If there’s anything to be grateful for in our times, it’s the birth of new sound, and cropping up every other day. Groups; – Bantu Vibes, ZaGang among others have come up, and delivered us acts like Eli Litman, Kohen Jaycee, Denesi, CVNRND, among others, and dropped mixtapes, compilations, EPs which have slowly but surely taken foam and are beginning to be appreciated by audiences. One of the projects being ‘Zaddy’ an experimental blend infused with a silky reggae voice of fast-rising crooners on the scene Katweele Leo (Kezi Leo). Today I link up with him for a one on one to share about the Extended Play, his music journey, future plans and the pandemic. Read on:
- Right now, everyone reading this must be wondering who is this guy? Introduce yourself briefly, mate.
I am Kezi Leo; a Ugandan artist, and I was born in Masaka. My real name is Katwere Leo.
- Kezi Leo, huh? How did you come up with your stage name? What’s the story behind it?
Leo is my name. At first, I was called Kezzie, then I switched it to Kyz. That was my first name. I wanted to keep it but I later rebranded to Kezi Leo. So, when I signed up with this label, we wanted to start afresh, like any other brand-new artist, so yeah, we chose to go with that name.
- How do you personally define your kind of music?
Most of my music, the music that is out has been love music, uhmm but I do not want to describe my music according to what I usually sing about because I tell stories in my music. I’ve always tried to you know tell; the emotional bit, the love bit because I feel like that’s what the market wants, and it’s easier to do, you get? You can’t come up and sing about motivational stuff when you are also still struggling. But I prefer to describe my music through the genre. I am trying to create my own sound. I expose myself to too many songs; I listen to reggae, I listen to afropop, I listen hiphop, you know, trap. I try to come up with my own sound. I also listen to Ugandan music, like you know Kadongo Kamu, and classics and whatever. I just try to come up with my own sound, and sound different. Something that sounds different and beautiful to people’s ears.
- Take us through the story behind your Ep ‘Zaddy’. Who wrote, produced it and all.
I’ll be honest about this. I struggled looking for a name for that EP, because it was a compilation, you get? So, I finally chose to name it ‘Zaddy’ because my EP is a story, you know. It is a story; a love story.
From ‘Attention’ the first track, to you know the last track – ‘ Feelings’. Now ‘Attention’ you are asking for the girl’ attention, then there’s ‘Perfect Song’. Then there’s ‘Tubikole’. ‘Feelings’ with that dancehall vibe. The reason I chose ‘Zaddy’ was to tell a story of my efforts to vibe (woo) this woman, and I want to be her zaddy. So, I made it sound sweet by calling it Zaddy. It’s just a love EP.
- Listening to your Ep, it is majorly themed around love. Was it inspired by your own or it’s from a point of creative story telling?
The thing is; Like I told you before. this EP is a compilation. All those songs that were made, every song that I write, most of them are usually inspired by some event in my life. For ‘Feelings’, I just wrote, and for ‘Tubikole’, it was a vibe in studio, but for ‘Perfect Song’ and ‘Attention’, it was an inspiration. I wrote ‘Perfect Song’ in 2015. I recorded it two years back. In 2018, we made the beat. We re-recorded and in 2019. So, yeah, I have had it for all that time and kept improving it. I had like 3 versions of it, and then I had to choose the best. I can’t say that there’s something that really inspired that EP, that’s why I am saying it was a compilation. The songs individually were inspired by different occasions; I just decided to put them together because they were fitting perfectly into the story I wanted to tell.
- Do you believe your fans have an influence on the type of music you make? And if so, to what extent?
Yes, I believe my friends, fans have an impact on the music I do because I do music that I too would love to listen to and also love the people to listen to and love it. My musical journey has not just started. Due to the bit of me rebranding and changing my name, I had to put down my first project. It’s still there on my audiomack though, and if you’d like to listen to it. Everything, I have tried to cater for different audiences. That is why even on that EP, ‘Perfect Song’ is so perfect for Ugandan platforms, Tubikole & ‘Attention’ are so urban, you get? At the point I realized I have these people, you know, like people from where I am from in Masaka where I grew up from, who wouldn’t vibe to the English so I have to do something that they’d love, and then I have these people who would love to vibe to the urban, to the modern stuff. So, yes, my fans have an impact on the music. Every time I am compiling, I always keep them in mind.
- Speaking about family, what is their take on your music? what was their reception of your music like?
When I was starting to do music. I used to just talk about it, then I was like let me just do it. let me not ask for anyone’s permission, let me do it. When my family listened to it, they loved it. My dad is like my number one fan. Every we link up, he’s always a motivating factor. Even for the bit of appearance, that’s why I don’t have plaited hair yet cuz I know my mum will you know talk a lot about it but then over time she’ll accept; and of course, being that I have been trying to juggle towards the software world, you know, trying to get a job, and people are biased, you just can’t go in there with dreads. I believe hair is just your appearance, it doesn’t reflect who you really are. But yes, the music, my family is okay. And then my siblings. Every time I have some new song out, they’ll post it everywhere. They are proud of me.
- By now, I am hoping you have a favorite track off the project, given it’s been around for some time now. Which is one is it for you, and why?
Well, off that project, I’d say ‘Perfect Song’. Yeah, I love that song. I love it When I listen to it, I feel like yeah, I did that song! Then there’s ‘Attention’. Those two tracks. If all goes well, and I get money for visuals, I’ll shoot for both or one of the two. The reason I chose ‘Perfect Song’ is when I was composing it, I composed a couple of beautiful songs as well and people used to love those songs way more than this. They are not released yet of course. The song has kept evolving; from the first time I wrote it, I knew that this is it. in my mind I knew that this is the sound I wanted, so I took my time on it. When it came out people were like uhmm Ok!
- Any live performances registered yet?
I have had a few performances but really really nothing historic.
- Its barely three months into the year, how sooner can your people expect a new project?
That will really depend on my label. I have already composed the songs set up meetings with the producers. I’ll be featuring on a couple of projects pretty soon before actually releasing my next project. You know it can’t be a one-man battle. With collaborations, you somehow you get exposed to way more people.
- Speaking of new projects, who are those two artists you really look up to, and if all factors were constant would love to work with some day?
It really depends. I don’t have specifically only two artistes. On the Ugandan level, I would like to work with Maurice Kirya, I would like to work with Kenneth Mugabi, I would like to work with Vinka, I would like to work with Winnie Nwagi. She is really talented. And I would like to work with maybe Daddy Andre, because of his production and all that. Oh, and I would like to with Mudra D Viral. I really like his composition, and the way he comes up with the anthems and everything and the fact that he has been around for a while. He has been writing for other artists and big songs and everything. Then of course there’s my crew, you know. I would want to work with many people. I want to reach a point where I do strictly collaborations.
- So, what is Kezi Leo like outside of studio like? Any hobbies?
I enjoy learning new tech. I am a tech geek. I am not a gamer but I play FIFA. I love watching movies, and travelling.
- Going back to the year 2020, how did you cope with the shock & surprise that the year brought? What impact did it have on you and your career?
A lot of bad things of course happened around the world. Financially maybe I was affected too, but I look at it as a turning point in my life. A lot of things happened; you know. It was a time for me to go back. Life was moving so fast. You know, you are about to graduate, you are in 3rd year, and you are having all these courses and everything; trying to handle music. It was really stressful. So, it happened at a time when I needed to step back and rethink my life and come up with a better plan. During those 3months of not doing anything, you know, I was at home, improved my coding skills, improved my writing skills (I wrote a few more songs) and I replanned my life. That’s when I even rebranded and changed my name. I feel like the pandemic affected me both negatively and positively but mostly positively.
- What was the biggest lesson 2020 taught you?
Growth, Patience. You realize that we are always in such a hurry to be rich, we want to be successful so fast. We get so focused on the goal, and forget that the journey is part of it. you get? It taught me that bit. I was so focused on achieving my goals so much that I failed to notice that I can only achieve my goals through small wins. A step at a time. It also taught me to be diversify; like for everything you have always wanted to do; you are not too young or too old for success.
- Now with the new year, what should the fans and our dear readers/ listeners look forward to?
So uhmm this year I am going to have a couple, I believe I’ll have one or two more EPs. I am going to do a couple of collaborative projects. I am going to be on a couple of features. All I can promise people this year is I am going to be on a couple of great songs.
- The music scene in Uganda is quite challenging, what would you say has been your driving force?
The Ugandan music scene is challenging, depressing and annoying; I gave up on it; I’ll be honest with you. Like there’s so much politics. I gave up on trying to understand it; I decided to focus on my craft and try and push online cuz Ugandans have this I’ll say is a bad habit of not appreciating good music until its appreciated elsewhere and they now own you as part of their own. Yeah, I’ll admit, I honestly do love my country and I’ve always dreamt that you know even if I get so much money or whatever, I’d love to live out my life in my country; because it’s such a beautiful country, but Uganda is not the best place for creatives. If you really want money, like people come up, they do so much good music, it’s all over the scene, but the money is nowhere to be seen. For example, that ‘Kachumbali’ song. Imagine if he blew up in a country like Nigeria. Do you see when Rema came, and blew up. He had shows allover Africa, he was being recognized out there and all that. Omah Lay came out of nowhere. That’s how much those guys appreciate creatives and how much they push them. Right now, there’s so much to change about the Ugandan industry but I am not focused on that, maybe in the future, I’d love to have a hand in that, to make sure it’s better. Even my label as they were promoting me, they were aiming towards Africa; so, I was given liberty to push locally as I may, but they were looking at continent- wide. Kezi says his driving force has been his music blowing up beyond borders. His former projects attracted streams from people in America, Russia, Nigeria, and very few streams in Uganda; people in the U.K were streaming but very few streams in Uganda, you get? My driving force is to get that market, Uganda will recognize it either way. I am proud to be Ugandan, I’ll shout it everywhere that even though I blow up, I’d prefer I blow up in Uganda, and even when giving a speech I will be like ‘I am from Uganda’.
- If you were to be a music instrument, which would you be?
I love the violin, its so sweet, its so calm, and so hard to learn. I like the guitar, its second to a violin.
- Finally, if you could meet your younger self, what piece of advice would you give them?
If I could meet my younger self, honestly, I don’t have any regrets, so if I could meet my younger self, I’d just let him be. Cuz you know people be like if I could meet my younger self, I’d tell him to do this do that, learn this learn that, but it was all worth it; you know the beginnings, the failures, the low times, the high times, the wins, the losses, its all a part of you building yourself. so yeah, if I could meet my younger self, I would let him be.
- Internationally, who have you been listening to?
I am not specific. I listen to genres mainly. I used to artists a lot but now I listen to genres. I like Alté Cruise. It has Santi, it has, Tems; of course, the type of music Tems makes. If you know of Santi? You know Odunsi The Engine? Like those guys have come up with a whole new genre and they have their own market, and its going to be big. And if you realize, even Omah Lay, he’s doing that genre. You get? There’s a new sound. And that’s what I want to do. You come up with that new weird sound that people can’t deny. Kezi Leo is mesmerized by Collie Buddz, Chronixx, Darmian Marley, among other reggae legends’ music.
Kezi Leo’s EP ‘Zaddy’ is out now, and available on all major digital music streaming and downloading platforms. And now that Spotify is also now available, go check Leo out, and stream, to support. 😊 Here’s one of the songs off the project, my personal favorite: