The emerging DJ bringing the bounce to every dancefloor worth discovering in Kampala

DJ. Musician. Fashion designer. Installation artist. Filmmaker. Nomad. Rebel. Hibotep is a polymath and among the new generation of subversive creatives in Kampala creating change with her heartfelt and brave output. But first and foremost, she likes to get the party jumping. A regular fixture at the city’s underground clubs and annual Nyege Nyege festival, where this year she played alongside the NTS radio crew, her no-holes-barred mash up of hip hop, house, trap, techno and pretty much any other sound that takes her fancy, is guaranteed to make you sweat. Nataal met her in the Ugandan capital to shake a tail feather.

Tell us about your upbringing.
I am Somali Ethiopian. My family fled the war in Somalia so I was born and raised in Addis Ababa. We came from a culture that was very strict but my mother was extremely free and raised us to experience life and form our own identity unconstrained by tribalism and extremism. That’s why today I am expressing myself and showing who I am without denying where I am from.

What brought you to Kampala?
I came to visit my twin sister seven years ago and never left. I love the people here. They’re so welcoming and I feel like I’m always on holiday.

How did you find your musical path?
I always loved music, it’s how I define myself and it’s what keeps me going no matter what. At home I would DJ for my family and make videos and my two sisters told me to not let that go talent to waste. When I got to Kampala it allowed me to have a go. It’s easy here because the circles are so small and there’s always someone looking out for you but at the same time there’s a lot of DJs so how do you stand out? How do you make yourself better? That’s the challenge.

So what was your solution?
I found it by accident while playing a festival. I’d lost my set so I just played songs that I loved and made them fit, and that has become my trademark. If you only play one genre, the mood and the bpm sound the same. But if you push yourself and no song is the same then you can create a storyline that can touch everyone in the audience. That’s my mission, to relate and connect with all those around me.

Where do you play, and who to?
I enjoy DJing at the underground and warehouse parties in Kampala. It’s here where different people who are open to hearing something new come together. Yes these are the weirdos and they are my people! The Boutiq Electroniq and Nyege Nyege crews have been very important in terms of creating a movement that feels like a family. Their platforms have facilitated a lot of international exposure and opened the doors to what is happening here. Nyege Nyege itself is wild because people of every colour and religion are letting go of their insecurities and being united by music.

How is the local sound evolving?
It’s been a bit stagnant for a long time but a new wave is coming – young producers and DJs who are changing up the local scene. I see a shift happening. The CEE is making afro trap. Slick Back is working within electronic sounds and his future is bright. Blaq Bandana’s new music is dark and unique. And DJ Kampire is my inspiration. She’s just been touring Asia and Europe and is a strong, hardworking person representing for women in general. There aren’t many female DJs here compared to other parts of the world but in a couple of years we will outnumber the male DJs, I promise you that.

What’s next for you?
I see a lot of opportunities to make connections with all the audiences that are dancing! I don’t want to just play music, I want to move forward by creating a performance that is new every time so people’s eyes and minds and bodies are intrigued. I’m going to tour more and have some shows lined up in Beijing, San Francisco and Barcelona as well as Addis Ababa – I have to do it for my home town. And at the moment I’m producing my first EP, which is inspired by my mother and the rebirth of me accepting her passing away.

HIBOTEP’S TOP FIVE TUNES

Slick Back - Ascension

Ecko Bazz - Tuli Banyo

Oum Kalthoum - Alf Leyla Wa Leyla (Gan Gah Habibi remix)

Leo PaLayeng Kenna - Ature Me Deyo

Nyege Nyege Tapes - KAAD4

Nataal would like to thank the British Council’s East Africa Arts programme for supporting our Kampala editorial focus


Words Helen Jennings
Photography Alim Karmali

Visit Hibotep

Published on 14/12/2018