Rated Next auditions: Comedy as five make it in MbararaPublish Date: Jan 19, 2014
Rated Next auditions: Comedy as five make it in Mbarara
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One of the winners in Mbarara. Photo/Abdukarim Ssengendo

Winners (lef-right): Cobweb Innocent Tukamuhabwa, Evelyn Ndagire, Nema Byaruhanga, Daniel Kaweesa (last year's overall winner), Phiona Mpiriirwe and Julie Ssoki. PHOTO/Abdukarim Ssengendo

By Nigel Nassar

From all walks of life, hopefuls intent on kick-starting a music career and winning sh50m sauntered in at Agip Motel in Mbarara over the weekend to sing their hearts out in the first upcountry auditions of Coca-Cola Rated Next Sing It, Season Two.

And while some went out of their way to dress up, look the part and strap up a worthwhile first impression with the judges, others just staggered in like they walked straight out of the rubble of a collapsed house. But isn’t this what makes such contests something of a story to write home about?

The judges – singer/songwriter Sharpe Ssewali, flutist/radio presenter Siima Sabiti of X FM, and singer/producer Benon Mugumbya of Swangz Avenue replacing Maurice Kirya – were all upbeat, picking up where they left off last season.

And although Benon was the newcomer here, he didn’t in the least look the part. He played the nice guy, yes. But he had his moments in the ‘mean guy corner’, giving Judge Sharpe a run for his money, though not taking away the latter’s nit-picking streak.

And Siima? Well, she was the ‘sweet-but-not-quite’ judge, harmonizing the ‘boys’.

There were those contestants she kept telling they looked colourful and they went like, “thank you”, thinking it was a compliment, in what secretly amused her.

L-R: Judges Benon Mugumya, Siima Sabiti and Sharpe Ssewali. PHOTO/Abdulkarim Ssengendo

Day One on Friday turned up about 150 hopefuls, but without much of singing talent to talk of, really. Instead, they did well on the clowning bit. There was this chapatti maker who, in his little English world, preferred to be called a “chapatti siika’ – a direct transliteration from ‘kusiika chapatti’, in Luganda.

Well, this brother, Musuk Ali, was all decked up with this musician look – a guitar in hand here, a weird hairstyle there, name it. Time to go in for his audition and the brother confesses he can’t play the guitar, so he leaves it outside.

And before the judges, the brother just squeals, while throwing his hands all over the place in what is termed there as swagger. It was later on that you realised in his eyes that he was on some altitude.

Then there were those who insisted what they were singing was in English, with Judge Sharpe trying to place the language in vain.

But the mother of them all (or should I say father?), was this 72-year-old farmer, Mzee Francis Kabagambe Reebahundugire. He had on these well-pressed khaki pants, blue and yellow socks, a waistcoat and scarf. A father of seven, Reebahundugire had this little clone of a radio that plays off a flash disk around his neck.

After walking the judges through the days of the gramophone and other music history, he tuned into Isaiah Mwinamo’s vintage song Kenya Napenda Twist. It was hilarious seeing him do the twist dance, which he apparently has won certificates for – although it looked very ordinary. Well, the mzee didn’t get a yes; this search is for singers.  But he was interesting to watch nonetheless.

Phiona Mpiriirwe was delighted to be a top-five finisher. PHOTO/Abdulkarim Ssengendo

Mbarara had many hilarious showcases, including a 12-year-old singing an own composition about a girl, Brenda, who, according to his lyrics, apparently has sugar in her. Really? A 12-year-old? We are dead!

We also had funny names like Cobweb Star, HIV and Business Rogers. By the end of Day One, we had only 19 yeses from about 150 hopefuls, and with Rema’s Kaliba hit being the most sang by contestants. Except no one sang Dear Museveni  We Are Happy – let’s hope someone in Gulu sings it.

Anyway, Day Two had the judges cut the previous day’s 19 down to five, who made it for the highly coveted national level slated for Kampala in March.

The five are: Evelyne Ndagire, who dropped off last season at the Top 30 level, church music director Julie, university student Phionah, Cobweb Star and Nema Byaruhanga, who last year auditioned and failed. She was pregnant at her first audition.

This time she came back with her newborn. The auditions wrapped up with a concert at Mbarara’s Independence Grounds, where Season One winner Daniel Kaweesa, Cindi and Mun G wowed the crowds, with Mun G getting startled by a 12-year-old fan who sang his Sejusa hit like he composed it.

The next upcountry auditions take place in Masaka this Friday January 24th and Saturday January 25th, while the show starts screening February 03, on Urban TV and Bukedde1 and 2.

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