4 February 2013

Uganda: Rated Next - a Search for Raw Talent, Charisma

Siima Sabiti, one of the judges on Rated Next, tells us about the search for the next big thing

When I got the call to be one of the judges on Urban TV's singing talent search, I could barely contain my excitement. Like many Ugandans, I was extremely bored of local artistes and the culture of miming and shouts of "DJ LEVEL!" That has become the norm these days.

Our brief was simple - go out there and find the next big thing in the UG music industry. We were on the hunt for raw singing talent, someone with charisma and stage presence so strong that audiences would be captivated and compelled to scream, swoon and throw their underwear at them. And that is just the male members of the audience.

I was even more thrilled when I was told that my fellow judges would be Maurice Kirya and Sharpe Ssewali, each of them experienced and knowledgeable in all things to do with music. The fact that they are both rather nice to look at was an added bonus, but I digress.

The first part of the search would take us to Arua, Gulu and Lira. I had never travelled to northern Uganda so I was definitely looking forward to the experience.

When the auditions kicked off in Arua, we were pleasantly surprised with the talent we came across. Despite the fact that we often had to make the distinction between singing and rapping, there were a few contestants who made the long journey and the awful auditions - and there were plenty of those - worthwhile.

A brief stop-over in Kampala and we were off again! This time to western Uganda. First stop Fort Portal. Now, it goes without saying that this part of the country is renowned for its beautiful people - with all due respect, King Oyo is a hottie - but I could not help worrying that the voices would not quite match up to the beauty of the people themselves. How wrong I was!

There were a few pleasant surprises. I do not want to give away too much because I quite like my judging job, thank you very much. Besides, I would need a lot more space to tell you all about the guy who gave me a death stare when I asked him to leave the stage, or the guy who did not understand English and told the production team that he was through to the next stage when we clearly told him his voice sucked.

Or the girl whose voice sounded like a cat being strangled. Slowly. You will just have to wait and see all the drama for yourself.

Without spoiling it for you, because, of course, you are going to watch all this on Urban once it airs, look out for dodgy hairstyles, interesting interpretations of English, and a few tantrums along the way. I am just thrilled to be a part of the team that is going to kill this "DJ! Track 4!!" nonsense. It is about time.

Rated Next premiers on Urban TV tonight at 7pm.

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