your passion, you skip some things such as when your age-mates are probably in the club, or going to play you are somewhere by yourself trying to create.  Music is something that may make you swelter to focus.  But I do not regret because it made me who I am today.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

I cannot predict death. I do not think about death.

Did your parents not stop you from pursuing music?

I am from a very strict home where my mother is a doctor and my father was a pharmacist. So it is funny how I became a musician because it was a home full of Panadol and laboratory coats.

Did your parents force you to pursue sciences?

No. My father loved playing loud music because he was soviet trained.  My brother is a visual artist .

What is your philosophy about life?

Africa is the future and that future can even be now.

What one thing do we not know about you?

You do not know what I am going to be tomorrow.

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