You must have heard his name already, but you may not know what exactly Hemdee Kiwanuka does. Well, he happens to be in Dar es Salaam for a few days and so you know we had to have a sit down with him and let you all know the major moves he is making.
He is a built guy who is super charming fella, who looks even younger than we thought he’d be!.
Hailing from Uganda, Hemdee may pass for an American but thats only because he has been staying in the states for so long.
“Most people in Africa know me as like a concert promoter but actually I started out as an actor, as a model-actor in America; I was on a TV show called Cannonball Run on US Networks which had about eight episodes, one season,” he says.
“And then after that I was rapping, I was ill, that was around 1991, 92, 93 and then in 97 I went to college.”
He said he didnt see a future for himself in Rap, and knew he had to move on;
“I was like you know what; let me move back to my home country. So I went back to Uganda, opened up a studio called No-End Entertainment and together with my mother, we ended up opening up a radio station out there, then i started doing concerts.”
The secret to Hemdee’s tremendous success may be because he knows a whole lot of industry peeps.
“Like Master P, that was one of my hommies when he was coming up me and him were doing the same thing, doing the same show, Common too. Those were my hommies back them, when I was rapping, but they blew up, I didn’t blow up. I had to step away, i realised it wasnt for me.
Hemdee says the first artist he ever brought to perform in East Africa was Tevin Campbell then after that were RNB Kings, KCI and Jojo. “And then I just became bigger and bigger,”he says.
He went on and founded a production company, Network Showbiz.
“We have a full recording studio in there. When you get there, it’s like a big building in the back is where we shoot videos and films. We promote concerts and manage artists, local and international.”
Hemdee has reently produced a reality tv show that makes him the first East African to produce a show that went global (Fame in the Family, Sean Kingston and Romeo’s families) broadcast on E! Network.
“When we were on tour with Sean (Kingston) in Uganda, Sean kept saying yo! man you gotta meet my mama, she is the coolest, and that’s why I call her ‘Mama Kingston’ because she is like everybody’s mom. So she comes to Uganda, we kicking, we having a good time, Sean, her and I was like ‘yoo, you know what will be crazy is having a camera following her and Sean. So when we got back to states, I called her and said, ‘Mama Kingston I have this idea, a show called Mommie Moguls, that was the name of the show before it became Fame in the Family.”
He says Fame in the Family run on E for a single season
“I wish I went to MTV cause the show would be on air right now, because we did one season and they took it off air because it was too black for E!. E! has a lot of white people on air. But I liked the idea that I was the first from East Africa. I can’t say for Africa, but East Africa, nobody has done that man, have a show on E! Network?”
E! Network paid Hemdee, $40,000 per episode
“Every week per episode they pay you money and the money changes but the real money starts coming when you go to second season.”
Hemdee will also be producing two more reality TV shows
“One of them is called, The Take Over Nashville, that’s gonna be on Wee TV. And I have another show, it’s called Filthy, White, **ches, it’s about rich young girls living the good life, that’s one gonna be on Oxygen, so I got some things in the pipeline man.”
Hemdee has major plans to promote East African music in USA although he says it’s never easy for African artists to penetrate the fierce American market.
“That why you see the Nigerians, D’Banj, Wizkid, P-Square they are doing well but they are fighting to get in the American market cause American market when you make it up in there, you have done it.”
Seeing how difficult it is for American TV Stations to play African music, Hemdee is going to launch his own TV network in US which will broadcast African content.
“We already have the platform where we can put TV networks over in America. So what we gonna do, if we can get some of our local channels to be aired in America, now we have a chance for our African to be played in America. And I will be the first one to have a musical television in America.”
He also explained how he met AY and how he respects him as an artist
“He is the real deal,” Hemdee says as he describes AY. You don’t find too many artists like AY and I like that about him’ We have remained friends for a while; I worked with him back in the days when I brought him to Uganda to perform in Uganda for the first time. I saw the dude when I brought him out there and he was mad humble. Since then, he never changes bro. The dude is still the same. Most artists on his level would be walking like they are walking on water. But this dude speaks to everybody on the street man.
‘That time when me and him were talking, we had a translator because AY was not speaking English at that time but because of his determination, man right now me and him talking like am talking to Kanye, his English is on fire. He has remained the same and because of that, I am continuing to help him to get him where he needs to go and he allows me to do so cause we trust each other. Sometimes we are in the studio and I will tell him change that, do this and he will change it. Other artists on his level will be like ‘Yoo this is what I do man, why are you telling me what to do’.
That dude (AY) has lots of collabo;s with people in America. We just waiting for videos to be done. He is coming to American very soon to record videos. He has one track with Tyga, Lamyia is on there too and then we have another one with Young Joc so we got some fire coming. The reason why we are doing that, is that we are trying to show these Nigerians that East Africa is here! EA stand up. I represent East Africa so we gotta show them what we got.”