Hezekia Watta is the founder and Managing Director of Ol Wonders, an all-round communication and media production agency based in Kicukiro, a City of Kigali suburb. The company offers such services as audio and video production, TV productions and dramas, graphics, animation, and talent management, among others.
Why did you settle for a career in media production?
It is God who put this vision in me. I know it is God who put it in me because of how complex the idea was, and again how simple it was. How natural it came to someone like me. Ol Wonders has four main divisions, each of which has actually shaped my life.
How and when did you get hooked to music?
When I was in primary school in Kenya, that’s when Hip Hop started coming in. That’s about 1995-6. I remember my elder brother used to come back home with all this new music. I got attracted to rappers like Tupac and Nas because of what their songs were talking about -real life, not this hip hop of today, of cars and women and money. Whenever I would get low, I would just listen to these rappers. It’s like they were encouraging me. Their words really kept me moving when I really needed them the most.
In high school I became a rapper. So it started in the studio, you would hear a producer say, if I really had this microphone, this mixer …we could have done this song better.
Then I moved to the other guys –the video guys. The video guy is saying if I only had this type of camera, the video would have been the best.
I’ve always loved movies, and always been attracted to graphics. My father never liked to hear that I was a rapper. It was like a taboo, but I was really dedicated to the music. Even now I still have some rhymes which I can freestyle every once in a while.
In 2001 my brother died, and I held on to the music even more, because now I had a channel through which to grieve. I got a lot of my own rhymes, and I remember every song I used to dedicate to my late brother.
In 2004, my father also passed on, and all of a sudden I now had to become a man.
How did you discover graphics?
Since I now had to fend for myself, and since my father had always been against my music career, and I loved graphics, I decided to become a graphics designer.
What was the beginning like?
I remember starting out earning about 5,000 Kenya shillings, the equivalent of about RW F 40.000, then in two months another person comes and poaches you, wants to give you RW F 10,000, then in another two months someone is coming to poach you and give you 15,000.
It’s then that I realized there were two sets of graphics design; just graphics design, and creative design. I identified the difference when I walked into another interview in an agency. They told me we want you to design this and give us as many options as you can. The first time I went for an interview, I designed something from scratch, and it was my best execution.
Then they showed me what the other designers had designed, and that changed things completely for me. I realized I’d been playing a small game, because these guys were really good. In fact, it’s the only interview where I went home knowing I had to go home. I told myself I don’t deserve to be here.
Six months passed, then another opening came. By then they had forgotten about me and didn’t know they had ever called me for an interview. They took me in like someone new, and I kept quiet.
I took this as a second chance that God had given me, and this time I knew exactly what to do. In six months I had polished my game, and it was on point. They gave me one brief, and I remember executing ten different samples.
When they looked at the ten different samples, all of them were good and different, because I had cared to remember what made me lose the first opportunity. Immediately I got hired.
Coming to Rwanda
I came to Rwanda in 2009, when one of the guys we were working with in Nairobi came here before me, stayed like two months, then called me to tell me of this agency that was recruiting creatives. By then I was earning about 50.000 Kenya shillings, which was quite good then. When my friend called he said this agency was willing to offer me 2,000 US D, plus a house, and I was like what? I almost quit the same day. They called me on May 7, and by May 10, I was in Rwanda.