Catherine Kusasira during her Tears of Woman concert at Serena Hotel
Uganda’s nightlife continued to vibrate, with more clubs, bars and lounges opening each week.
The year 2019 saw a diverse set of highlights of the entertainment scene in Uganda, proving that each year brings more eye-catching offerings that build on the slate of the previous year.
Uganda’s nightlife continued to vibrate, with more clubs, bars and lounges opening each week. 2019, however, was not rosy for all entrants and players in the sector. The trend of Ugandans taking to partying at venues that are close to their neighbourhoods meant that business for bars and clubs in the city is on the wane.
Club Amnesia, which had been a centre-point for revellers in the city, was a major victim of this wave. After nine years, the Jinja Road-based bar was closed. Its proprietors looked towards Salaama Road and are on the verge of opening a new and swanky bar in the area.
Film Industry renews promise
The Uganda Federation of Movie Industry (UFMI) aggressively promoted Ugandan movies through the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) initiative.
In May, local filmmakers, in the company of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), also participated in the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in France.
The Uganda Registration Service Bureau’s enforcement unit and the UFMI raided different malls and suburbs in Kampala to detain those allegedly involved in the illegal duplication and sale of local films.
Socialites and Influencers marching on Perennial socialite Zari Hassan kept tongues wagging with a rumoured engagement and wedding, which all of a sudden went silent.
Observers saw her manoeuvres as attempts towards outdoing her previous flame, Diamond Platinum, in the news. Diamond, who had a bitter split with Zari, was in final preparations to wed his latest beau, Tanasha Donna from Kenya.
In her footsteps, Slay Queens and influencers continued to dominate social media and social conversation, cementing a new and complex form of urban culture. Social Media became the platform for social conversation in Uganda.
On the music front, beyond the emergence of new artistes such as Fresh Kid, and some good concerts that took place, John Blaq and Spice Diana continued to have a good year. Some other artistes inched closer to the global level.
Swangz Avenue’s Vinka signed a record deal with Sony, while Irene Ntale, her predecessor at the label garnered a similar contract with Universal Records Nigeria. It is, however, not yet clear how the two agreements will transform the careers of the two artistes, following the previous flop of Keko, who had signed with Sony in 2012.
The general feeling is that global record labels commodify artistes to their international audience, and as a result alienate them from their local audiences.
John Blaq and A Pass also remained brand ambassadors for Pepsi and Jumia respectively, keeping contracts in the highly volatile arena of celebrity sponsorships.
Sheeba Karungi entered her palatial mansion in Bunga, a house built from proceeds from her music career. She used the opportunity to rally other female musicians to work hard and “be like her”.
A few memorable live concerts marked the year 2019: Catherine Kusasira held her sold-out Tears of Woman concert at Serena Hotel, an event that was attended by President Yoweri Museveni.
Mesach Semakula, her colleague in Golden Band, also staged his My Journey concert, at Hotel Africana, an event that hosted the Kabaka of Buganda.
Afro-fusion star Kenneth Mugabi launched his second album at Design Hub, Afrigo Band released its long-awaited album Teri Mubi at a colourful concert at Hotel Africana; and Afro-Reggae singer Maddox Sematimba had a memorable live show at the Sheraton Hotel.
Entertainment and politics played along in the year. Singer Jose Chameleone was unveiled as a national mobiliser, by the Democratic Party (DP). Bobi Wine proceeded with his antiestablishment activities, which prompted his concerts to remain in a balance. Law enforcement officers insisted that he must detach music from politics, to avoid inciting his crowds. Nevertheless, he has used social media to articulate his political positions.
Singing duo, Esther and Ezekiel won the first-ever East Africa’s Got Talent event held in Nairobi Kenya. The siblings, whose mother Julie Mutesasira has also made a mark as a crooner on the local scene earned $50,000, in the first edition of the highly contested competition.
A look at 2020
This year promises to bring more excitement to the entertainment scene. Being an election year, several players are expected to formally launch their campaigns for political office. So far, Bobi Wine, Chameleone, Ronald Mayinja, Dr. Hilderman, Radio Presenter Patrico Mujuuka, Promoter Kayemba, Catherine Kusasira and Khalifah Aganaga, have expressed interest in joining politics. Not only will they be jostling for votes, but they are also likely to release records in support of their bids.
As the youth votes appears more crucial than ever before, President Yoweri Museveni is likely to record new music and also draft top musicians to his campaign programme.
Musically, Remah Namakula is expected to seal her nuptials with her new-found love in a very big way. Her ex-fiancé Kenzo could unveil a new woman in his life, giving the public a lot more to talk about. Spice Diana, who is expected to have a very good year, shall open the year with a concert slated for January.
Esther and Ezekiel, the winning duo at East Africa’s Got Talent (EAGT) may launch their recording career. Another season of EAGT is anticipated. Following the success of this year’s editions, the Goats Race, Blankets and Wine, Rolex and Nyege Nyege festivals are likely to be key events to experience this year. Going by the saucy pictures that went around after Nyege Nyege, ethics minister Father Simon Lokodo could push for regulation of the event.
Beauty Pageants will remain a mainstay on the entertainment scene, and Miss Uganda and Miss Curvy shall be the principal pageants to look out for. Although it made losses this year, Miss Curvy promises to attract more sponsors and public support for the event that showcases endowed women.
Despite word around town that Uganda was slated to host the Music Television (MTV) MAMA awards 2019, the event did not materialise. It is expected that Uganda could host one of the African continent’s most prestigious awards in 2020.