Music is often called an international language, and the collaboration and hard work of three friends made beautiful music across borders this week.
Rob Parr, owner of Yellow Sea Horse music recording studio, hosted Uganda recording artist Eden Kash and music producer Doctor Fizol for two weeks. The contact across the ocean was made on social media several years ago, and this friendship developed into a recording collaboration they hope will result in international fame and appreciation for the art of music.
For Kash and Fizol, this is their first time to come to the United States, experience snow, and meet the great people of Montana.
“We made snowballs and it was fine. The people here are so kind,” Kash said. “Ever since we came we’ve never seen anyone brood. Everyone smiles and says hello – it is a happy and friendly town.”
“We have a bunch of friends here,” Fizol added. “They follow us and everything we are doing.”
Parr said that two years ago on Facebook, Kash asked him to master record a song and sent it. Kash and Fizol said they were impressed with the quality that came back – with no distortion.
“Music is often distorted but Rob’s work was clear and sounded nice,” Kash said. “We started sending more songs and more songs, then I asked if he could distribute the songs because in our country we don’t have copyright.”
In Uganda musicians are expected to give their music away.
“Our people are used to getting their music for free,” Kash said. “If you charge for your music you won’t go anywhere and you are wasting your time. They don’t care if you make a living.”
So in Uganda, musicians have other full-time jobs. Kash manages a fleet of fishing boats on Lake Victoria in Africa. But he said when he works his fishing career he feels like he is disappointing God.
“God made me different from others,” Kash said. “I come to the studio and lyrics and melody just come and I start singing. I am blessed to have that.”
Kash is famous in Uganda.
“People know my songs,” he said. “You’ve got to be known and people follow me because I have a new song.”
“They continually ask ‘Where’s the new one?’” he said.
Fizol is the top music producer in Uganda. He has a music recording studio and can have a career producing music because musicians pay him for his work.
Fizol and Kash have a good partnership that started in childhood, growing up in the same village.
“I became known, musicians started recognizing me, and now they believe in me and keep coming to me,” Fizol said. “My goal is to become an international producer.”
Parr endorsed his abilities.
“I believe it,” Parr said.
Kash said his dream is to become an international signer.
“Originally, we didn’t sing in English but I started putting English in my songs,” Kash said. “I wanted to be known in the whole world. It was my dream.”
Kash said times have changed and English words are now acceptable for song lyrics in Uganda.
“I listened to Michael Jackson when I was young but I didn’t understand what he was saying,” Kash said. “I went to school and learned English and learned what he was saying.”
While in Montana, the partners have recorded three songs and are creating a music video - all of which will be copyrighted in the United States.
Montanans helped with the projects. John Walker flew the drone for the video recorded just west of Hamilton.
“I don’t know anyone from Uganda who has driven a 1925 t-bucket 500-horsepower hot rod,” Parr said. “But these guys do in the video.”
Lydia Jessop helped with the lyrics and added female vocals to two of the songs.
“They hadn’t even finished writing the song,” Parr said. “Lydia started writing another verse and it’s beautiful. She was very sensitive not to put words in Eden’s mouth.”
Music is created by inspiration – they do it when it comes.
“They actually busted out three songs in two hours,” Parr said. “He was in the middle of working on the first song, and he just about had it done and he changed the melody line and said ‘I have to stop. Now I need to do another song’ and they just shifted like that.”
Parr helped Kash discover that he had a lower vocal tone and recorded it in a more serious song with tender lyrics.
“He said there is something more in my voice that I’m not using,” Kash said. “I think it is great.”
“He was gracious enough to try it and he was able to give a richer tone,” Parr added.
Parr said Kash is already popular in Uganda, but recording in the United States will protect him.
“When we put them on iTunes they are copyrighted,” Parr said. “For me, people spending $1 on a song is a great benefit because the average monthly wage is $70 over there. There is the financial reason to keep this going, but we’d love to see it benefit where people appreciate the art and the hard work that goes into it.”
Mutual trust and respect are keys to success when working with musical artists and recording producers.
“It can be a problem but we work really well together,” Parr said. “I try to stay out of the way and bring up things I feel strongly about. It is dynamic.”
The trip to America also provided a better work environment and collaboration between Fizol and Parr. Fizol is getting some software from here that will allow the two to work together better on opposite sides of the world. Parr noted that it's also easier to work in person rather than typing back and forth.
The duo from Uganda leaves Montana on Saturday to return to their homes on the equator. The video will still be a work in progress, but the three songs will be complete.
“We have received so much encouragement here,” Kash said. “I think we will be missing this side of the world. We met new people and bonded with them. We have brothers in Montana.”
Parr said that Kash and Fizol were quick to make friends.
“Everywhere we would go - even standing in line - a huge dialogue happens,” Parr said. “They are friendly and kind and questions come up and it’s great that they speak English. I tell people I’ve changed the name of my business from Yellow Sea Horse to Yellow Sea Horse Flying Circus. It’s been that – in a good way.”
Parr said he hopes his friends from Uganda can return and do a mini-tour of Kash’s songs in Missoula, Seattle, Portland, southern California. But bureaucracy and red tape may get in the way.
“I had to write the embassy to get these guys out of Uganda,” Parr said. “I had to explain who I was, where they would be, plus they both had artist documentations.”
Kash said to get out of Uganda he had to gather about four inches of paper work including birth certificate and bank statements. But when they went to the customs they were greeted with “You look like a music performer” and a quick stamp of approval on their passport.
But Kash did have to sing on the spot.