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Backpacking Uganda: how I got a job as a music video extra..

The persistently persuasive Martha Parsons

The persistently persuasive Martha Parsons

In my line of work, I’m used to being behind the camera, never in front of it. So when my friend Martha asked me if I’d appear in her friend’s music video, I was hesitant to say the least. My friend and fellow travel blogger Jenny had appeared as an extra in a Bollywood film in India and an ex-boyfriend took part in a shoot for a clothing brand in LA, so I thought at the very least it would be a laugh and a funny experience to look back on and tell friends about. I wasn’t wrong.

After initially agreeing, I got cold feet the week before and tried to wiggle my way out of it. Why did Oscar want a mzungu in his video anyway, when most of the lyrics are in Luganda, a language I don’t understand?! But Martha is a persuasive person, she’s convinced most of Uganda’s top music artists to partake in a charity single for Save The Children (who she works for), so she had no problem twisting my arm. ‘It’ll be fun, we’ll just drink waragi and you don’t have to dance or anything’, she pleaded. I reluctantly agreed, perhaps against my better judgment.

Getting some dutch courage between takes with Oscar Jay

Getting some dutch courage between takes with Oscar Jay

We arrived on set, the location of a Ugandan soap opera for which the artist (Oscar Jay) and his friends work on as cameramen. My face dropped and nerves kicked in as I realised Oscar had an  entourage of 10+ people. Good lord. I had rocked up in jeans and a t-shirt and certainly didn’t look like a glamorous music video girl! Oh well, you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. You pay nothing, you get me. In a pair of worn-out Vans.

The crew (including a make up artist, director and even a grip) was a lot bigger than I imagined. Martha had wisely kept this quiet when she got me to agree to take part! There was a dolly (fashioned from some rubber piping and a bit of chipboard with caster wheels), two cameras, a reflector and quite a professional-looking set complete with real log fire. It was pretty intimidating and I needed a bit of dutch courage before we could start rolling.

The crew in action

The crew in action

After a couple of beers, the director came over to reassure me and talk me through the first scene. I was to play an African drum whilst Oscar Jay sang to me. Straight forward enough apart from the fact there was an audience watching me attempt to drum in time whilst trying to look like I understood the lyrics being sang at me in Lugandan. After take one, came the feedback. I was told in no uncertain terms that I looked awkward and uncomfortable. No wonder! I’m not used to being this side of the camera and haven’t acted since 1st year at University.

Behind the scenes!

Behind the scenes!

A few more waragi and tonics later (the only remedy to my nerves), I was feeling a bit more relaxed and beginning to forget the camera was there as we messed about and danced along to the infectiously catch track. Not relaxed enough to agree to writhing up against a car as suggested though, but I managed to persuade Oscar and his entourage that us cycling down a hill on a rusty old bike we found lying around would look just as good.

Thankfully the concept for the video was pretty tame and wholesome, unlike the rather salacious videos of fellow Ugandan artist, AK47, but I do watch back on it and cringe at my cameo role nonetheless! It was a fun day hanging out with Oscar and his friends and an interesting experience being the other side of the lens (I have a bit more sympathy for my contributors now), but I think it’s safe to say I won’t be giving up the day job for a career as a music video girl.

Here’s a sneak peak at Oscar Jay’s latest video. I’m sure you’ll have a good giggle at my expense…

 

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