MANY YEARS ago I met a gentleman at the sales office of Beat fm.
I was heading to my office but passed through the sales office to talk to some of the team. The man had a bag swung on his shoulder.
He asked me which soda I drank. It was peculiar to find someone asking a question like that out of the blue.
I laughed and moved upstairs. A few hours later I was introduced to Balaam Barugahara. Balaam was promoting the Ray C (Tanzanian singer) concert at the time; an event we (Beat FM) sponsored. Over the years he became the most consistent and successful music promoter in Uganda.
Some of the principles around Balaam that have enabled his success are/were:
- Work with everything that works. Some promoters will not touch a down market artist or an up market artist, but Balaam organized everything from kadongo kamu to anything as long as it made business sense.
- Balaam managed his money (all of it) well.
- Balaam understood relationships and managed them well. That is why he has managed Jose Chameleone’s concerts for all this long. Chameleone is thoroughly particular about who he works with (from issues of standards to loyalty). Balaam also knew everyone at his sponsors businesses from the security guard to the cleaner, and he greeted all and they would all smile when he came around. In every corner of the business sector Balaam has a person he knows. It was common to hear him say to people “talk to so and so at samona. Or let me give you the number of this brown lady at Bank of Baroda. She will help you open an account or go to Okumu at passport office and tell him Balaam sent you. He has his way around every single important office in the city.
- Balaam was very down to earth, so it opened doors to everyone.
- Balaam was legal and structured. He used contracts and paperwork, he used budgets, he did forecasts, he calculated profitability before he undertook a concert project and he did not bump into things.
- Balaam never forgot people who gave him business. If an artiste he worked with five years ago got into trouble Balaam would be the first at the police station to bail that artist out even if there was no launch in sight. He would hire lawyers for people etc.
So when I heard he was elected/appointed chairman music industry advisory board chairperson, I thought there was no better choice than him.
To manage our music industry you need not to posture as elite because audiences and musicians live real time daily lives. They want practical solutions that are organized. Balaam can handle that and in the language that they want their issues addressed.
You also do not need to belong to cliques (which are so many in the industry here). He is a team player. Just when people thought him and KT (Musa Kavuma) would not see eye to eye, there he was working with him on Uganda Cranes football matches.
It is common to hear him say to people bring this amount I bring this amount we do this concert together.
No one will expect Balaam to swindle their money because he has enough of his own. He is also easy to get along with. So every artiste small or big will relate with him. If you want your contract in luganda, Balaam will deliver it. He has good relations with government (he has done so many concerts for government officials, handled electoral commission events, worked with police etc) Therefore getting policy put into practice won’t be a problem.
ABOUT JOEL ISABIRYE
Joel Isabirye is an internationally acclaimed media consultant majoring in radio. He has helped build most radio stations in Uganda. Isabirye has the biggest music collection in Uganda.