Erick Shaba grew up as a ‘sharp guy’. He would stand in front of family members or friends and tell them stories. It was, therefore, natural for him when he found himself in the limelight, later venturing into broadcasting, mostly on television. An emcee now, Shaba has worked as a reporter, chief editor and news anchor. But his passion to emcee at events, especially wedding ceremonies, surpassed all other undertakings. He has also facilitated a few conferences but says he loves weddings because it’s a social gathering. It’s a great space for families and people in general to meet, dance and be happy. “So, to be given a chance to drive that happiness is the best moment of life,” he says. Shaba emcees weddings in Kinyarwanda, French and English. He started as a family emcee, hosting parties and weddings for his family. “As far as I can remember, I emceed almost all the weddings in my family, if not all of them.” But this humble beginning is what led him to his first, and later the many clients that he has hosted ceremonies for. Beginnings of any new venture never come easy; Shaba had his share of this, especially when time came to make his calling a profession. “I remember one day a close friend of mine called me on the phone. He asked me if I could do a wedding gig (an introduction ceremony) and I hesitated. It was my first time to charge for that kind of service. He asked me to tell him how I would charge. I hesitated and asked him to give me a minute to think about it.” It took him contemplation and finding courage to finally embrace his opportunity. He had to convince himself that he had what it takes to emcee as a professional, but it wasn’t easy. “I told myself that if I emceed friends’ and family weddings and most importantly, if I sat in front of a camera and could read news to millions of people, then I could stand in front of hundreds of total strangers and do it. I called him back and proposed an amount, with fear that they would not accept it. They immediately accepted and at that moment I knew I was going to be a professional emcee.” How it went is another story. Without a mentor at that time, Shaba recalls having no clue whatsoever about the required steps of emceeing an introduction ceremony. But the day before D-day, he had to call a friend, an emcee himself, and asked to take him through all the stages of the ceremony. “The next morning, I arrived at the site and 10 minutes before I could utter the first word, I called him again and he repeated the procedure, but added one very important piece of advice that I believe still drives my way of emceeing, ‘be yourself’. I was surprised that a few of the groom’s family members approached me after the ceremony and said ‘you did well,” he recalls. Dares and defies The rest is now history. It’s been 15 years and Shaba has managed to secure his name in the realm of hosting and emceeing. His journey has come with challenges and lessons nonetheless. Going by the clients he has worked with so far, some people believe weddings are a family party. So, it’s hard to deny someone the floor when speech time comes. “At this time, everyone needs to speak. In most cases the emcee finds himself/herself between the bride/groom and the family, and you need to make sure everyone is happy. The bride/groom who hires you wants you to respect time; on another hand, family members and friends want to speak. So when you say no or ask them to be as brief as they can, you go back home with a few enemies,” he shares. This and a few others are some of the hiccups he has encountered on the job. So far, emceeing has taught him to listen more and speak less, he says. It has taught him to care for other people’s happiness rather than focusing mainly on himself. “It has taught me that when you draw the audience’s attention somewhere else, it finally comes back to you. I love when someone, beyond the money he/she paid me, calls me to say that I did well at their wedding,” Shaba adds. What makes him tick? He always prepares. Shaba says he ensures to meet the bride and groom ahead of time to study their taste in parties. “In most cases they have an understanding that the beauty of their party is in your hands, but it only works when you do it together. For instance, you need to know if they are shy or outgoing people who will stand up and dance and make the rest of the guests join them on the dance floor,” he says. “So you meet to learn the kind of music and ambiance they want for their wedding party. Then you need to arrive at least an hour before the party begins. You don’t need to arrive sweating because you are late. Rather, you need to familiarise with who is in charge of what so you know who to speak to during the wedding. “Then you ensure everything goes according to the time allocated to the party. Ensure the time is respected. A lot of emcees fail to do this but it’s an important responsibility of an emcee to ensure everything goes according to plan and on time. And then finally you dress to kill. At least that particular aspect I never neglect. You need to make sure everyone sees you. Everyone at the wedding needs to remember you. Of course, you don’t have to deviate all the attention from the bride and groom, it’s their day and not yours. You do everything on a moderate level.” For that reason, Shaba advises couples to choose an emcee based on their taste and the kind of ambiance they need to see at their party. If you are an outgoing person who loves to see everyone at your party dancing with a glass in their hands, with their suits off, you find your emcee. If you are a calm person who loves to see a romantic night accompanied with a few words and sweet music, you find that emcee, he says. To future emcees, Shaba recommends being authentic—never copy an emcee that you saw at a wedding. Be yourself, he advises. Shaba did languages in secondary school and Literature in English at university. With a background in media—local and international, he has worked for IGIHE as a reporter and chief editor, worked for Rwanda Television, as a reporter in Kinyarwanda, French and English news, and then as a news anchor in Kinyarwanda. You can reach out to Erick through the following number 0788 422 077, and @erick_shaba on Twitter.