translators in Uganda
Dídac P. Lagarriga, February 2007
The VJ is like a DJ. While the DJ is who spices up music in a discotheque, and he can put things which can you move at least till morning, a VJ is also like that. He puts some jokes in the film, at the same time he translates it, at the same time he is also like an actor, because he's also acting... VJ's are the subtitles for the community, without us people cannot understand the movie. We live in the slum areas, but we can read and write, so we speak on top of the movie. We must be there. Some people in the audience looks more to the VJ than to the movie, because they see a man speaking alone for 90 minutes, or three hours, moving, narrating, exclaiming... They enjoy a lot!
When did VJ's start in Uganda?
started long time ago, back to 1986. At that time I came from the village
to Kampala. There weren't video halls, and all that... Around 1987 the
work began, with a 300 meters video hall where we watched movies, and
videos, paying to somebody some money to enter. By then they could not
allow younger to enter into the video halls unless you went with your
parents. In 1988 came a man, it was called Lingo, and he started the
video jockey work. I don't know where he got the idea. People could
not watch movies without him because they didn't understand. He moved
around from the front sit to the back to the front, he didn't sit down;
he was moving around all the time, telling to the audience what the
movie was about, and everything. This man was not educated and he didn't
understand English well, but he could get the story, what was the movie
about, like: "this boy buys a sweet, enters in the car..."
or he tell you that certain person is going to die... So he was not
professional at that time, but people enjoyed this. He had not machines
that you can switch off and on the sound of the movie, so he was telling
like that. So he was not translating, only describing and commentating
the movie and all of that.
It was then that VJ practice was becoming bigger...
Yes. In 1998 we started dubbing films, with two video decks, one plays, one is dubbing, so we translate it and it was recorded. We did copies and we put them in the video library, so people could come and rent them. In Kampala alone there are more than 500 video halls! Video halls are mushrooming and they can not have live VJ's in all of them, because it's not easy for people to work as a VJ. Is not an easy work, so we start to coming up with the video libraries. They who could not afford to buy the movies, they could rent them... There's also some Vee-Jay Slams, competitions with thousands of audience and ten or twenty VJs performing. In Kampala we have the Amakula International Film Festival (www.amakula.com), a meeting of talent, and this kind of events help us a lot.
Always Hollywood films?
We had some Africans films too, but just a few, like The raise and fall of Idi Amin, the Uganda's dictator. Some movies from South Africa and Nigeria too. We had movies from Europe like James Bond 007, a lot of Asian movies. People enjoy Asian movies, of kung-fu, Chinese and Japanese... And Bollywood, and from South America, too, they like a lot the films from around the world. We have also different types of translations in relation to the various types of audiences: Religious, fiction, political...
Where do you find the movies?
There are some big libraries in town owned by Indians, but in these days there are so, so, so, so many libraries, and almost every shop has movies, because the new technologies, duplicating DVD's and VCD's, and people now can afford to buy TV sets and all of that. Some VJ's are ripping big, they are getting money. So one can buy their machines and put his own video hall or a video studio, so he makes a lot of money with the copies.
Have you got legal problems with copy rights and all of this?
in 2002 we came up with an idea of forming some associations, because
the government disturbs us. Is not a legalized job and we are not licensceable
and the broadcasting companies they want to come in, because we should
pay license for broadcasting. So we form several organisations. One
is called Union of film operators and owners association, another one
is United video operators and owners association... In 2005 we came
with Union of Videojockeys/Translators association (UVJA). I'm the president
of that one, and we have around one hundred members. With this organisation
we form also young people in the skills of translating, for example
in how you must translate such hard words like "motherfucker"
or things like that. We recommend also to not just translating actions
like a footballer commentator. Some are specialized in horror, others
in drama, or kung-fu...
Do you know more VJs in other countries?
No. We just know that there are two in Ethiopia and one in Sudan... And three hundred in Uganda!