By Herbert Bukenya

Daniel Kiyega had a rather unfortunate background having dropped out school while just in Primary Six but that did not deter him from pursuing his dream. When he was later picked from the Street where he had started to make a living by an NGO, he made his desire to study music known to his adopted parent as a young teenager then.

Besides sneaking into the theatre and to bars to watch artistes perform as an excited teenager, Kiyega got the chance to study music formally when his adopted mother bought him an instrument just to test his raw skills and he passed the test.

Kiyega was then taken to a private music tutor from Makerere University’s Music Dance and Drama Department, he was tutored for a few months and then sent to the Reformed Theological College which was a Minister’s school in Bunamwaya that taught music too. Here his musical skills were upgraded to the level where he was ready to hit the stage and perform and when he got there it was a time to explore further and anchor his skills especially in instruments.

Kiyega never disappointed on completion in 2000, he joined Trumpet Church which was then located on the roof top of Qualicel bus terminal where he played instruments for a full year.

Scholarship Opportunity

Kiyega got lucky when the Principal of Creare College of Music Bloemfontein South Africa visited the country. He saw him doing his work and saw a lot of potential in him recommending him as a result to go and study at the Creare College of music located in Bloemfontein South Africa. This was for Kiyega a life changing Experience.

“A better equipped institute with every instrument and tutor you would ever want to have as a student and lover of great music.”
This is the place where he actually refined his skills in audio production, sound engineering, drama and dance too on top of the instruments and vocals he was into previously. “It was an intense 1 year where I did nothing but practice music in all forms and learn music in all forms, I decided to concentrate on that and nothing else.”

Life after school

On completing his one year study in South Africa, Kiyega decided to take a short holiday back home here in 2002 but his plans had grown bigger than Uganda at the time. He had built a number of contacts in the music circles back in South Africa and he exploited these to get him a tour to Europe after a few months.

From London to Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Oxford, Stockholm and a number of other major cities in Europe, Kiyega toured them and performed their too. The church he was ministering in before he went to South Africa for further studies also helped him by linking him to other churches in Europe during the tour where he performed.

Kiyega also recorded some music under the stage name Dan Wonders but most of this music never went beyond recording and being listened to at some of the places he performed. He says it was a full album but he shelved it because he felt he needed to pursue the other bits of music.

Fingers burnt

While in Europe, Kiyega hit a road block, he had expected to make good money as a performer and instrumentalist and was planning to settle in the United Kingdom but things didn’t go as planned. The gigs were not coming fast enough and the little money he had on him was running out. “Things got really hard and I had to cut my dreams of life in Europe short and come back home after almost 3 years out there” he says. This was further complicated by a relationship with Dutch girlfriend he had met on his European tour that actually didn’t work out. So at the end of 2005, Kiyega was on the plane back to Entebbe into the country where it all started from.

Starting afresh

He started with a mistake as he bought a car that took the largest part of the little money he had left. After buying the car he had only 700,000 shillings left and this is the money he risked to build the fast growing ESOM school of Music we know to date.

Besides noticing some thriving artistes like Jose Chameleone and Juliana Kanyomozi who were some of the big artistes at the time, in his Rubaga neighborhood and beyond Kiyega reaslised there were many young men who wanted to enter the music industry but lacked adequate skills. This was compounded with the rampant unemployment that music could give a helping hand to solve.

Next step was to rent out a two roomed house in his neighborhood, pay some rent upfront and buy a guitar he would use to conduct his lessons. He also had a piano he had come with from Europe and he started off.
It took a whole month for him to see his first student and in the meantime he tried to add value to his premises with some little decoration and put some posters in the surroundings announcing his services.

The first student was a piano student and he paid 1000 shillings per lesson completing 20 lessons in the month. A few students started to walk in there after and the foundation of ESOM Music school was laid right there. After two months a computer, key board and more guitars were brought in using proceeds from selling off the one useless old car he had bought on his return.

School growth

At the end of 2006, he had about 50 students coming into the school and opted for bigger premises, this number continued to grow forcing him to shift to renting an entire property. In 2010 he had trained up to 400 professionals in the music industry through his school.

With more money coming in, Kiyega set up a music studio to enable students who had acquired recording skills to test their skills and actually record full songs if they wanted. It’s in 2010 still that Kiyega moved to his current premises and incorporated his company Eternity Source of Music by registering its parent company ESOM Limited which owns the school.

After 2014, they also expanded to take on deejaying, sound engineering, audio production, violin and videography among other courses.

What has been difficult?

A high cost of rent, low awareness about his services, high staff turnovers and parents having a negative attitude towards their children pursuing music have been some of the challenges along the way.

What is he proud of so far?

A number of achievements first the growth which has enabled his business with a capital of 700,000 shillings to grow and bring in over 200 million in revenue in 2017 with targets for 2018 standing at over 300 million shillings.
From 50 students at the end of his first year the school has now educated over 2500 students since it opened up and many more are still going through it.

Kiyega is also proud of the Bachelor of Business Administration Degree he is currently concluding at Makerere University Business School where he is aiming for minimum a Second class upper which is within reach considering his CGPA currently stands at 3.87.

Why is he successful?

Staying the course and not giving up when the going gets hard, reading widely and continuously acquiring knowledge on various subjects including leadership, finance, management, investment to mention but a few are some of his success secrets.

Automating the business’ operations and controlling outflows business which which has controlled costs and personally besides his wages as a tutor, dividends as a director and salary as an administrator, Kiyega doesn’t take out money from the business at will. He actually reinvests up to 70% of his proceeds which is a key aspect too.

The future

He is looking at acquiring his own premises, setting up upcountry, starting a franchising model to grow the business faster. He is also looking at starting online lessons as he has some interest from people as far as South America.
And indeed his dream of professionalising Uganda’s local music industry is being achieved one step at a time and he will soon be reaching beyond borders as his plans are to go regional and global with the help of the internet and social media.