The Ghetto Kids A Talented African Dance Troupe

The 2023 series of Britain’s Got Talent is underway. The audition rounds started airing on 15 April & will conclude on 6 May. For this season, Judge David Walliams has been replaced by Bruno Tonioli. The Ghetto Kids from Uganda appeared on the first audition. As you might imagine, it’s been a long journey to BGT for the care-home kids from Kampala.

The Ghetto Kids have their genesis in The Ghetto Triplets, which comprised Alex Ssempijja, Bashir Lubega and Hassan Sseruwu. The Triplets came to public attention when they appeared in the 2014 video for Ugandan hitmaker Eddy Kenzo’s Sitya Loss (I’m not afraid of making a loss). Now a five person unit, The Ghetto Kids wowed the BGT judges.

For their performance, The Ghetto Kids danced to a soukous track that gave way to Shakira’s Waka Waka, which was the anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. For many, the highlight was when five-year-old Josephine Daniella Busingye came out halfway through with a banana leaf doll on her back. She busted a few moves, causing dance-fundi Bruno Tonioli, who was clearly enthused and already dancing along in his chair, to rise to his feet. Within moments, he could not restrain himself.

The new judge reached out & pressed the golden buzzer. Glittery gold confetti rained down on the stage. To their credit, the dancers seemed unphased & finished their routine. As Simon Cowell explained, the golden buzzer is not meant to be pressed in the middle of a performance; only at the end. With the golden buzzer, The Ghetto Kids are guaranteed a place in the semi-final. In some ways, The Ghetto Kids’ success echoes the journey of the Ndlovu Youth Choir to the finals of America’s Got Talent

The Ndlovu Youth Choir was formed at a childcare community in Limpopo, South Africa. In 2018, the choir released “Shape of You” a single on which they were accompanied by Wouter Kellerman, a South African flutist. The track claimed the Hollywood Music Awards’ prize for Best Independent Music Video in 2019. In the same year, the choir auditioned for AGT. While the group reached the final, they did not make the top 5. In January 2023, the choir appeared on the AGT: All Stars show.

Returning to The Ghetto Kids, the original triplets formed after Daouda Kavuma, who cares for thirty previously homeless children, took his charges on an outing to the zoo in 2010. Eddy Kenzo was performing at the zoo. Kavumba instructed Alex Ssempijja to jump on stage and make sure that he danced where Kenzo could see him. Kavumba’s audacious idea paid off, and the Ghetto Triplets appeared in several videos for Kenzo.

With time, and as the original members outgrew Kavuma’s care, the Triplets morphed into The Ghetto Kids. Meanwhile, the outfit gained a global audience in 2017 when the video of Angolan Afro-house musician Dotorado Pro’s Marimba Rija, on which they danced, went viral. They have subsequently performed in Canada, the US, Kenya, South Africa, France, UK and Rwanda. Last year, during the FIFA world cup, they performed at side events in the UAE. P-Diddy and Nicki Minaj have shared videos of The Ghetto Kids on social media. All this momentum has led to The Ghetto Kids appearance on BGT.

The core group currently consists of Priscila Zawedde Kisakye, 12; Asharif Mbazira, 12; Akram Muyanya, 13; Shakib Mutima, 12; and Madwanah Ssegirinya (aka King), 13. For their routines, the troupe draws on both contemporary youth culture dances and the rich tradition of dance in Uganda. The traditional dances include “ding dong (a children’s play dance from the Acholi people), agwara (a ritual dance today used in wedding and funeral ceremonies), ekoche (a courtship dance of the Langi people), ekizino (from the Bakiga people) and ekitaguriro (from the Banyankore people, also called the cow dance and based on the movements of the cow)”.

Daouda Kavuma’s efforts on behalf of the children in his care cannot be commended enough. Uganda has been wracked by civil wars for decades. These circumstances have contributed to poverty, to endemic health issues, and to widespread hardship. On top of these general social problems, children are vulnerable to abduction and abuse from paramilitary groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army.

The Ghetto Kids owe their success to Alex Ssempijja’s dancing skills on the stage at the Entebbe zoo with Eddy Kenzo. Alex died in an accident in 2015. RIP.

Should you wish to assist Daouda Kavuma and the children in his care, the necessary information is available on the “about” page on The Ghetto Kids’ YouTube channel. If you would like to see more from The Ghetto Kids, you can subscribe to their YouTube channel.

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