Jewel: Kween G, 25, is one half of KillaQueenz, a hip hop group in Australia. She was born in Mbale and left Uganda for a new life when she was young, but has returned to Africa to get back to her roots. She narrated her life as a female artiste abroad to Amy Fallon.
I still remember the day before we left Africa my father coming up to me and asking, “I am going to Australia tomorrow. Do you wanna come?” I was daddy’s little girl so there was no point asking me that question. I said, “Okay.”
It was 1990 and I was only five. Mum would come later, dad said, but I never saw her again. She’d been ill and passed away in 1995.
Once we arrived in Sydney I would wonder, “what am I doing here?” We moved to a suburb called Hurstville, in the city’s south, and I went to high-school there. I was not happy as I hated the food. I wanted Matoke, not McDonalds!
At one stage Dad was going to send me back to Africa as I did not fit in. Then I made this one friend, Katie. We started dancing together and her family were very welcoming to me. Katie was the one person who helped me settle down in my new country.
I made another great friend, Desiree Lambey, during high school when we landed the opportunity of a lifetime: dancing on an African float at the Sydney 2000 Olympics opening ceremony. She was originally from Belize. We became friends and started freestyling and reciting our favourite raps. We were teenagers, so we would do anything to pass the time. I began listening to MCs like Nas, Lauryn Hill, Tupac, Notorious B.I.G, Boot Camp Clik and Rah Digga, and going out to Sydney open mic nights.
In 2004 Desiree and I formed the band KillaQueenz. We started performing wherever we could. The Surry Hills Festival in Sydney, in the inner-city, was our first big gig. We released our debut album, Sistarhood, in 2009.
While studying Presenting and Screen at National Institute of Dramatic Art in 2005, I hosted a show on Sydney community radio station Radio Skid Row for two years then worked for Australian national broadcaster SBS Radio. In 2008 I was chosen as the face of SBS’s ‘Turn it Up’ youth competition, encouraging Australian youth to share their stories through image, sound, film and words.
Joshua Thompson and I met in 2009. He was part of a team running music workshops in Tennant Creek, in the Australian outback, with Aboriginal boys and girls from the Warumungu tribe. I said ‘Man I want to do this too. Let me work with the girls. Can I get my foot in the door somehow?’
A performer called DJ K-note who was also involved told me the girls were not getting into the music industry as they were not mingling with the guys. Through the help of DJ K-note I approached Beyond Empathy, an NGO that uses film, digital and mixed media, theatre, music, dance and visual arts to build relationships between young disadvantaged Aboriginal people and local support agency staff in 13 locations across Australia.
They said they would give me a go and told me to come over for a week stint. In 2009 I went to Tennant Creek, a small township of about 3,500 people in the Northern Territory, for the first time.
Being a female and a hip hop star, it was easy for me to connect with the girls. But my whole reason for going to the outback was not to make these girls rappers, but to give them confidence. It was all about expression. In the Aboriginal community, all over Australia, it is the younger generation that really need attention.
I’ve been to Tennant Creek every year since 2009 and I’m going again when I get back to Australia for another two weeks during National Youth Week in April. On the weekends I hang out with the girls and go fishing and hunting. They teach me about their culture. I never lecture them and say, “Don’t have a boyfriend”. I just say, “If you do this, this might happen, focus on your goals”.
During the music workshops we usually find a beat we like, then pick a topic and start rapping. We jot down a few ideas. I do not write the lyrics for them because I want the music to be their own. Sometimes they will be a bit shy, so well forget about the music and just talk. Then a few days later they’ll warm up. I always tell them to write something that they’ll learn from rather than party stuff.
I have been back in Uganda since December. The first time I came here was in 2010, after I reconnected with my family. I am working on a solo project at the moment and wanted to come back here to finish it and make a name for myself in the country where I was born,and to also see my family. This is my roots and where I’m from.
Out of Exile is the title of my album because it feels like I haven’t been back to Africa for ages. It will be released in the first half of this year. Since I’ve been here I’ve met up with producers and other artists. I want to see Ugandan music put on the map as there’s so much talent here.
I hope to raise funds through my projects in Australia and see them make a difference to children here. At the celebrations for International Women’s Day at the Kampala Sheraton I played a set alongside the Qwela band. I’m was so excited to be involved. Getting involved in such an event is an honour as we are celebrating the many achievements women have made throughout Uganda &and the world.
I am in a male dominated industry (hip hop) but that has never stopped me from reaching my goals. I want to do pass that message on to all young girls so they make the most I their lives.
When I get back to Australia I’m hosting the African Festival in Auburn, a western Sydney suburb. I grew up in Australia and I’m so thankful for it but I missed out on learning my language and learning my culture.
Source: Daily Monitor