UMA Decides2022: Cindy to advocate for Ministry for musicians

Ugandan singer and Uganda Musicians Association current president Cindy Sanyu has shared her manifesto ahead of the association's general elections happening on June 28, 2022.

Cindy Sanyu

The singer is currently in the running for a second term of office as she goes up against Semanda Manisul, popularly known as King Saha, and Ramathan Mutebi, alias Lord Bitemu.

Although she is running for a second term of office, Sanyu says that it is also a chance to finish what she started since her term of office began two years ago.

One of her proudest accomplishments is the expansion of the association from being a Kampala-based outfit to encompassing artists from all over the country.

According to her, at the time she took over the association, it had about 1,900 members which has since grown to more than 5,000 people in the space of 2 years.

She hopes to consolidate the connections and progress her cabinet has made in this short period with the artists themselves, the government and well-wishers. She also hopes to grow the membership to 15,000 members in her new term.

The Covid-19 pandemic lockdown left many artists financially vulnerable in ways previously unknown when their source of sustenance was halted to contain the spread of the virus.

Sanyu says that they had a difficult time trying to find help because they did not belong to a particular organisation where they could take their issues to be solved.

This left artists wandering about confusedly in Ministry of Gender, Uganda National Cultural Centre searching for solutions. She has been in discussions of creating a public office for musicians and would like to see that these talks come to fruition with a ministry.

Under her leadership, the association has managed to get media stakeholders like radio stations and television stations to acquire licenses which permit them to play local music.

Although creativity has no borders and boundaries, copyright laws and regulations vary from country to country in how they sell music. According to her, copyright is a very delicate matter with a distinct potential to compromise the Ugandan music industry as much as it is perceived as security.

"Right now listening to music in Uganda is free, but if that changed individuals would pick out their favourite artists and pay to listen to only those, consequently blocking out upcoming artists. These upcoming artists would be denied the chance to showcase their talent to reach the status of winning over fans to pay for their music," says Sanyu.

She believes there's progress being made in that direction, however it is going to require some time to tailor a copyright system that caters to the Ugandan music industry setting.

Fortunately, the singer says that radio, television and telecommunication houses have been receptive of meetings to discuss copyright due to the awareness campaigns they have conducted for artist intellectual property protection.

Whilst she empathises with the female struggles, it should not be at the expense of the male experience.

She considers herself a supporter of the empowerment of women, encouraging them to feel beautiful and safe. This support arises out of her compassion for the woman, after witnessing the struggles her mother weathered to raise her and her siblings.

She disagrees, however, with the extreme measures of sidelining men in society and believes that each gender would benefit from honouring the others' independence and combining their positive differences to work together.

She believes that most of these issues will be resolved under a proper structure and system of operation that industries like Nigeria and America enjoy.

She gives an example of how she conducts business for her music, which ideally gives her 100% returns after writing the song, paying for production, promotion and distribution. But this is rarely the case with most artists whose earnings are meagre under management yet their brands and personalities boost the music performance.

Sanyu hopes to find a solution to this where each person on a project is allocated profits depending on the value they add not just who they are and what they do. At the end of the day, she hopes to unite managers, promoters and artists under a fair system.

Sanyu hopes that with the centralised power of a ministry, artists will be able to influence major decisions that boost Ugandan music. However, in the event that the ministry does not become a reality, she has done her research for a contingency plan.

During her research on why Ugandan music does not get international recognition on some of the global media platforms, it became clear that the music is the victim of a lack of general content export.

Most of the international platforms promote music from countries that give them advertisement and other media business through telecommunication companies, big beverage companies and other music sponsors.

Just like the artists are trying to unite under UMA to influence better conditions for the industry, she believes Uganda has to unite in order to make business sense to foreign media houses and she hopes to champion this change.

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