What you need to know:
- Their journey to the global scene has been legendary and now they have the world eating out of their laps
When they appeared on the world-famous stage of the Britain’s Got Talent (BGT) show on April 15 to audition, nothing seemed to faze the sensational Ugandan dancing troupe Ghetto Kids although they could hardly mask their excitement at being in London.
“We are the Ghetto Kids from the Pearl of Africa Uganda, Kampala and we are very excited to be here,” one of them introduced the group beaming with joy and buzz.
He greeted the judges and the audience in general, and the hard-to-impress head judge Simon Cowell in particular.
To loud cheers, they made it known that they were at the at 16th season of BGT to win, their contagious verve filling the room and spreading among the expectant audience and judges.
The four boys were dressed in green ‘kitenge’ shirts and shorts with beautiful patterns in black, yellow and orange, while the two girls wore green tops and flared skirts with similar patterns.
When the music started in their characteristic method, they wiggled and twisted their bodies to a number of hits played back-to-back falling to the floor, jumping and doing handstands to the rhythm of the music, concluding the electrifying performance with Shakira’s hit song ‘Waka Waka’, which was the highlight of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
The Ghetto Kids formerly known as Triplets Ghetto Kids, do not just dance but they entertain. The show was such a hit that Italian judge Bruno Tonioli got carried away and did something that does not usually happen at the BGT. He hit the golden buzzer halfway through the performance, giving the children a through pass straight to the semi-finals.
“I have to do it now!” an awestruck Tonioli, who couldn’t control his excitement screamed as he reached past Judge Alesha Dixon for the buzzer.
As the confetti flew all over the stage, the show continued uninterrupted to an amazed bench of judges and audience.
It was a truly momentous evening for the Ghetto Kids and the show.
“That has actually never happened. Usually, the golden buzzer is pressed afterwards. He gave you the golden buzzer and you performed with the confetti. It was magical. I think it’s incredible that you are so young. And you flew all the way and no fear. This is an audition we are going to remember. It was brilliant. That’s what the show is all about, and that’s what the golden buzzer is for,” said Judge Simon.
In the BGT tradition, the golden buzzer earns contestants an automatic place in the semi-finals. And if they go ahead and win the competition, the children, aged five to 13 years, have a golden opportunity to bring home the prize money of $31,000.
“Our chances of winning this competition are already high after that stellar performance,” said Pendo Rashimi, one of the managers of the Ghetto Kids, adding that the children are working on a new song that should be released in the coming weeks as they prepare for more performances around the world.
The Ghetto Kids were the first acts at this year’s BGT show to get the golden buzzer and getting it mid-performance was a first in the show’s history. Fans at home in Uganda immediately took to social media to praise them for effectively representing Africa on the global stage. The videos have been widely shared, especially on TikTok.
“Wow! The Triplets Ghetto Kids make the word GHETTO sound like the best in the dictionary,” said Bobi Wine, the Ugandan musician-cum-politician. “The ghetto is proud of you. Uganda, Africa and the rest of the world are so proud of you,” Wine added.
Bobi Wine like many others, accompanied his post with a video clip of the children’s performance.
Prior to the performance, a short documentary about the children was played – a heart-warming story of 30 underprivileged minors, some orphans and others formerly homeless who live together under the care of a volunteer Daouda Kavuma.
Kavuma said he has harnessed their various natural gifts to change their lives and forge a meaningful future.
“Ghetto Kids is one family. If one is happy, we are all happy,” one of the children said in an interview.
They say the children’s home has given them hope, food, education and a roof over their heads.
And now they’re going out to the world to showcase their talent.
The three pioneer Ghetto Kids were Alex Ssempijja, Bashir Lubega and Hassan Sseruwu.
The group rose to fame after featuring in Ugandan music star Eddy Kenzo’s 2014 hit song ‘Sitya Loss’ (I’m not afraid of making a loss).
Their journey to the global scene has been legendary and now they have the world eating out of their laps. They have since performed in countries such as Canada, the US, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, France, UK and the United Arab Emirates.
Last year during the Fifa World Cup season, they performed at side events and during a Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) football match in Paris and have won admiration of international music superstars such as P-Diddy and Nicki Minaj who have shared videos of the children’s shows on social media.
During the Paris tour last year, the children had a chance to hobnob with acclaimed football stars such as Sergio Aguero, Kylian Mbappé and Lionel Messi.
In 2010, music star Kenzo was performing at the Zoo in Entebbe where Kavuma and the children were.
“I told Alex that when you see Kenzo, jump on the stage. Make sure you dance where he can see you. He was a great dancer and got Kenzo’s attention,” Kavuma told the Daily Monitor in an interview earlier this year.
There were many other children but after the show, Kenzo sought out Alex and asked him whom he was with.
“Of course I was right there,” Kavuma told the Daily Monitor.
Kenzo left his contacts with Kavuma and told him to look for him for an upcoming video the singer was going to do. They did a few videos with Kenzo in 2011, later Kenzo gave them an opportunity to appear in a video of one of his songs as dancers. He gave them three choices and they settled for ‘Sitya Loss’.
“We trained for ‘Sitya Loss’ and then looked for Kenzo but we couldn’t find him. We kept trying until we got him. Finally, we shot the video and ‘Sitya Loss’ became our breakthrough, and the song went viral. I was a teacher but trust me I didn’t know what ‘viral’ meant. Now I know.”
Unfortunately, Alex — the boy who mesmerised Kenzo at that Entebbe Zoo concert — died in an accident in 2015.
But, as they enjoy the wave of popularity, the Ghetto Kids still face challenges processing travel documents such as passports and visas, which hinder many of their travel abroad.
This article was first published in The EastAfrican.