By Herbert Bukenya
United States based vocal trainer Buddy Mix came to know about Uganda on Facebook while chatting with a friend.
He was going through a trying time having lost his wife of 20 years Ha Nguyen of Vietnamese origin last year back in the USA.
As part of the healing process from his wife’s passing on, Buddy Mix wrote a book about organ donation an area his late wife was so passionate about. The book is titled ‘Organ donor handbook’ giving anyone interested in organ donation valuable advice having seen his late wife go through the whole process.
Buddy’s journey to Uganda began when he started interacting with local publisher Emmanuel Christoe Musasizi who told him about Uganda and its rich musical heritage besides suggesting a visit to the country would do him good.
Alongside his producer and fellow composer Eric Walker, Buddy conducted a simple search about Uganda and its music online and came across some big stars in the local industry like Bebe Cool, Exodus and Wilson Bugembe. On listening to their music it was beautiful and had some great unique rhythm to it which he chose to use as an entry point when he finally landed in the country a couple of weeks back.
His visit has seen him going to 25 schools including Kitebi Primary school Bunamwaya, Ndeeba SS and 23 others. His first impression of Uganda is that of a welcoming people, a warm friendly country he calls it.
Buddy wants to highlight the good in Ugandan music so as part of his time here, he has been capturing shots for a documentary he calls ‘Teach the World how to Sing.’ He says this documentary will see him travel to different countries including Italy and England among others, but the first part will be about Ugandan music.
As part of the documentary shoot, Buddy’s first stop over was at ESOM music school where he spoke to the vocal trainers, gave a few lessons to the student and had a lengthy one on one with the founder Daniel Kiyega.
“I was delighted and equally shocked to find a music school of that kind in Uganda, I think it’s a great beginning and a lot of good work is being done there” Buddy says.
He also interacted with some big names in especially in the gospel side of the music industry as part of the project.
He had a one on one with Pastor Wilson Bugembe, Exodus and one Uganda’s biggest names in the music industry Bebe Cool. He also interviewed Dr. Benon Kigozi a distinguished academic in the Music realm at the Department of Film and Performing Arts Makerere University.
As part of the documentary project, he recorded a theme song, ‘Teach the World to Sing’ the Uganda chapter with a number of local artistes including Exodus produced by celebrated producer Simon Okwiri also part of the sound team at the Miracle Centre Cathedral Rubaga.
Buddy has also visited some beautiful places in the country like the Source of Africa’s longest river the Nile in Jinja and the sprawling Kalangala islands.
On another note he has also been interested in learning new cultures and ways of life all of which he will capture in his documentary. Specifically in music which is his bit and voice training his forte, Buddy was keen on discovering some new tricks of doing things. “People using tangerine, mango and orange to deal with sore throats and voices was a first” he says.
This tip he learnt from one of vocal teachers Abel at ESOM music school during his sessions interacting with staff and students at the school.
Specializing in vocal training
Starting out in his college days in the 80’s Buddy was an aspiring vocalist but he soon found problems with his vocals which meant stepping back. He spent the next 10 years of his life changing vocal trainers and learning various vocal techniques that gave him a much wider knowledge of vocals and voice training that he has been freely sharing to date.
As a result I came up with a voice exercise/technique he has renamed the mosquito after visiting Uganda. It’s basically a simple exercise that gets a vocalist to listen to their overtones, understand the resonance of their voice so they can sing properly.
“They can place the voice where it fits, get maximum resonance and projection as a result.”
Comparing Ugandan Music with Western Music
In terms of recording quality, Buddy thinks Ugandan music is up there and can match the best anywhere in the world. It has a wonderful, stylistic rhythm too that is sale-able across the globe.
However Buddy notes that due to the limited exposure and skills of Uganda’s voice teachers, the vocalists aren’t fully utilizing the upper side of their vocal range like they are using the lower part and they are not connecting the two well. This he says however will improve with more exposure.
About making money from music
While back in the mid 80’s when Buddy joined the music business, you could make lots of money selling albums and singles today it’s not viable any more. He recalls the full workout for vocalists he created then that sold so many copies of video he actually lived off it as one of his highlights as a vocal trainer.
Right now with so many proliferations and sources of music especially pirated copies, the money in the business turned to live performances, drama and church music Buddy says.
Buddy Mix born Arthur Charles Mix lives in North Carolina USA and graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor’s degree in music majoring in voice and vocals I986.
He has worked with a number of names in the business including John Memphis the famous producer of the group 5th Dimension. He has also won a couple of awards like the NAA CP theatre award for his musical ‘A Little Meditation’ back in 1994 being top among them.
When all is said and done Buddy hopes to make ‘Teach the world how to sing’ a continuous project bringing out music from various parts of the world. The documentary he is putting together will debut on YouTube and hit a number of TV channels thereafter. He already has a site dedicated to it by the same name and is also visiting Rome Italy and London United Kingdom among other places in the world as part of his music discovery journey.