Rover D, South Sudan’s dancehall hotshot speaks to City Review
South Sudanese dancehall musician Depallah Ater Muhammed who is also known as Rover D (RD) speaks to Boka Jr. (BJ) of the City Review about his music career, the gaps, and opportunities for singers to grow in South Sudan. Below is the full interview excerpt.
BJ: Could you please introduce yourself to us?
RD: Thank you, sir. It’s a pleasure to talk to City Review Newspaper. My name is Rover D, aka Depallah Ater Muhammed and Amou Tong from Tonj, South Sudan. I am an entertainer of my own character, meaning I do things the natural way of my potential with respect to my culture.
I grew up in Thiet Makol where I was born and I joined Mayom Abun Primary [School] for my primary education. I then went to Angol Model Primary, then to Don Bosco before moving to Uganda where I finished my high school education.
So when, where, and how did you discover your talent and become a musician?
I discovered my talent during my teenage when in school. We could bang desks trying to sing our cultural songs and when we went back home we could play around singing in the bushes while gathering fruits, teasing each other, and trying to give each other a nickname. It was fun. That was the early 2000’s when our great artists like Ngoth Malang aka Mapuot, Mabior Ajiech, and Malok Kuot became my earlier inspiration.
From my primary school in Uganda, I learned about “Kadanke” to “Karaoke”, which was a joy to me, and there I fell in love with the dancehall music of Jamaicans which was the trend. So I am trying to fuse gradually, trying to merge Muonyjang cultural music with the dancehall and now I am here. That is why I am here.
When was your first show and how did you feel being on the stage for the first time?
That was when I got a chance to perform at Mading Awiel Stars Concert at Club AY in early 2011. [After that] I never stopped loving to showcase my talent to my South Sudanese Community in Uganda.
Tell us about some of your songs, especially the first and the latest ones?
Dr. Banat took me to fame. It proclaimed the love of adolescents at teens. I have other hit songs such as Novida, Akoniya, and South Sudan makes a way, which I sang with Dr. Kiss among other songs like Cirot wany cream.
Have you received any music awards since the inception of your music career?
I have been watching awards going on and I do believe that everything that gets a reward is after a struggle so it’s always easy for me.
What challenges do you or musicians face in South Sudan?
I won’t talk about the past but ignorance, underestimation, selfishness, jealousy, hatred, and unsupportive South Sudanese community are some of the major stumbling blocks to the progress of the local music industry.
South Sudan is a new nation in Africa hence many problems exist but with love, originality, hard work, uniqueness, and togetherness we shall overcome all factors hindering our [music] industry, and as of now, we are in a learning mood to splash our material for the world to judge our music and culture.
How has your music contributed to societal development?
Through singing about life and happiness within our communities, Rover D Muzik has been a learning class for the young generation; it’s been the courtyard for peace, love, and unity. Rover D Muzik entertains and educates the young generation of South Sudan about the importance of culture.
One of the challenges facing the local music industry in South Sudan appears to emanate from a lack of proper management. What do you think all managers should do to nurture artists?
I will answer this question when South Sudanese start subscribing to our YouTube channels. Radio stations and clubs only play foreign music more than their own, what’s the problem?
I think something must be wrong with our people otherwise this is “Istemar” which means “slavery” affecting our mindsets. We must relieve ourselves from [this].
We must start believing in ours and die for ours because ours is ours. Music is life, a very fast communication tool; educative, business, enjoyable, and a stress reliever. We are new to many things but with time we shall be well up.
Who is your role model, a South Sudanese or someone outside?
As I mentioned early that my traditional artists of my community were my inspiration. I was particularly inspired by Kawaja Revolution, Saab Jay, and Red Scorpion.
What is your message for artists, fans, and South Sudanese in general?
Thank you so much my brother Akol for this question. My message to everyone is “Peace, love, and unity is the chain of solutions to all our problems. Please let love prevail.