‘Music was one of our connecting points’

Ian Brendan Businge of Qwela Band and his wife Ellena

What you need to know:

Cross-cultural. Ian Brendan Businge has been with Qwela Band as the main rhythm guitarist for six years. He met his wife Ellena in 2009 and it was not love at first sight for them. The two shared with Edgar R. Batte how they have juggled the long distance and cross-culture.

Her story >

How did you meet your husband?
Ian and I met in 2009 at the Maf Guest House in Makindye, where Shiella, Ian’s sister, was working. It was my second visit and Ian had come around.

What was your first impression of him?
He was quiet and handsome. We did not speak then, and I am not sure if Ian remembers that, since he was unwell. I remember his mum giving him a strange mixture to drink so he can feel better. Whenever I saw him after that he was either working on his music or had his head in a book. I think that was partly what caught my eye.

When did your relationship kick off?
I suppose love grows naturally over time. We started dating in 2012 and Skype, e-mails and iMessages have been our heroes. For most of our relationship, Ian has been in Kampala and I have been in Southampton (UK). Because of that, we have had to become good communicators. Trust me, once Ian opened up he talked for hours. It is a blessing because it meant we had become best friends.

Hasn’t the distance affected your relationship?
That depends, what do you mean by affected?

The long distance... don’t you miss that physical closeness?
When we started going out, it was exciting. I would say it has definitely changed how our relationship has been going. As I mentioned earlier, we now have a great friendship. Also, we became more serious about each other because the relationship needed more effort than if we were in the same country. However, it is all we have known and we always try to make the best of it.
However, now that we are married there is no two ways about it. We are ready to start our lives together and live like a married couple. We are learning to be patient and hoping to be together soon. With God’s timing.

What do you miss most about Ian when he is away?
I miss his cuddles; he is a very affectionate man. We are also really quite geeky and love to sit and play games together or listen to music. Also, I love cooking for him. It is the little things I miss the most.

What is his favourite meal?
Ian is quite like me, and it depends on what mood he is in. He always eats what I cook, but I know that he enjoys my minced beef and rice. I also introduced him to poached eggs, which he really enjoys.

How well has your family accepted him as your husband?
We are both lucky to have supportive families. My dad even held our wedding service for us after the registry.

How have you dealt with your cross-cultural differences?
Communication is key.

What new things have you learnt about African culture and lifestyle?
I learnt a lot while planning for our wedding. In England, we like to be precise and are quite blunt at times. Whereas in Uganda, I noticed people can be less direct.

What was your dating experience like?
Having been apart, we had a few actual dates. My best memories are at Munyonyo – we would just go and buy a soda and play around with my camera in the gardens or by the lake. Being married does not mean you cannot go out anymore. In fact, I think it gives one more reason to.

What is your definition of love?
I think I am still learning what love is, and I imagine I always will be.

What keeps your love going?
Ask me again in 20 years [haha]. It still feels fresh to me now. Perhaps that is just because both Ian and I put in effort; we make time for each other every day and make sure that nothing else is more important to us than each other. I hope we never forget to keep having fun and make each other laugh.

What was your best moment at the wedding?
Am I allowed to say the whole day? The service was so special and felt really family-oriented. The music too was good - we were so blessed by all Ian’s friends who came with their instruments and played. So a massive thanks to Qwela and Pragmo and everyone else.

Dedicate three love songs to Ian...
Oh no that’s too cheesy for me. However, we played Love as our first dance and that will always remind me of our wedding day.

What message do you have for him?
I love you so much. I am excited about sharing our whole lives together. Thank you for being the best husband I could have asked for.

And what message do you have for young couples out there?
Enjoy each other’s company, and take time to really get to know one another. Appreciate each other’s differences, and expect ups and downs. Working them out is all part of the fun, which reminds me - always remember to have fun together. Be kind, patient and full of grace even though that is not always as easy to do as it is to write. Keep practising.

His story >

How did you meet your wife?
Interesting story. I first saw Ellena in 2008. She was friends with my family, and as things would turn out, she was not going to escape my web.

How did she become friends with your family?
She was doing an accountability report for her church back home and she was staying in a guest house, where my young sister worked.

What did you notice about her?
She is very critical, observant, and particular. The first time I saw her, I saw a beautiful woman. But that is not what I was looking for for the first time. We met again six months or a year later and I thought: “Wait a minute, what did I miss?”

What kind of person is Ellena?
She is a very musical person, a doctor, but she also plays the violin brilliantly. I think she came with my family to watch us at Emin Pasha in 2009. Music became one of our connecting points. Besides having a good relationship with my family, we were both passionate about music.

Did you intend to pursue her when you became friends?
I was a bit nervous about pursuing her because I had hit a few speed bumps before. We started out as friends but it did not take long to notice that she was serious about it being more than a casual friendship.
Ours was a cross-cultural relationship; one of the good things for me was how she was free with my family about her feelings. They were not vague. So, what gave me boldness was the level of relationship we had in our family. They got along with my mum. I know that in the British culture, if you propose to a woman, you have to write to the parents directly and state your intentions.

What did you write to your father-in-law?
That would be a story for the next 25 years. You have to weigh your words. It was tough I must say, but lovely. I think he put me on the side for about seven days. I was anxious. When he finally responded, he thanked me for my words and that he and his wife had recognised what I said about their daughter.

Was it a postcard or an e-mail?
I sent an e-mail. What is interesting is that Ellena had introduced me to her dad so we had been communicating on Skype. But, of course, when you write to someone, there is a difference.

When did you get married?
Ah, lovely day, December 10, 2014. And the wedding was two days later. Our official wedding day was on December 14, though we had a simple ceremony on December 12. We keep joking that I married my wife thrice.

What traits do you like about your wife?
She is a complete package. She is kind, wise, and has integrity. She is driven but compassionate as well. I am lucky. I do not know how she came my way.

Prior to meeting, what were your past relationships like?
In summary, not serious. I did not have many relations, just a few attempts that fell flat on the face. I don’t mean to be harsh but we are vague; we procrastinate, give illusions of what we are not. That is not something that you want if you are laying a foundation for something. What matters is the intention from the start.

What is your profession?
A lot of things. I am doing a course in professional accounting. I did a diploma in music at African Institute of Music in Muyenga, guitar lessons at Kampala Music School for a few weeks, so my life has literally revolved around accounts and music for a while. Accounts has always been the buffer when music has to take a break and vice versa.

Have you done an accounting job?
Yes, I have worked at Blue Cruise car-hire company for six months; I was also an accounts assistant in 2010. Prior to that, I was an intern at a Christian NGO and at Calvary Chapel in Entebbe, where I was a book keeper.

What have you learnt from each other as a couple?
We draw the best from our cultures, for example, my father-in-law likes the way Africans respect elders. My mum loves the way Europeans work hard and keep time. When you pull all these things together, it is interesting. I never believed or gave thought to what people say. You need to travel to open your mind.

Have you faced any challenges?
The main challenge is adjusting to each other’s culture. My wife and I are creating our own culture. Otherwise, you find yourself trying to impose your culture on the other.
My wife is extremely organised. I am not anywhere near her.

How do you rate her cooking?
Oh, she is a fantastic cook. She made me a sumptuous meal during our honeymoon. I had a tooth ache and she fried me macaroni and minced meat. That was the best meal I have ever had.

Where did you go for your honeymoon?
Lake Bunyonyi and we canoed on the lake. Do not tell my parents we did this but my wife is very adventurous and she is a very good swimmer. She said, “Honey, do me a favour, paddle with me”. I was frightened but she told me everything would be okay, I just had to follow her lead.

Does she enjoy Ugandan food?
She adapts to a situation much more easily than I can do. She likes matooke a lot. That is her favourite.

Dedicate three songs to your wife…
Suddenly by Billy Ocean and I know she loves that one very much and Lady by Kenny Rogers.

What do you think makes and breaks a relationship?
Think of it this way: What do you want to offer this other person? What is your plan in life? What do you expect them to give you? The main cause of break up in relationships is because people get into them with the wrong cause. We get into them for sex or to gain status or whatever it is that is considered appealing about relationships. A relationship is what you are able to give the other person.