Ronald Kabuye is a remarkable young man and his journey shows what is possible with determination and opportunity. Life didn’t start easily for Ronald, from street child in the city of Kampala, Uganda at the age of 5 to growing up in an orphanage. “I was 3 years old when I lost my dad, my mum found it difficult to raise me and my other siblings, that is my older brother and my two older sisters. She was finding ways she could help us and started looking for orphanages where she could place us, in the end we had to split up. I stayed with my mum, but my brother was taken to an Orphanage and my sisters were taken to the village.”
Life was difficult; the only way they could survive was to go around and collect scrap metals to sell and get money, but it is during this period that Ronald was first inspired by music:
“I WAS WALKING PAST COLLECTING MY METALS AND THEY WERE MARCHING, I WAS 5 AND WHEN I SAW THEM MY EYES WERE LIKE, WOW!”
The band marching that day were children from the Mlisada Orphanage, seeing them confidently performing together in the streets was something that he wanted to be apart of, so he went to Mlisada where he met Bosco, founder of the Mlisada Orphanage.
“I asked him, what do I do to join? Back then he and the band had a very bad reputation, they were known as thugs and thieves, kids with very bad behaviours because they had no parents, which is what the community thought of street children. Uncle Bosco took me in and talked to my mum, he promised my mum that they could help me, get me back into school and try to teach me skills, so she agreed that I could stay with them. It was here that I began to play music.”
Ronald Lived on the streets alone for 3 months, sleeping under unfinished houses and scavenging what ever he could to survive, but it was on these streets that he was able to reconnect with Mlisada. “I saw M-lisada marching again and I thought why not try to talk to them. Uncle Bosco took me in and talked to my mum, he promised my mum that they could help me, get me back into school and try to teach me skills, so she agreed that I could stay with them. It was here that I began to play music.”
Those early days at M-lisada were not easy, situated in the Katwe slum they only had one room where he and 15 other children were staying. When I asked Ronald if he still spoke to his mother, he told me that she had sadly passed away. Losing both his parents at an early age was devastating, however discovering music at the M-lisada orphanage was life changing, and with support from Brass for Africa he has become a leading light on his trombone. The joy on Ronald’s face when he talks about music, even when touching on difficult memories of his past, makes it so clear how important a role it has played in his development.
Brass for Africa started working with Ronald in 2009, it was at this point that he really started to believe in the power of music. “Through Brass for Africa I learned how to read music and the discipline of music.”
“AT FIRST I WAS PLAYING TO JUST HAVE FUN, NOT TO INSPIRE, NOT TO HELP ANYONE NOT TO CHANGE ANYTHING, JUST TO PLAY AND HAVE FUN BUT BRASS FOR AFRICA MADE ME REALISE THAT I COULD PLAY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.”
The trombone has inspired Ronald to start sharing his story and his music with other children through teaching. “I wanted to give them hope that this is not the end and what I have seen from the kids is that they have now become good people, with a good attitude towards life and that gives me joy.”