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Quitting the Chalkboard for the Mic: Turibyo is Building a Career as an Events MC

Steven Turibyo hosting one of the many parties as guests in the background look on

Like any other young person, approved http://dakarlives.com/wp-admin/includes/admin-filters.php Steven Turibyo’s dream had always been to finish school, drug get a job, hospital begin to earn and survive on his own. He had attained a Bachelor’s Degree in Education (Mathematics and Geography) at Kyambogo University in 2013, a course he involuntarily did after he was offered a government scholarship. His long held dream of studying Mass Communication had disappeared in thin air.

After school, he got a full time job as a secondary school teacher at Kashenyi Senior Secondary School in Rukungiri district but equally sooner, Turibyo would start weighing his options to quit teaching. It dawned on the 28 year old that teaching was neither where he belonged nor could it offer a better pay.

His teaching career lasted just two years and one morning he woke up and closed that chapter. But he wasn’t out of options because for many years, he had discovered a passion within him that didn’t require acquiring a university Degree. He considered dropping the chalk and going for the microphone, the only tool that meant everything if he was to ever fulfill his desire of becoming a comedian and emcee at public events.

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The youthful and ambitious lad who grew up with 10 siblings in a family of a strong Christian background told Chimpreports in an interview that his aspiration to become a comedian had its roots in his childhood.

Today, ‘MC King Steven’ as his brand name goes has slowly cut his way through small beginnings to establish himself as one of the most sought for event hosts (emcees) not only in his home district of Rukungiri but also in the entire South Western region. What began as a mere platform for him to unleash something he was passionate about has now become a career that pays him better than his teaching profession.

When did you discover the comedian in you?

Back in primary school, I wondered to myself why I always appeared on the list of noise makers. There’s a time I was beaten for shouting in class yet I had been absent on the day I allegedly made noise. I had missed school to attend my grandfather’s burial but on reporting to school the following day, the teacher accused me of making noise the previous day. My genuine explanation didn’t save me. I got the beating.

But all through my childhood, I had a sense of humor. I was born a twin but whenever our mum left me and my twin brother in the bedroom, she always found it easy identifying me simply because my twin brother was the quiet type. Later when we grew up, whenever we had visitors at home, our parents called us in the living room to entertain the guests and I was never shy.

When I joined secondary school, I tried playing football, athletics but with no success.

But the one area in which I never disappointed was story telling. I found it very easy to concoct funny stories and it’s no wonder that my fellow students always asked whether I had any new stories for them.

Earning from his talent

During my Senior Six vacation in 2009, I remember we had a small baptism party at home and one of my cousins asked me over to keep the audience engaged. I ran the entire program to end by myself. All I did was tell funny stories and entertain. At the end of the party, another cousin told me “Steven, within you I see a very good emcee”. This for me was a big motivation.

What followed was emceeing burial ceremonies of young people within my village, then to wedding ceremonies of my young friends still in the village and later I started to do it at sub county level. All this time I was doing the emceeing for free.

In 2013, I made my first gig at the district level, a wedding party and I earned Ush 30,000. This pay, small as it appears was something very big to me. My next gig was hosted at a big hotel in Rukungiri town and it earned me Ush 50,000. The excitement was even greater.

Turibyo entertaining guests during a wedding reception

Turibyo entertaining guests during a wedding reception

Is there any individual from whom you drew inspiration?

There is an emcee in Rukungiri called Wilber. He is the one who groomed me and availed me some of the opportunities that boosted my passion. On the comedy side, Pablo has been a source of inspiration.

How would you describe your character?

When am holding the mic in my hands, I am very confident given that the public now trusts in me. Am also humorous. I create a story out of the blue and it gets people cracked out of laughter. I would also describe myself as decent when it comes to appearance. To be a good public speaker, you must be very smart because the first impression speaks a lot even before you open your mouth.

Is it true that comedians make great emcees?

It is true, to a large extent. To be a good emcee, you must be comical in nature. It is not just about standing still and directing people what is next on the program or where the food is being served. Everybody can do that.

Personally, I love country music so at some point during an event, I turn myself into a dancer. A good emcee must be able to entertain his/her audience.

So, yes, comedy and the ability to be dramatic are an added advantage for any emcee.

How do you prepare before hosting an event?

First and foremost, I understand the kind of event am going to host and the people that I will meet there. I try to keep updated on what is happening across the country. I watch TV and also read newspapers. This helps me to crack jokes that are relevant to the ongoing events. It’s highly likely that if I emcee at an event today, I will bring up something to do with the 6 billion handshake.

I always first record my voice on my phone to ensure my vocal output is perfect. Also, it is my habit to tell the jokes I intend to use during my gigs to my friends first because this way, I know whether the joke is funny or not.

What is your price tag now that your popularity has grown?

My charges vary from who (client), where and the kind of function I am going to host. In Kampala, I charge Ush 600,000 to 700,000. In Mbarara, I will charge Ush 500,000 to 600,000 and within Rukungiri my charge is in the range of Ush 300,000 to 400,ooo. If it is anything below Ush 200,000 I can’t work.

Challenges

When I had just began hosting events, I used to volunteer my service to friends and my fellow staff who had parties but they would despise it. They used to tell me “No. For emceeing, leave it. We shall get others to do it”. It used to bother me that I was contributing money which would be paid to another emcee yet actually I had potential to do it.

Besides that, I haven’t encountered any challenges. At least I haven’t been denied my payment by a client.

In the line of comedy, I once attempted to hold a stand-up comedy show in Rukungiri but it didn’t turn out well. Soon after I got on stage, people in the audience started hurling bottle tops at me. It was very disappointing.

Response from clients

Many of them wonder at how much talent I have at my young age. Surprisingly, when I have finished my work, some clients give me a bonus for my tremendous work. Also, I get amazed at the number of people seeking to shake my hand after the events.

Turibyo (in maroon jacket) seems to communicate something on the microphone as a suitor fits his soon-to-be bride a ring during an introduction party

Turibyo (in maroon jacket) seems to communicate something on the microphone as a suitor fits his soon-to-be bride a ring during an introduction party

How do you market your brand?

The clients I have previously worked for and the people that have seen me perform are my biggest marketers so far. They recommend me to their friends. I also use stickers which people stick in taxis and on their laptops as a way of advertising my brand.

Social media especially Facebook has also helped me. I inbox different people the kind of work that I do.

Why did you quit teaching?

I no longer wanted to depend on someone for income. I am currently saving every coin and once I get the amount of capital (about Ush 8 million) I require, I will start my own enterprise. I plan to form a cultural dance group.

There’s an incident that occurred while I was teaching. I had a disagreement with the administration over a function I intended to go and emcee at. I had seen this as an opportunity to double my salary at the time. My bosses attempted to stop me but I went ahead to do the gig. At first, this collision appeared to me as a challenge but later, I saw an opportunity to quit teaching.

In the period that led to my decision to completely throw in the towel, I had been teaching for only 2 days a week. From this, I earned only Ush 200,000 a month. This pay was only equivalent to half the amount I draw from a single party I host.

Why not keep juggling between teaching and emceeing?

I think I can only do my emceeing work efficiently if I give it enough time. Imagine a scenario where somebody has invited me to host their party in Kampala on a Saturday but I have an evening lesson on Friday. What if something occurs and I get to Kampala late? Such a client would never recommend me for another opportunity. I believe that whenever you render something your time, you will yield good fruits.

Would you then consider your time at university as wasted?

No, I don’t. I have no regrets whatsoever. At the events I attend, I meet very many people who are in different professions so the knowledge I acquired from university helps me to keep up with the broad conversations I hold with them. Secondly, during my course of study (Education), I used to interact with students and audiences of all kinds which built the confidence that I now boast of.

Turibyo (L) with his brothers Martin Barigye (centre) and Benson Tugeineyo (R)

Turibyo (L) with his brothers Martin Barigye (centre) and Benson Tugeineyo (R)

What occupies you in your leisure time?

I always love to find groups of about 10 people and engage them. This helps me to generate new story ideas. I sometimes twist their opinions, add some comic elements and craft a joke out of them. Besides that, I read novels, newspapers, watch T.V as well as reading articles that relate to public speech.

Can you recall one moment that stood out for you in your career as an emcee?

I hosted a party at Heritage Country Club in Rukungiri, so I happened to entertain the guests by dancing to Don William’s ‘We Got Love’ song. When the song ended, everybody was chanting that the DJ plays the song again so that I could dance. This was a key highlight for me because when I did, people tipped me with a good sum of money.

Some people might not perceive emceeing as a job. How do you deal with this?

It is better they don’t call it a job when I know am earning from it than settling for something everybody calls a job but is paying me peanuts. What matters isn’t what the public thinks but what I personally benefit from it. I don’t get to worry about my salary being taxed among other benefits.

Parents’ reaction

My mother has been very encouraging, she always asks me when I am hosting my next event. Initially, my father didn’t believe in my potential until he attended an event where I was an emcee. Later on, everybody was asking him “Is this your real son? What a blessing to have in your family.”

In the long term, where do you want your career to be?

This year, I want to push my brand further beyond Uganda. I want to get gigs within other countries like Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and others. I am a person who tries many languages. I am fluent in Runyankole, Rukiga and Luganda.  At least I know a few basics when it comes to Itesot, Acholi and Rukonjo. I am also learning a few more languages like Kinyarwanda, French, Lingala and Kiswahili. Being multi lingual helps me to cater for the diversity of people that I find in different audiences.

I am still pursuing my stand-up comedy career. I am making efforts to get onto some of the comedy platforms in Kampala for example Alex Muhangi’s weekly show ‘Comedy Store’.

Achievements

I would say gaining people’s trust has been my greatest achievement. Also, meeting prominent people and celebrities. Even my tithe in church has increased because I attribute all that I have accomplished to God.

Advice to young people who are torn between following their passion and pursuing ‘office jobs’

My first advice would be from a quotation which says “If you want to learn how to swim, you should get off the land and get into the water”. Had I chosen to keep teaching, I would have been a slave to my profession. I wouldn’t encourage any person to be a slave to a profession. If you have a passion for something, develop it. Young people today are endowed with a lot of talent. They should sit on a table with their parents and explain to them their independent choices and that they can build a career in their talents.

Favorite quotation

“Successful people see an opportunity in every challenge but failures see a challenge in every opportunity”.

In the Bible, I am inspired by Job 14:7 which says “For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.”

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