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Guitarist Ouma on choosing Jazz

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Myko Ouma self-effacingly dismisses it when I tell him he is considered by many people to be one of the best guitarists in the country.

“About best guitarist, I don’t know,” he says.

In reality, he is a renowned jazz and contemporary world music artiste who plays more than ten musical instruments including the thumb piano and tube fiddle, although he says his favourite instrument is the guitar. Ouma is known for smiling happily as he plays.

He has recently released an instrumental Jazz album and participated in this year’s edition of Coke Studio Africa, a television series which features live studio-recorded music performances by various artists. He describes his stay at the Nairobi-based Coke studio as a great experience for a player in the young and growing industry which he says has many opportunities for “the wise ones”. He calls the industry as a jungle where the rule is survival for the fittest and wisest. He describes it as still growing and still open for anyone to join but also one riddled with ‘stupid rivalries’.

Ouma comes from a musical family – his father owned a guitar. He first played the instrument with the help of a brother while he was still in primary school.  But the jolly Ouma took his time getting immersed in music. It took until when he joined Makerere College School for his ‘O’- Level. By senior three, he was already training fellow students to play instruments and also joined a cultural troupe run by his music teacher.

“That’s when I knew I was destined to become a musician. The format, how and when, I hadn’t envisioned them though,” he says.

Ouma only decided to concentrate on music as a career after completing his Bachelor of Statistics Degree at Makerere University. He then had to choose which musical path to take.

“I realised it would be easier to communicate what I feel using instruments instead of vocals, and ended up choosing a genre closest to instrumental expression,” he says.

He says that like any other job, in music, one needs to be creative such that their product has a competitive advantage.  And for one’s work to last they have to put in a lot of time in studio work in addition to creativity both in terms of packaging and marketing. To get ahead, one has to study the basics of music theory and then choose to master in one aspect. He chose jazz and the guitar.

 

Ouma’s Lite side

Any three things we don’t know about you?

Though I am most known for the musical path, I am statistician by profession, a devoted Christian and a farmer. I did statistical work for a short time before I decided to give all my time to music and business.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

There is nothing perfect in this world I believe, more so happiness. However I think one should set targets and aspire to achieve them. At that point I suppose, they’d have come the closest to what you refer to as perfect happiness.

What is your greatest fear?

I fear death that comes abruptly; say one perishes in an accident or when a house catches fire.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

I am so sympathetic that sometimes I sympathise with people who don’t deserve it.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

I hate liars.

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