What you need to know:
MIC DROP: Edwin Katamba is the true definition of an MC with the mostest. You know him as MC Kats and he has done all the cycles of the trade in his 20-year journey on the entertainment scene; emceed in nightclubs and hangouts, concerts for both local and international acts, promotions, and weddings and has also been a hypeman, among others. But the journey that started 20 years ago is coming to an end tonight and tomorrow evening. Dubbed King of the Mic last dance, the show is expected to be MC Kats’ last time on stage.
Just like many cratives, MC Kats, started his emceeing journey in church, performing in the Halls of Gladness youth choir and he would participate in songs just the same way as Kirk Franklin did.
It is from here that Nicolas Masaba, who was then a marketer at DV8 bar approached him to start emceeing at the bar every Friday. What Kats would later find out, is that most movers and shakers of the industry frequented the hangout. People such as Steve Jean, DJ Rota, Collin Sserubiri, Straka, Denis Mawanda etc. He was the opening act, emceeing during the early hours of the night. On spotting him, DJ Rota took Kats to start deejaying and Steve Jean, who by the time was managing girl group Blu*3, appreciated him and asked if he could work with him during the girls’ tours.
“With all the proposals and approaches coming my way, I never went back to church. I became busy in bars, at concerts, tours and embarked on learning to be a deejay. That is how my life changed,” MC Kats says.
While things were turning around for Kats, his mother was away - abroad to further her ministry work. And as expected, she was served with information that her son was spending nights in bars, dressing inappropriately in baggy jeans, with piercings and engaging in wrong behaviour. This did not go well with her. The last nail in the coffin perhaps was when he refused to join university. His mother gave up on educating him.
“Our father had given us a good education. We grew up going to schools such as Mwiri, Namilyango, Nabisunsa, among others and here I was jumping the perimeter wall every night returning from emceeing in bars. He did not understand how someone could just speak on a microphone in a bar and he instructed police to put me behind bars if they found me but the Mawanda police officers eventually also gave up.”
It was only later when he joined WBS TV as a presenter that his parents began to appreciate his talent and learn that someone could actually earn a living off emceeing.
The After 5 presenter credits MC Mosh, real name Musa Ssewava, for both his emceeing and TV career. During his days at DV8, WBS presenters including Straka Mwezi, Collin Sserubiri used to see and appreciate how he emceed and told him he could be a good TV presenter but the way the station was being operated then, turned him off on the first day. They looked at him as a wannabe.
However, some years later during one of the station’s celebrations at Kyadondo Rugby Grounds, Mosh called him on stage to emcee and by the time the celebrations ended, he had gotten a job.
“I commanded the crowd and the boss, Gordon Wavamunno, his son Elvis Ssekyanzi and the whole WBS management could not believe what they were seeing. The whole crowd was doing what I was telling them to do and I remember someone asking me to go to the station on Monday,” Kats recalls.
Interview dates were set and the worst was yet to come. He had never done a screen test, never stood before a camera and was always used to communicating with a physical audience and now here he was blank. The producer sent him out of the studio to do a screen test.
“I gave the camera man Shs10,000 to do what I wanted. I went on the street and interacted with the children at pioneer mall, did a fashion show of children visiting Sylvia Owori’s boutique, did another segment about cinemas etc. I returned with 10 shots and we created a show called ‘Street talk’.
Later, MC Kats met up with Flavia Tumusiime and they created Top 5 of the week, inspired by DJ Bush Baby’s programme on East Africa TV. He was at WBS for three years and three months, leaving the station to a new generation of presenters.
When he left, Kats joined Beat FM for six months, a station that was then owned by Halima Namakula before she sold it to Capital FM.
With his short stint on radio, Kats returned to street life and it was here that he met Chameleone, who took him to Blue Africa where he met a Kenyan gentleman called Mike Shimoli at NTV. He told him to draft a concept and that is how Xpozed was born.
It was after his third year at NTV that MC Kats met Fille and took her on as her manager and later girlfriend. Because they travelled a lot, he could not handle the Saturday show anymore since most of their performances happened on Friday nights so they switched him to The Beat, which he also later ditched to join NBS TV.
Earning from the trade
The TV presenter says apart from concerts by Ugandan artistes, he has been paid for the rest of the shows he has emceed at.
“Let me speak on record. There is no concert I was paid even Shs1m in Uganda and I have done more than 100 concerts. That is why Ugandan artistes sometimes fully support me for free when I invite them for my ‘King of the Mic’ because they know at the back of their minds, I have done them favours. I am talking about artistes such as Eddy Kenzo, Chameleone, Bebe Cool, Sheebah, Ziza Bafana, and Pallaso,” Kats says.
He adds that some just send him money out of the blue while others have on several occasions given him tangible goods such as a car, which he was recently gifted by Pallaso.
The timing of the show
Kats says he has always considered quitting but the timing has not been favourable and besides that, he felt there was still a vacuum in emceeing that had not yet been filled.
“I wanted to create space for others but I had not seen something similar or close to me, so I waited for the right moment and this is the right moment for me to hang my boots. Not to brag, but I was a total package. I was a stage emcee, club mc, hype mc, a promotions mc, an events mc, so it was hard to fit in my shoes,” he brags.
Kats says now he can comfortably say every sector is sorted and he has realised that there are children who entirely depend on emceeing. They pay rent, look after themselves and families through this, so he believes there is no way they will survive if he is still holding the mic. Besides, as he says, he has other things to do.
He adds that when he looks at the recent crop of emcees, he has nurtured at least 80 percent, directly or indirectly and he will be giving a platform to all of them during his last shows.
Asked what assurance he gives that this will indeed be the last show we see him hosting as an emcee, he said if it was about money, he would have just called some of his friends over but this event is one way of appreciating his contribution to the industry.
“If I want money, I will ask for it and I will get it. It has go to a point of realising that God granted me a gift and I have reached my full potential. Maybe I was a bridge to help other people find footing in this industry,” he says.
Asked whether he will return on stage if someone requested for his services, Kats said he will not and it is high time he followed Jeff Kiwa’s advice of making himself so expensive.
“Jeff Kiwa told me, “If you do not want to do it, make it so expensive,” So if you call me and I ask you for Shs10m, you will go for other options.”
On a number of occasions, Kats has fantasised about having a big concert at Lugogo Cricket Oval. If it was not Fille’s concert, it was a show about raising awareness about HIV/Aids in Uganda but none of that has come to pass yet and we thought that maybe for his last dance, cricket oval would be the ideal place to have this event as opposed to Nexus Lounge.
When we asked him why he preferred a smaller venue yet he has all it takes to have had it at a bigger venue, Kats told us besides not affording cricket oval, he hates back and forth things.
“The truth is, I cannot afford cricket oval and I am not as patient as people like Douglas Lwanga. I remember I walked with him during one of my King of the Mic events looking for sponsors and we went to a certain office and they made us visit the office at 10am, then 1pm and then 4pm, we wrote emails, proposals and all they gave me was Shs4m. I felt disrespected because I have people who could have raised that money in a flash. From that moment I gave up on sponsors because some of these companies started when I was an emcee. It was a painful experience.”
With all that aside, he says Nexus is like home because he was among the people who started it and for the 15 years he has lived in Najjera, he feels he is attached to the place.
Lessons over the years
Kats has emceed at many shows but interestingly, he does not remember his best yet he will never forget every bad show he has had because it has been a lesson in his career.
He was quick to mention his encounter with Jenkins Mukasa back in the day when he refused him to emcee at Namboole during the Club Mega show.
“I remember the show had Burna Boy, Shaggy, Patra and Mafikizolo. Jenkins told Steve that I was not going to step on the stage but in between there, I think Shaggy and Mafikizolo had issues on who would be performing first and there was that space and I was allowed on that stage. What Shiru and I did to Namboole, I will never forget,” he recounts.
The other incident was when he clashed with Radio during one of their concerts at Hotel Africana.
“I remember going to Neverland and meeting Jeff Kiwa to discuss something about the Goodlyfe show that was to happen at Hotel Africana. It had been the fourth time that I was emceeing at the duo’s concert without being paid. So I told him to give me Radio and Weasel pictures so that I make portraits. I went and got a loan of Shs600,000, got about 10 portraits, each at Shs60,000, got to Africana, stepped on stage with them, praised the portraits in front of the VIPs and they bought all of them, with the least going for Shs300,000,” MC Kats says.
“After realising that I was making money, Radio said he wanted his money and that he would teach me a lesson when he set his eyes on me. I did not go to any bar for a whole week fearing that I might bump into him until everything settled.”
After coming out with his HIV status, Katamba has embarked on a journey of advocating for safer lifestyles and he will officially launch an NGO in January with a dinner at one of the hotels in Uganda but before that, he is still on TV until when he feels he cannot do it anymore.