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Blaze Bakama: the free-spirited soul defying ‘Kidandali’ culture

I first listened to Blaze at Touch FM (many suns ago). I was at Makerere University. And that radio station was my therapist. Blaze was different. He was this soft-spoken creative married to his craft. He hosted a fire reggae show that most of us listened to religiously. I had never met him.

I first met him at a popular watering hole in Kisementi (he won’t remember). He kept his hair. No. He kept his locs, running down his shoulders. You could easily mistake him for an artiste from Trench Town. Many years later, he’s still at it – serving reggae and good vibes to this God green earth.

A few days ago, we caught a fire. Meet Blaze.

Briefly, tell us about yourself.

Tough to talk about oneself. I do not even know how people do it easily, but I will try. A “fossil” known mostly for their love for reggae and radio, but I have a life outside that. I’d prefer not to say what exactly.

What remains unchanged about you since childhood?

I have always thought that I was skinny, so I’d have gone for that but, my day one (mum) keeps telling me that I never was until I went to boarding primary school and she has photos to back that particular claim.

So, I’d easily go with how shy I am. Not sure there is anyone who is more shy than I am. I am always shaking inside whenever I meet new people (please don’t use that against me whenever we meet first). I was the kid who’d hide when visitors came home. The one who, somehow, could not be found when Aunt Mary or Uncle Fred came over for tea. I could hear them calling me to say hi but, I just did not know how to say hi back. I was such a wreck up to now.

You’ve been on radio for years (Touch FM & NXT Radio). Tell us about your journey behind the microphone.

Interesting that you ask this in the month I joined radio. Coincidentally, and I kid you not, I got the call to join Touch FM, as a trainee, from the guy who owned Touch FM (Mistrie) on September 6, 2010. He called to tell me to go to the station the following day to start as a trainee.

In March that year I’d been invited for a “Touch FM Family Party”, a listener’s party. I was a frequent caller every Sunday on their reggae show (Reggae Session: Chapter II). Mistrie was the host of the show and was looking for someone who’d hold fort whenever he was not able to do the show. Over a couple of drinks and good reggae conversations, I passed what I didn’t know was a job interview.

5 years, 3 months and a few weeks later I left Touch FM. Why? That is a conversation for another day so, hopefully The Word Ug will be here for that.

I joined a media house as a community manager for their TV station in 2016. 2 years later, the media house launched what was the first audio-visual radio station. In 2020 at the start of the lockdown, I was given the green light by Marcus Kwikiriza (Nxt Radio’s GM at the time) to run a 2-hour weekly reggae radio show dubbed Reggaelize It. I was home again.

It was time for me to do radio, especially reggae radio, as it ought to be done. The way Touch FM, one of Uganda’s best radio stations (fight with yourself if you disagree) taught me to. Hopefully I did radio proud for the 136 editions the show ran.

So, Kidandali culture, what does it mean in general?

It means b** that has now been normalized.

Natty dread: what misconceptions you’ve heard about people with dreadlocks?

I’d prefer to debunk what many people think of loc’d people, especially men, because we have been conditioned to have short hair. Funny how I was in a job where my boss told me in a couple boardroom meetings that it was hard for him to come to terms with a man having hair, even worse when it was loc’d. Always baffles me how even people who should be exposed are still mentally enslaved by societal standards. So hey;

– Not all black loc’d men have a white girlfriend. Black is beautiful.

– Are they all Rasta? Nope. Rasta is a way of life and hair does not define that.

– No, I do not have a joint. Do not ask me for one just because I am a natty dread. Buy or grow your own.

– Dreadlocked people are mad! Well, our hair is “ragged” but, we are not mentally ill. Well, you might dread it but stop with this stereotype.

– There is a difference between people who grow their locs and those who have extensions.

I could go on and on with my 11 year locs journey.

Who are your biggest influences?

When I was younger, it was my brother (Martin). He taught me most of what I know. I looked up to him while growing up. I do not support the Argentine football team by mistake. At home, we still joke about him breaking down after the 1990 loss. He is why the 2022 World Cup win was that important.

While he still is, everyone who is intentional about creating great content is. I am a sucker for people who’re great content creators especially those who are on radio or have done radio before. I am talking good radio.

You’re a renowned reggae diehard. How did it all begin?

I wouldn’t call myself renowned just yet. Not at the level of Roger Steffens, David Rodigan, Baba T (RIP), Jeff Mwangemi and Seani B who I look up to. There are a few more I have not mentioned. I will get there one day definitely.

I keep on telling people that it all began with dad falling in love with mum. She is Kenyan and anyone who knows the Kenyan reggae scene gets it. A very vibrant one.

Mum’s first (my older brother) introduced me to reggae when I was only 7. At that age, I was listening to recordings of one of Kenya’s finest at the time, King Lion Sounds. I was indoctrinated early on in life. Reggae was, at the time, frowned upon at home and whoever liked it was labelled “spoilt”. I allowed to be “spoilt”.

Reggae is life (has been for over 30 years).

Speaking of reggae, let’s settle the debate. Who’s your GOAT?

Peter Tosh. The Steppin’ Razor. Why? Just listen to his music and ignore what mainstream media says.

Coincidentally, I am listening to him right now. On September 11, it will be 36 years since he was assassinated in what the authorities call a robbery gone bad (LOL!).

What are your other passions?

Feels like a job interview. Hahahahaha.

Getting me a job? Outside of radio, reggae and reggae radio I’d say sport. Not many people know this but, I’d spend my day indulging in sport. Actively playing? No. A couple of years ago maybe.

There are a couple of other passions but, I’d prefer not to reveal.

Farm fresh: what’s cooking?

Sukuma wiki and ugali. Ital is vital.

There’s lots of preparation you put in your craft. What should other creators do to improve their art?

Quality beats quantity. Thrive to have quality always.

Let’s talk about ‘Catch A Fire’. Should we expect a ‘Catch A Fire’ concert/festival soon? What grand plans do you have for it?

Who knows? A lot goes into everything I do. I never go into anything with just one foot in. If you see a reggae concert in the next few years, chances are that we will be catching a fire.

Who would you buy a drink dead or alive?

My likkle element (daughter) definitely.

If I had any other people to, whoever was part of the team that rebranded Vision Voice to XFM. Not all rebranding works. That one did.

What’s your life’s soundtrack?

There isn’t just one. Why? Know how you have different soundtracks in movies for different scenes? There are many but, I will go with these 2;

  1. I Am That I Am – Peter Tosh
  • Legend – Chronixx

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