Vision Group, in association with Twaweza Initiative and Buzz Events, is seeking to recognise artistes whose compositions advance society. Today, Steven Odeke brings you Jose Chameleone, who began his career in the early 1990s. He has enjoyed strong success with his musical style across Africa.
Imagine the Ugandan music scene today without the infl uence of Jose Chameleone. What hasn’t Chameleone sung about? Seems like nothing, right? In this society littered with conflicts, violence and domestic fights, Chameleone sings about reconciliation amongst people in the Tubonge hit, the song nominated in the Twaweza Initiatives. Oh, he has also asked you, reading this, to work hard in Katupakase so that you reap dividends of what you sowed.
Listening to Tubonge, a gospel single largely done in Kiswahili, Chameleone seems to ask people to bury the hatchet, sit down and talk things over. Not that the single is already a commercial high-fl yer, but this entertaining track has set the tone for 2014, a year most artistes have decided to stop feuding.
The track was released last year and is one of those Chameleone dedicated to his long time fan, the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel leader, Joseph Kony, whom he tried to cajole out of the bush. He sent Kony a message at the time: “Your mother, father and family are waiting for you. Do not suffer out there thinking nobody cares about you. It has been long since you have been gone. What a sight it would be seeing you come home. You are more than welcome home; we got a lot together to do”. “I am simply a Ugandan waiting for my brothers in the LRA to come home. You are forgiven.
It is time for peace,” Chameleone said at the time he was to launch his Tubonge hit in South Sudan last year. He adds, “Sadly, Joseph Kony is yet to get out of the bushes. The last promising news of him ending his rebellious activities was November last year, when BBC reported that he was in “surrender talks” with Central African Republic government.
Maybe if the rebel leader sat down today, away from his demonic activities, to listen to Tubonge attentively, he could change his mind and come out of the jungle.” Tubonge is the kind of gospel tune that will place a cold hand on the back of your neck when it is burning with anger and then whisper into your ear: “Let’s sit down and make peace.” The song is already playing mainstream with its video a staple on most TV channels.
The song’s attempt to portray Chameleone as a gospel singer also sounds like a square deal sweeping him off his scandalous lifestyle. Whatever uplifting song of Chameleone you fancy; there is that ear-pricking message that relates with you. Yes, his hard Afro-beats might sway you to swing your feet back and forth the Badilisha way, but sometimes you will be compelled to stop your indulgence and take in the message from one of his lines in his raspy voice. In this society laden with folks dripping with ruthless envy, jealousy and doomsayers, Chameleone has reminded people that we are not born with the same carton of luck in Omukisa Gwo.
In our society burdened with unappreciative folks ready to shoot down any positive effort, he has reminded people that many will appreciate your efforts while you are gone in Basiima Ogenze. Chamelone has also asked people to focus on their life priorities and let doubters do the hot-air talking in his song Nekolela Maali. What has he left out? Chameleone has proved to be an observant artiste over the times, who studies many of life’s best cues and compose songs out of them that are vivid in message, tempo and complexity.
That knack to record such preachy Afro-beat songs, yearly, is the reason the Leone Island boss is making it in the music industry. He has carved himself a niche of connecting with audiences anywhere over the years that his fans adhere to anything he sings, as long as it fl ows. His Afrobeat is a result of Ugandan folk, central African rumba, Zouk and reggae mix. While the Badilisha star’s musical journey that started in the ‘90s has been riddled with controversies, he sings about them in his songs and his fans swiftly forgive him for his deeds.
Chameleone’s main breakthrough was in 1999 when he recorded his fi rst album, Bageya, but the hit was Mama Mia, recorded with the then Kenyan-recording outfi t Ogopa Deejays that swept Ugandans off their feet. Since then he has gone on to release eleven more albums like Njo Karibu and The Golden Voice in 2003, Mambo Bado in 2004, Kipepeo in 2005, Shida za Dunia in 2006, Sivyo Ndivyo, Katupakase in 2007, Bayuda in 2009, Vumilia in 2010, Valu Valu in 2012, and Badilisha in 2013. These efforts from Chameleone are seen when sat in a buscorridor to Nairobi to launch his career. “It’s been perfect to work with Chameleone,” the singer’s manager, Sam Mukasa, says. “Chameleone always has his fans in mind when composing music.
Ronald Mugabe, a corporate communications specialist says, “Chameleone is an exceptional singer I believe he can do any genre and pull it off. I liked the message in Tubonge the fi rst time I listened to it. I pondered on the relevant messages and it sounded inspirational. I would like to rate it alongside Moto Moto, another interesting song he sang that also has good lyrics.”
Who is Jose Chameleone?
Born 35 years ago, Joseph Mayanja aka Chameleone is the eldest son of Gerald and Prossy Mayanja. His family has musical roots the reason his siblings Weasel (Ronald Mayanja) and AK47 are also in the music industry. He went to Nakasero Primary School, Katikamu SDA, Mengo Secondary School and Kawempe Muslim Secondary School where he is remembered for winning a competition to write the school’s anthem.
His victory at the school won him a bursary. Chameleone is married to Daniella Atim and the couple has three children. He is also a member of the musician’s community, a musician’s coalition that use their fame and fortune to help eradicate poverty and create HIV awareness campaigns. He is an Afro-beat musician who majors in three languages in Luganda, English and Kiswahili. Several of his songs have yielded popular catchphrases, including Basiima Ogenze, Shida Za Dunia, Nekolera Maali and Badilisha.
INSPIRED BY CHAMELEONE’S SONGS
Dixon Bond Okello, an Events security head
Tubonge is a good hit. I like it because the song addresses community issues. He asks people to sit down and resolve their issues. Having worked on Chameleone’s events, I know this song will attract him crowds at his launch.
Kyamagero Andrew, a TV news anchor
The meaning of Chameleone’s song Tubonge has been the debate in town. However, it is a nice song and the video tells the whole story. Once in a while Chameleone draws his fans back to God.
Gertrude Nanyonjo, a street parking operator
I loved the video without knowing what the song meant. But over time, I came to like the lyrics that implored us to choose peace. All Chameleone’s songs, are meaningful and very interesting.
Catch Musicians Making a Difference Recognition ceremony live on the four Vision Group TV stations of Urban TV, Bukedde 1, Bukedde 2 and TV West on January 31 from 7:30pm - 8:30pm