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IKhabuya Vanessa Marion, born in Uganda Jinja is a Dancehall artist known by her stage name KVAN. She refers to herself as the „goodest girl around town”, because she believes in her originality, uniqueness and simplicity: „I believe my voice is unique, my lyrics are originally build from within and the output is simple. My creativity requires a stable state of mind that allows my imagination to go places.“

„Music I swear you should give me a ring, you take up my mind there’s no concentrating, its funny when mi sing, it feels like everything …”

The track “Show Dem” speaks 100% KVAN. „This was the first song that I got chance to freely do in studio, with less limitation. It says „you have to show them” who you are. I begin the song with an introduction of what I believe. I am musically and goes to my intentions and dreams in it. I also express my passion for music and advise everyone with something in them to show it. I have a special connection to “Show Dem”, „Back Off” and “Be Happy“. When I listen to „Show Dem“ I hear someone telling me to push on and let the world know what I am. „Back off“ on the other hand came in as a reflex. I was angry at something and didn’t want to talk about it and when I went to studio and did it. That’s when I acknowledged it had got to me. It says “Back Off” but then later calms me down itself by advising me that. That’s how people can be sometimes: „Bakuza mimilo when they see you succeed (they get jeolous when they see you succeed), Naye omukisa gwa Mukama temuli buyinike (but God’s blessing has no limitation), Kukiriza nakulemelako byebisinga (believing and persistence is what’s best), Embrace your dream, leak it like a place …“.

KVAN’s musical journey started with nine years. „I was that child that would hardly talk about what hurt me, so i usually wrote down almost everything and put melody to it and somehow felt like I spoke to someone. One of the times I created an actual song that wasn’t just what I felt or went through was when an aunt of mine, that worked in a telecommunications company returned home with capes, simcards, phones and banners. I used to admire them and always thought they were hers personal, so on that special day, I asked her how I could get the chance to get some or one of the gifts and she told me I could make an advert about the company and get them all. I created a chorus about the company and a verse very quickly and sang it for her. Unfortunately she was kidding and she took it lightly. I picked up one of the empty radio tapes at home and tried recording along with my brother, while drumming tables to make beats, thinking that maybe its the instrumental that wasn’t there and that’s why it wasn’t considered. This kept building a passion in my music creation day by day. Later that year, I created a music group called Red3 from the prominent Blu3 girl group in Uganda. At the time I was the only one that could create music among the three of us, but I just thought the other two will be the ones drumming the instrumental and humming. One day after classes, I walked to a nearby radio station along with the two girls, so that we could be heard. With very little knowledge about radio we walked straight into the booth where we were kicked out badly. Little did I notice that I was simply building a passion that now is. Slowly I began creating just more than a verse and chorus, to choruses and verses. But because my aunt did not give me attention and radio as well, I kept it secret to everyone else besides my brother who was the drummer and producer. And the Red3, who didn’t last more that three months, since I was the only one among us with that art. 

I had no particular genre of music, I was simply creating whatever I felt in the time. My book was so secret that when I lost it, I felt like I had lost a piece of me. But this was growing and by the time I went to highschool, I always found myself in Rap battles. The funny bit was that I’d rap and yet write a lot of Reggae music in the back of my books. It was always about the mood and somehow had a lot of R&B since the era had so much inspiration from the likes of Chris Brown and Ne-Yo. Actually, the choruses would got R&B and verses HipHop or entirely Reggae. 

At 14 I began finding so much comfort in Reggae music and found Dancehall also easy and fun too and HipHop stayed for Rap Battles. At 15, I wrote a lot of Dancehall music, that was probably inspired by the Dancehall era times of Konshens, Busy Signal and alike. When I turned 16, I was in between all of then and it was up to the producer to play me what he felt and I jumping on it. I joined a music group at school that was called Gangmos where I was the only girl. These guys introduced me to a producer that had a studio near school, that we began visiting in holidays. Unfortunately, the group leader passed in that year and the group collapsed. The good news was that I had the studio connection already, so I continued to keep in touch with the producer. My music then was determined by the producers choice and whenever I’d give a Dancehall approach in my way he’d remind me that female artists that were trending at the time in my country were all doing R&B and my style was for men, so he’d switch me up. At 17, I did a lot of Gospel music in church. I was lucky that around those days artists such as Maka Diamond from Jamaica and Cynthia Morgan from Nigeria were very big in Uganda at the time.”

KVAN kept her wish to make music a secret from her parents, because “I was only afraid of them refusing me to go the music direction because they were so much about school and education. And in the time, musicians in Uganda were perceived as drug addicts, chaotic people and school drop outs. My parents were also never people that listened to music or even watched a music show, I was only afraid they would refuse me and I wouldn’t have wished to disobey.  When they realised I do music, was when a cousin saw a poster and called home, they worried a lot and didn’t think I’d persist with it. Next my mom watched me on TV and I could see the excitement in her eyes, although as a mother, with a daughter in an industry  such as this, she couldn’t help but worry. But my persistence made them have no choice but to accept me that way with time.

KVAN finds her musical inspiration from things that happen around her and most importantly nature: „Uganda had a very beautiful scenery, that expands imagination of any creative mind, when given chance to. The Human Right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses. I‘m glad to have moved with the Viva Con Agua team to Moroto, Karamoja (North Eastern Uganda) to provide save water for communities that side. Water is a necessity and it is such a privilage that Viva Con Agua embraces it in ways such as providing boreholes, teaching people how to wash hands with it, consume it clean and also use music to work the norm. Sustainable water means a nation that can be water self-sufficient: ensuring there is enough water to meet multiple needs, from agriculture to municipal and industrial. Water sustainability also means effective and holistic management of water resources. Water is at the core of sustainable development and is critical for socio-economic development, healthy ecosystems and for human survival itself. It is vital for reducing the global burden of disease and improving the health, welfare and productivity of populations. These populations consist of the people that listen, learn and/are inspired by music.

It is therefore very important that musicians such as me can use ART to create water: using songs and performances to raise funds in order to make water sustainable.“

Female Empowerment means to KVAN to get a chance to be heard.: „A chance to be confident about myself and show all females out there that we can. There’s an African proverb that goes „If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” In Uganda female* MCs have not been consistent. Many emerge but go silent with time, especially after having children, getting married or other factors that cause them to divert from music. I have had a chance to do a Women Empowerment song alongside Lady Slyke, Tushi Polo, Vkaycee, Afekuru and Ella dubbed „B.A.D”. B – bold, A – Assertive, D – Divas. In this song, we execute different energy in the various verses as we portray that women can perform just as men can. It being that the males dominate the music industry as regards numbers, it is easier to recognise a female artist that’s stepping out musically. However, so many are emerging by the years and if the challenges faced by females in the industry are not addressed early enough, they will keep emerging as they fall.“

Tune in the serie MicDrop with Viva Con Agua. Support culture, rap and water – KVAN show dem on wednesday 17th march 21.

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