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Meet Giovanni Kiyingi, the stand-out star from NPR Music's Tiny Desk Contest


We've been highlighting some of our favorite submissions to NPR Music's Tiny Desk Contest. This week we hear from Giovanni Kiyingi and his song "Bukunja," a place he's never been.


GIOVANNI KIYINGI: (Singing in non-English language).

I come from Africa - in particular, East Africa, Uganda. And the song is inspired by a certain village in Uganda, which people fear to go there because of the myths that are going around in that place.


KIYINGI: (Singing in non-English language).

When we were growing up, every word we heard about Bukunja - oh, these guys are cannibals, or these guys are doing all the atrocities that have been happening, you know? Since it is far away from most of the towns, we tend to believe that.

RASCOE: So he made a joyful song that challenged those myths.

KIYINGI: My inspiration came from that - like, my imaginations of going there, and what if the myths that people are talking about are not right or are not true?


RASCOE: Kiyingi left Uganda and lived in several countries before moving to Phoenix, where he's lived for about five years.

KIYINGI: Coming to Phoenix, it was the same feeling. Wanting to collaborate or to work with people as a new artist in town pushes me really to start discovering a lot of things that are happening in Phoenix. And I get so many questions about, what are you doing in Phoenix? Why don't you move to, like, LA or New York City or something like that? But I was like, oh, Phoenix for me, looks and feels fresh, and that creates a lot of room for growing as an artist. And also the sun (laughter). I love the heat because I come from East Africa, you know. The equator is crossing over, so it feels like you are home.


KIYINGI: (Singing in non-English language).

RASCOE: The song, which is nearly 11 minutes long, features a traditional instrument.

KIYINGI: I play akogo in the song, which is one of the traditional instruments from Uganda, and then towards the end sample the djembe, which is an instrument from West Africa. So it is a fusion of different cultures that fueled the song. The eastern part of Africa is not really known in terms of music for some good time, you know, compared to South Africa and West Africa. When you come to East Africa, not so many musicians that really have crossed to the world. So I'm playing this music for people to turn their ears and eyes to start looking for what is going on in East Africa.

RASCOE: That was Giovanni Kiyingi. His Tiny Desk Contest submission was called "Bukunja." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.