Saturday, January 9, 2010

On “beef” in Uganda’s Music Industry.

On “beef” in Uganda’s Music Industry.

It’s now cliché to say Uganda’s music industry has grown over the years. The growth of course is undoubted- the quality of music has improved, the videos are much better and the musicians themselves are celebrated personalities in society- I mean, the sane ones have families (wife, children and a home), engage in charity work and community awareness programs, are socio-political activists, etc. You can go to a music store in London and get a Jose Chameleone CD on the shelves, or watch Bebe Cool perform at the Mandela Birthday Festival on You Tube or better still, down load an audio documentary from the BBC website on Bobi Wine creating awareness on sanitation and public health in Kampala’s slums. But that is as far as the fine points go. Beneath this sparkling surface lies an intoxicating cocktail of hatred, raw manners, drugs, sex, fear, intrigue, back-stubbing, primitive competition and all the other things that could ever define a jungle empire. This has fueled feuds, fights and scuffles amongst the captains and lieutenants of the Uganda music ship. The media and society love to call it beef and at best, refer to all these unfortunate skirmishes as publicity stunts probably plotted by the feuding parties. We are made to believe that a fight between Bobi Wine and Bebe Cool is an agreed arrangement and it is for their own good, it keeps the fans interested either in their music or lifestyle or probably their fighting skills. This is arguably the saddest creation of the media on our music industry. For crying out loud, some of these guys have ended up on hospital beds or police cells after these feuds. At best, some have been summoned to courts of law but the more enterprising ones, have hit studios to release songs about these feuds and probably the latter has shaped the opinion and view of society on these fights.

Bobi wine & Bebe Cool Vs Jose Chameleone

This is probably the first beef story the media brought to us and arguably the first beef feud on the Ugandan music scene. Bobi Wine and Bebe Cool were still comrades under the Fire Base Crew and couldn’t see eye to eye with Jose Chameleone and his Leone Island. It gave birth to the hit Futula apparently aimed at Jose and his then heartthrob-Dorotia. Jose came up with Befula song considering that he had gone through the same hustles with Bebe back in Nairobi in the mid 90s.Bebe and Jose seem to be on talking terms today.

Bobi Wine Vs Bebe Cool.

I can’t claim to know when and why they parted ways. Bobi stayed at Fire Base Crew and became the de facto president, Bebe cool went on to form his own label Gagamel. Back then, they both seemed to have mutual respect for each other’s work and both couldn’t be under the same roof with Jose Chameleone. Recently, Bebe seems to be comfortable in Jose’s company but the animosity with his former comrades at Fire Base Crew has reached alarming levels. At the height of Bebe and Zuena’s mini-break-up, Bobi released a song taking a swipe at Bebe’s marriages woes. Bebe Cool later released his hot single- Bogolako after getting back with wife Zuena. The epitome of this beef came to the fore late last year when they held their album launches on the same day – a feat never seen before on the music scene here. The debate on who got the biggest crowd on the night is still raging on in newspaper social pages and on radio shows at large.

Jose Chameleone Vs Goodlyf (Mose Radio & Weasel TV)

This is the closest you will get to brotherly love gone sour. Jose groomed the two guys under his Leone Island and when the boys mastered their art, they left to do their own thing. And boy! They have really hit the charts. Jose has never been impressed probably because they didn’t acknowledge his mentorship, support and tutelage. And the boys don’t seem to have any apologies. Recently, with the Beenie Man show in Kampala, some media houses compared the Beenie Man and Bounty Killer feud to the Chameleone and Goodlyf beef. This feud also gave birth to run-away hits like Bayunda, Sitani all aimed at each other. But it is believed that deep down in their hearts; the Goodlyf guys cherish Jose Chameleone and appreciate him. We wait to see them on the same stage at peace with their mentor.

Bebe Cool /Gagamel Vs Goodlyf.

This will probably be the mother of all feuds this year-2010. Undoubtedly, this has been boiling in the pot for some time and the beef was well served on New Year’s Eve celebrations at the Hotel Africana in Kampala. Apparently, the promoter had advertised the same show under two different themes and posters- Mr. DJ Concert and Music 2010 concert for the same time and venue. With the Mr. DJ concert- the Goodlyf guys were like the main act and with the latter show, Bebe Cool and his Gagamel Crew were intended to be the main act. To use the cliché, the rest is history. The Zuena and Ability songs by the Goodlyf guys have a thing or two to say about Bebe Cool’s life. (At least that is what I have been made to believe). Bogola Ko, Cartoon and Monkey and Kiwoko songs by Bebe Cool and two of his Gagamel Label members respectively, are in more ways than one aimed at the Goodlyf guys. If the Hotel Africana fight is the harbinger of things to come, we should grace ourselves for a shock. Soon someone will have blood on his hands.

This beef game is undoubtedly immortalized by two famous American HIP HOP and Rap artists- Notorious BIG and Tupac Shakur. Unfortunately, the feuding claimed their lives and a few of their comrades on the sides too. The debate of who killed who, or how who plotted for whom is still a strong one in music chat rooms and on music blogs all over the world. Some people even claim Tupac Shakur is still alive. I hope we won’t get to that in our humble Pearl of Africa.

Rugaba Agaba

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Kampala…the Ultimate Experience.

Kampala…the Ultimate Experience.
In years gone by, Kampala- the capital city of Uganda was defined as the city of seven hills. I cannot claim to know which these famous hills are, but one thing am sure of today is that Kampala is dotted with far more than seven hills. The development of the real estate sector and budding middle class has transformed the geography of this city. Many posh residential neighborhoods and estates are now perched on virtually every hill or raised stretch of land in Kampala. However, whereas Kampala was then defined by the seven famous hills, today as a city on the global scene and growing cosmopolitan culture, Kampala is truly defined by far different aspects than hills. In this I attempt to come up with the ten (10) things that define this dusty and filthy city of ours. They are highly opinionated and egocentric with an attempt to claim authority on the matter.

Kampala road.

Well, Kampala city wouldn’t be complete without Kampala road. It runs through the heart of the city and the central business district. It is approximately a stretch of 2km or less, but this has equally been a subject of debate. Where does Kampala road begin and/or end? However, my conviction is that it stretches from Fido dido up to the DFCU Bank branch just opposite Railways. (I may be wrong with my conviction)Kampala road plays host to almost all other things that define this city- businesses, Office blocks, shopping malls, cosy coffee cafes, red-light districts, book stores, banks, etc. Like many other roads in this country, it has its fair share of potholes and these have given all radio presenters a lease of life, I mean if you have nothing to say on radio, then just talk about potholes on Kampala road, you are sure you will get phone-ins and thus a lively morning show. It is on Kampala road that you will see the latest fashions, style and wear, either on a mannequin in a fancy cloths boutique or a 22yr old girl attempting to champion MTV lifestyle. I mean, you meet someone and they look like they have just popped out of a Rihanna music video. Can’t we be more original? You will also run into guys who have since returned from the diaspora and are now living it large. (We like to call them nkuba kyeyos).They are the real deal- the real deal. They drive the latest American cars (mbu they ship them along as they come for holidays), party Monday to Sunday, have huge real estate investments in Kampala’s suburbs and speak like our brothers from the Caribbean. So that is Kampala road for you-complete with potholes, MTV wannabes, Nkuba kyeyos, banks etc.

Nandos and Mateos.

I will admit, since time immemorial, I have had trouble pronouncing these two correctly or incorrectly. Sometimes I will pronounce them with a z, like Nandoz, Mateoz and so do so many other people I know. However, more importantly at least I know what goes in there. For a brief history, Nandos is arguably the first fast food/ take away restaurant in Kampala and it played host to the biggest detoothing dates in this city. (De-toothing in Kampala speak means gold digging schemes- beautiful young lady vs. rich old man) Stories are told of how Makerere University babes wouldn’t give you a second look unless you suggested chips and chicken for dinner, and no one did Chips & Chicken except Nandos.(that was before some crafty guys in Katwe-downtown Kampala came up a machine that does chips/French fries, and everyone was in the chips and chicken business).Nandos revolutionalised the dating culture in this city.
They held the key to many relations. Now they do more than just chips and chicken. They do burgers, cakes, African coffee, Cappuccinos, Espressos, African tea, juice and many other things that in can’t pronounce or imagine how they taste. Upstairs (but there are no stairs), may be just up slope, sits their cousin in business, Mateos(z) - a cosy up-market bar/restaurant with fine décor, fancy furniture, plasma TVs, exotic cocktails and great music. People who are well travelled say, it is like a slice cut from a street in west London. That goes a long way in defining its rating. These two places are the true symbols of Kampala’s mushrooming cosmopolitan culture. Here you will meet tourists and expatriates with their African lovers trying to get a feel of back home, Kampala’s yuppies winding down after a hard day’s work, new lovers in a corner whispering sweet nothings in each other’s ears and of course, a Nkuba kyeyo fresh from the states or UK, Japan, Indi- looking every inch like Akon-complete with bling bling, baggy jeans, heavy scented perfume and a swanky Nokia phone. You may also meet a journalist from one of the international media houses, trying to edit his story on conservation of environment in Uganda over coffee or a beer.

Sex and the city

Do not be tempted to think about the famous New York sitcom about three or four elite ladies that were so liberal with their sex lives. Kampala just loves sex. From the dungy hang outs in the city suburbs where nude dances are hidden under karaoke shows, to Speke road-Kampala’s undisputed red light district, sex trade is on a slow but steady rise. No wonder, a few years ago, we had a honorable legislator in our parliament suggesting legalizing this age-old trade. Thank heavens sanity prevailed but it is an issue still murmured in the corridors of power. I can’t claim I know the reason for this steady rise in casual sex, sex orgies and reckless sex. But I can offer my suspicion-The budding middle class. In my years at university, i used to see all kinds of posh cars parked at girls’ hostels and halls of residence from Thursday all through the weekend up to Sunday evening. Am told the state of affairs has not changed at all. Universities, colleges and institutions of higher learning are endlessly flocked by young and hot blooded men, and rusty old men looking for young ladies to satisfy their sexual appetites. It is a story of willing and consenting arrangements. The girls need the goodies and money offered by the working class boyfriends and sugar daddies- to keep up appearances and the guys just want a little fun. So you have all these relations that are purely based on a strong materialistic and financial policy- sex for money. However, few of these end up in long term relationships and marriage. My former workmate in Gulu once told us a story about a security guard to his hostel who regularly bought a certain prostitute from the nearby bar. After three such dealings in one month, the lady rejected the guy’s payment. “Why don’t you use the money to buy household items and I start cooking/washing for you?” She asked the security guard. “You think i enjoy this work?” She questioned. The rest is history. They are now married with three children to show for it. Not all bad enterprises are entirely bad.

To be continued…