MTV Generation

This is the first image that came up in a search for "rock africa" on google, so... that's what we're going with

When the phrase “MTV Generation” was coined in the 1980s this is not what they were referring to. “This” is Thursday night at Steak Out; a bar, restaurant and club in tropical Kampala, Uganda, also known as “Rock Nite”. At the table beside me, a guy cradles his beer bottle like a microphone, singing every word to the 30 Seconds to Mars song playing; the tendons in his neck straining, the drops of sweat on his forehead shaken into rivulets. I don’t know whether to cringe or laugh, so I just look away.

The kids of Kampala’s growing middle class have been raised on MTV videos beamed into their living rooms by South African satellite television. Now they can go out to enjoy their favoured angst-driven guitar riffs and catchy pop tunes in the company of like-minded, equally inebriated individuals. Club scenes that were once dominated by Lingala music out of Congo, Western reggae, rap and hip-hop, and their African permutations, have been forced to make room for new tastes. Where young people once Ndombolo-ed, tonight they are head-banging.

Continue reading

Do You Know These Kampala Characters?

The Mobiliser.

This guy (for some reason it’s always a guy) knows everyone. He is the connector between separate social circles and his Facebook friends count is in the thousands (never mind that human beings only have the capacity to maintain relationships with 150 – 230 people at once).

If the weekend comes around and you’re wondering “Wharup? Where the party at?” (girls is on their way, where the Waragi at?) Call the mobiliser, he’s sure to know.

If you’re throwing a house party and it’s looking to be a bit of a Farmer’s Choice Sausage factory unless somebody gets some babes over here stat, call the mobiliser.

If your party is a bit dull; everyone’s standing in the corner, no one is mingling, grinding or taking their clothes off, it’s probably because you didn’t buy enough alcohol. BUT if that’s not the case and there is a full bottle of “The spirit that binds us” still sitting on the dining table, call the mobiliser, he has the crazy party people on speed dial*.

The mobiliser may not be much of a drinker or a party animal himself. He might still be telling the story of how back in ’06, after drinking 2 shots of vodka he fell into the pool with the three girls giving him a rubadub to “Ms New Booty”

Even so, it’s not a party in Kampala unless the mobiliser knows it’s going on.

The Shout Man

Do you know someone who is always promoting something? A product launch, his homie’s band, his aunty’s guest house.  Maybe he suggested everyone meet at a certain restaurant, and it’s only once you got there that you discovered his cousin’s wife owns it. Or maybe you were talking about a 9-day traffic Jam in China and he said “You know I just wrote a blogpost called “Jam, Life in Kampala, and how this all relates to me being awesome”, you should check it out”.

Maybe you went out with this guy and the whole time you dated you weren’t sure if he was trying to get to know you or he was trying to sell you his idea of a perfect relationship.

The Shout Man may not make the best boyfriend, unless you’re starting a new business, in which case, send me an email, I can give you his number.

*Does anyone actually use speed dial? For who, your mom?

Does your town have crazy characters? email to see them published here.

You might also like:

Kampala is for hustlers: Boda Negotiation 101


(untitled) 15/7/2010

Where is the best place to sit in a taxi?

Check out my badass MS Paint skillz: Click to enlarge

I hate the middle front seat. I got my wallet and cellphone stolen and was dumped in the middle of Meatpacker’s because of that seat. Plus, half the time you sit there, the driver feels up your thigh every time he changes gear.

This handy diagram is here to help for those times when doing complicated algorithms (= n- x/y where n is the number of people you will have to step over to exit, x is the number of people who will have to step over you to exit and y is the number of people who are likely to exit) just won’t cut it.

Of course none of this is really relevant because 90% of the time you don’t have a choice…. but I have too much time on my hands.

Kampala is for hustlers: Boda Negotiation 101

1. Don’t be white

2. Rather than flagging a boda rider from the road, go to a stage where you have several options. Pick the guy who looks hungriest. (NB Don’t confuse high-as-a-kite  for the lethargy associated with stage one starvation)

3. Speak in Luganda

3 a) If you can’t speak Luganda, Speak Ugandan English, and punctuate your sentences with as many Neddas, Ssebos, and Kales as possible

3 b) Don’t have a Mzungu* accent

4. State your destination, avoid naming obviously “high-class” places, if you’re going to Serena hotel, say Crested Towers (opposite) instead.

5. When he names his price, be aware of the anchoring effect, most experienced salespeople name an absurdly high price because once you begin negotiating, anything below that seems like a reasonable bargain. (Be wary of the rider who has no idea where you are going or how to get there and is simply pulling prices out of his butt-crack.)

6. It is said that you should never pay more than 3, 000 UGsh for a boda within central Kampala. You will learn more about this in advanced Boda negotiation classes (this is in the same course unit as “how to balance telephone poles on the back of a boda”, and “Boda biology: How clean is that helmet?”).

If the rider refuses to come down to a reasonable price (perhaps because of your peach-pale skin/Kiwi accent/ destination: Kabira Country Club), simply find another. Out of 40 000 boda bodas in Kampala, surely you can find a hungrier more willing one.

For more advice on picking and choosing the right Boda, see Matooke Nation’s post on “That Boda”

*Person of European descent, one who travels or wanders without particular destination in mind.

Got any interesting stories about boda-boda? Email them to


People in this city have a lot of nerve! I was busy ‘facebooking’ one evening in a taxi, at a window seat when I felt some forceful hand grab at me, right around the wrist. I turned to see what the perpetrator of such a brave attempt on theft looked like, but all I could see was the back of his head. He was nearly crushed between two taxis in the process, both of them with those intimidating bush guards at the front. As the fellow scampered to safety, I couldn’t help but notice the bemused took on the passengers’ faces, those that were next to me. They’re the ones that had an idea of what had almost just happened.

That guy must have followed our taxi thinking he was in for some easy fix. Had he known that I’d sat at the right-hand-side back window, with it barely open, was intentional, he would have thought twice.

Had he known that I was aware that it was common for passengers in that seat to have their phones grabbed from them, he might have thought twice.

Had he known that I’d purposely lifted my right knee and held the phone in my right hand resting on my left thigh, he would have known that my phone was well out of reach.
I knew the risk of browsing the net in the city centre, in a taxi leaving the park, so I had taken simple measures to ensure its safety while I was at it. I must thank God he didn’t rob me. I also thank God I had the presence of mind to ensure my safety before embarking on such a perilous quest. Facebook would have cost me much had things gone according to the crook’s plan. The only regret I have is that I didn’t get the chance to hold his hand while he tried to grab the phone, otherwise I would have had the taxi drag him a good distance before I let go, just to teach him. But thank God I didn’t.

This post was submitted by Safyre

You can find more of his musings here

You might also like:

To be a female taxi conductor

We are young Kampalans. We like to go out and meet other like-minded, good-looking young people.

We like to dance, on rugby pitches or sweaty back rooms with a bottle in one hand and the other around someone’s waist.

We like to have well-lubricated conversations about religion, sex, politics and football, about the way things were and the way things should be.

We like to laugh.

We love to laugh but we are also here for each other when we have to cry.

We respect and value life, partly because we understand that not everyone thinks the same way. Not everyone has to live the way we say they should just because we think it’s the best way to live.

Kampala is our city, and we love it because we have always felt safe to be ourselves, regardless of whether it pisses off some religious fundamentalists.

Now we are hurt, we are scared, but we are not about to let some cartoon villain dictate through fear, the way we should feel and live in our home. This is our home.

This is our home

This is our home.