Eddy Kenzo does not know exactly when he was born.
He lost his mother at the age of 4. He did not know his father. He spent most of his childhood living on the streets, not knowing how to read or write. He often worried about when, or if, his next meal would come.
From that humble beginning, Kenzo has become the first Uganda-based singer to earn Grammy consideration. His recording, Gimme Love, was nominated this month for a Grammy award for best international music performance. Kenzo shares the nomination with co-performer American Matt B.
Some Ugandans dismiss Kenzo's music, saying he is not much of a singer. Others see his musical experimentation as a sign of a gifted artist.
But, for Kenzo, any recognition of his work is a reminder of how far he has come.
“Honestly speaking, I am so overwhelmed. I am so nervous at the same time,” Kenzo told The Associated Press. “I thank God that we made it.”
In 2015, Kenzo, whose real name is Edirisa Musuuza, won a BET award as the viewers’ choice for best new international artist. He was the first and only Ugandan so honored to date. The award followed the release of his song Sitya Loss, which became very popular. The linked music video features children dancing in a poor, rural town in central Uganda. The energetic performance captured international attention.
Growing up, Kenzo had wanted to become a soccer player. His skill won him financial support to attend a school. But he later dropped out and returned to the hustling that he says made him a man.
“I am a hustler,” he told AP. “This is a very huge step for me, my family and the ghetto people, the hustlers, the people who come from nothing. It gives us a lot of hope that anything is possible.”
Kenzo recorded his first single in 2008. He became famous in 2010 with the song Stamina which was praised for its youthful energy. And he has since been invited to perform across the world.
Three days before he found out that he had been nominated for a Grammy, Kenzo held a festival in Kampala that was attended by thousands, including Uganda’s prime minister. It was a proud moment for a singer whose music is often ignored by local radio stations.
Andrew Kaggwa is an arts reporter with the local Daily Monitor newspaper. He described Kenzo as a mysterious person who “has disrupted the industry in ways no one can explain.”
Kaggwa said Kenzo is the Ugandan singer “who refused to fail.”
Those who control music on Uganda radio stations may dislike the singer’s work, the reporter said. But, he added, Kenzo has a loyal following.
“For some reason, things happen” for Kenzo, Kaggwa said. “He just lets the awards, the accolades, speak for him.”
The Recording Academy will announce all the award winners at the 2023 Grammy Awards ceremony on February 5.
I'm Caty Weaver.
Rodney Muhumuza and Patrick Onen reported this story for The Associated Press. Hai Do adapted the story for Learning English.
Words in This Story
humble - adj. not better than other people
overwhelmed - adj. strongly affected
hustle - v. to move quickly
ghetto - n. poor part of a city
festival - n. an organized series of performances
disrupt - v. to cause something unable to continue the normal way
accolade - n. awards or expressions of praise