Stephen Rwangyezi is a gifted Ugandan entertainer and perforrmer with a sound business sense. He knows what his audience wants because - like every good entreprenuer - he has researched his market.
Mention the Ndere cultural troupe and more or less anyone in Uganda will be able to tell you that this is the group that can balance six pots on their heads while dancing.
Stephen Rwangyezi is the driving force behind the Ndere troupe which has undoubtedly changed the face of cultural music, dance and drama in Uganda.
Ndere means “flute” in both the Luganda and Rukiga languages which are widely spoken in Uganda. Its members are known for their strong acrobatic performances blended with rhythmic cultural beats from local instruments such as drums and flutes made from cow horns.
Rwangyezi launched the Ndere troupe in 1984, but it was not until 1987 that it hit the stage for the first time.
Rwangyezi, a trained teacher and agriculrural economist turned down a number lucrative job offers with a majaor financial institution and the United Nations to concentrate on following his passion. The troupe came about through hard work and something perhaps a little deeper.
“For me, Ndere Troupe was an expression, and an outlet for an internal anger that I had been harboring for a long time,” said Rwangyezi, “by the time I started the troupe in 1984, our cultural music had been so degraded that I was feeling so angry and I wanted to find another way to bring this music to the high table,” he said.
Road to success
At the first performance in 1987 there were only three people in the audience but that did not deter Rwangyezi from pursuing his goal. With yet more determination and performances, Ndere troupe was able to make a mark on Uganda's entertainment scene.
The Ndere troupe now performs for international dignitaries and for many others at parties and weddings. It is a lucrative business, but a desire to make money is not the only thing that an entreprenuer needs.
"The biggest capital is yourself,” said Rwangyezi. “You must know that you have a new different idea to offer, to me that is the biggest starting point. Because what comes out of you is unique, it has got its own DNA and no one can reproduce it,” he adds.
Rwangyezi also attributes his success to research on themes that affect ordinary Ugandans. This research can help produce good theatrical performances.
"I would get the information; turn it into a theatrical performance, with music and dance, beautifully costumed and well designed,” he said.
“The UNDP, UNESCO …would pay us and we would then perform these educational plays for the rural communities free of charge and we would take these performances all over the country.”
Now Rwangyezi is a successful performer, businessman and actor. He has never taken out a loan to run his business. With the success that has come his way, he has been able to train young people so they too can achieve their dreams.