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Perennial wars, rivalry in the music industry

By Vision Reporter

Added 19th February 2010 03:00 AM

RECENTLY, the country was stunned by the shooting of Bebe Cool at Nakumatt parking yard. He alleged it was masterminded by Mozey Radio and Weasel, and the two were summoned and questioned by the police.
That was yet another of the seemingly unending fights between musicians.

RECENTLY, the country was stunned by the shooting of Bebe Cool at Nakumatt parking yard. He alleged it was masterminded by Mozey Radio and Weasel, and the two were summoned and questioned by the police.
That was yet another of the seemingly unending fights between musicians.

By Joseph Batte

RECENTLY, the country was stunned by the shooting of Bebe Cool at Nakumatt parking yard. He alleged it was masterminded by Mozey Radio and Weasel, and the two were summoned and questioned by the police.
That was yet another of the seemingly unending fights between musicians.

Not long ago, Jose Chameleone’s bodyguard beat up a journalist and the matter was settled out of court. Bobi Wine was also in court on charges of assaulting a soldier, Muhammed Wasswa, during a music concert in Makindye, Kampala.

When many of these popular musicians bump into each other, they fight like wild dogs. It only goes to the media when there are injuries. Some fans enjoyed the drama surrounding Bebe Cool’s shooting. But it is a chilling indication that Ugandan entertainment has become a disgrace.

Many fans’ patience is running out. People who called into radio shows expressed anger.

Bebe Cool, Bobi Wine, Chameleone and more recently, Mozey Radio and Weasel have occasionally brought smiles on our faces with their bubblegum music. We have made them rich with our hard earned cash. Some now have bungalows, fleets of cars and high-tech recording studios. As they grew bigger, so did their names; Munenemunene, Doctor, His Excellency and Mazzi Mawanvu. Sometimes, they charge us an arm and leg just to watch them mime or sing along to pre-recorded CDs. Many people look up to them as role models.

But it does not stop at physical attacks. In fact, it is most common in songs. “In the 1960s and 1970s, such incidences were unheard of,” says Moses Matovu, leader and founding member of Afrigo Band, formed in 1975. “We respected each other. But the most important thing is, we never joined the music industry to make money as is the case today. It was our love for music. We had issues among ourselves but we dealt with them out of the public eye.”

How the wars started

The first publicised fight between musicians took place in the 1990s. It was between the late Kadongo Kamu singers Herman Basudde and Livingstone Kasozi.

Basudde thought artistes could only make money through concerts. Kasozi took advantage of his lack of knowledge to sell recordings to music promoters like Kassajja Emporium or Kasiwukira. On four occasions, he ripped him off by selling his (Basudde) master tapes to promoters for millions of shillings and then paying him peanuts. For instance, he paid Basudde only sh30,000 for his top-selling Mukyala Mugerwa album.

When Basudde eventually discovered that Kasozi was exploiting him, he was so bitter that he wrote ‘Enimiro y’okubuganga,’ a hard-hitting song about exploiters. Its pointed lyrics were aimed at Kasozi, but he masked the words so well in colourful poetic Luganda for fear of being kicked out Lukwata Guitar Singers, which was led by Kasozi.
When Kasozi failed to decipher the message in the song, Basudde fired another broadside at him with Abankunsere, in which he described him as a parasite who thrives on other people’s sweat.

This time, Kasozi discovered he was a subject matter and hit back with Kazimba mu Lumuli, where he attacked Basudde. He reminded him how shabby and smelly he was when he joined his Lukwata Singers and rounded up his verbal attack with a reference to his protruding teeth (Ebinyo).

Bakayimbira Drama Actors members like Charles Senkubuge and Benon Kibuuka intervened before the feud could get out of control. They called for a cessation of hostilities and organised a reunion concert at Nakivubo Stadium, which sold out.

Both artistes died in 1996. Kasozi succumbed to AIDS-related conditions and Basudde perished in a gruesome accident on his way to Masaka a few months later.

Bebe Cool, Bobi Wine Vs Jose Chameleone

Bebe Cool and Chameleone were budding musicians who could not break the stranglehold that Shanks Vivie Dee and Ragga Dee had on the market. When Cool decided to try out his luck in Nairobi, Kenya, he found things were better and invited Chameleone to join him. They went on to form the East African Bashment Crew, which caused quite a stir in Nairobi.

As fate would have it, lady luck smiled on Chameloene. He got a mzungu wife ‘Dorotia,’ and teamed with Ogopa DJs to record Mama Mia. He returned to Uganda with Dorotia and when his Mama Mia was played on radio, it instantly propelled him to local stardom. It sounded modern and different from the local Afro pop sound that Ugandans were accustomed to.

When news of Chameleone’s newfound fame in Uganda filtered back to Bebe Cool in Kenya, he jumped on the next bus and returned, hoping that his buddy, Chameleone, would return the favour and also help him re-launch his career in Uganda.

Chameleone didn’t. Instead, he reminded Bebe Cool (and on several occasions said): “Bebe Cool has to find his own way out. It is sheer hard work that got me where I am today.” Bebe Cool felt betrayed. “This is a man I helped. Now he is bragging that he is a star,” he remarked at the time. That was the beginning of the wars that have almost cost him both legs in a recent police shoot out. Bebe Cool went on the offensive.

He teamed up with Bobi Wine, who at the time was riding on the strength of his Kagoma ka Lubendera and they wrote Funtula. In the song, they attacked Chameleone, whom they described as a two-ribbed, worthless, butt rider (homosexual), who lived in a rented room and got married to a sugar mummy because of her money.

The two even went physical. Oftentimes they would storm DV8 pub, on Wilson Road, then a favourite hangout of Chameleone’s and upcoming artistes and threaten to plunge a knife in his stomach. Scared, Chameleone would run to Kampala Central Police Station to report them.

Bebe Cool’s reaction was: “We are still backward in Uganda. This is how things are done abroad. You create a situation, an imaginary war with your rival artiste, but with the sole purpose of getting publicity. That’s how the Jamaicans and Americans do it. Why can’t we do it here in Uganda?” he asked.

In 2003, he ‘stole the show’ at the PAM’ Awards in Munyonyo, when he stood on Nagginda’s table. “It worked for me,” he said. “Attention was diverted from Chameleone who won the prestigious Artiste of the Year award to Bebe Cool who stood on Nagginda’s table.”

However, not all the stunts worked in his favour. The fight he and Bobi Wine put up against Chameleone backfired. “Public sympathy shifted towards Chameleone,” he revealed in a recent interview. “We were regarded by the public as the offenders who were always high on drugs. I decided to stop. Unfortunately, Bobi Wine continued fighting with Chameleone.”

Bobi Wine vs Jose Chameleone

The longest running feud has been between Chameleone and Bobi Wine. Some people say it started when Chameleone found Bobi Wine dressed in a knee-length coat and trousers and told him: “You actually look like Abdu Muraasi!”
Bobi Wine was offended and retorted: “Ka Chameleone kepankapanka”.
Abdu Muraasi, who had breezed on the scene as a contemporary Kadongo kamu singer, had a knack for turning up in outlandish, ill-fitting costumes like Bobi Wine’s suit that Chameleone had referred to.

But Chameleone was not a saint in all this. He has a reputation for being reactionary, unpredictable and keeps changing colours like the small animal he named himself after, the chameleon. When he says ‘Yes,’ he might be meaning ‘No.’

As for fighting, Chameleone is a renowned coward. “Since his childhood, he always feared the stick,” his father, Mayanja, revealed. He would actually fall sick at the sight of a cane.”

DJ Shiru added: “Before he got bodyguards, if you threatened to beat him, he would disappear until things had cooled down.”
His elder brother Humphrey said a few years ago: “He is very wise. If he cannot fight you, he will use others to do it for him.”

Bebe Cool vs Goodlyfe crew

When Mozey Radio and Weasel were still members of Chameleone’s Leon Islands Crew, they met Bebe Cool in the company of Zuena in Club Silk. Cool says Mozey Radio tried to block their path as they walked in. “I slapped him across the face and he fell down,” he revealed on Vision Voice Diaspora show. “I reported them to police for assaulting me and they were locked up,” he says.

Mozey, who holds an upper second class degree in psychology from Makerere University, said: “Bebe Cool is stronger than me. How can I challenge him? I decided to fight him with the best weapon I have, my psychology.” So, together with Weasel, Mozey wrote Zuena, a masked reference to Bebe Cool’s wife and even got a beautiful, light skinned girl to feature in the video as Zuena.

The song left Bebe Cool seething with anger that last year he recorded Cartoon and Baboon. He explained that cartoon represents rail-thin Mozey Radio while Weasel, with his broad face and dark skin is, the exact caricature of a baboon.
Radio and Weasel replied with Mr Ability. But the most sickening war of words between Bebe Cool and Goodlyfe Crew is in the groove-filled Happy Birthday Muliro by Mr Tortus who is a member of the Goodlyfe Crew. Tortus questions Bebe Cool’s claim that his father is Bindadi Ssali. He also claims that one of his children belongs to another man.

The relationship with Bebe Cool and Goodlyfe crew has deteriorated so badly that when he was shot, they turned down a suggestion from the Federation of Ugandan Musicians to put aside their differences or to go and visit him in the hospital.

“We don’t care whether he dies or not,” they told the committee. “Why should we feel sorry for Bebe Cool? Where were you when he was thumping us like we were kids? He disrespects us, so we cannot respect him.”

Chameleone vs Goodlyfe crew

When Chameleone sacked his long time manager, Jeff Kiwanuka, Radio and Weasel left to join Jeff.

But rumours started that Jeff wooed the two to ditch Chameleone at Steak Out during their Nakudata launch. He volunteered to manage them. It is said Jeff owns the largest shares in the group (35%), followed by Mozey Radio with 30%.

What Ugandans think of the fights
Moses Matovu, Afrigo Band
During our time, we never had such issues. These wars all point to one thing, poor upbringing. Young artistes should respect each other.

Apollo Kagimu, artiste

It shows lack of discipline. Stardom has got to their heads and they love throwing their weight around. How do you exchange hot words with an armed person? If you push him hard, he will pull the trigger.

Siima Sabiiti, musician
The Uganda market is so small for all of them to fit in. So, they are fighting for space to survive.

David Wasswa, journalist

It is a pity that our musicians are copying things. Their speech, dressing and mannerisms are all foreign.

Joseph Muhire
The Government should act. If you have been offended, use the law.

Isaac Ruccibingango of the Federation of Ugandan Musicians
We have toiled to establish this industry. We will not let a few individuals ruin it. We will work with security and anybody caught will end up behind bars.

Publicity stunts have been part of the showbiz for a long time. The late Michael Jackson was renowned for staging publicity stunts. His photographs sleeping in an oxygen chamber were leaked to the press. Such stunts help bring new fire to the dimming flames.

Unfortunately, our artistes have failed to confine their stunts to the lyrics.
Producer Joe Tabula summed it up in three words: “They lack talent.” After scoring a minor hit, they are not sure they are going to score another success with another song.

The music industry is open to all. One does not need to go to a music school.
The hip hop and Jamaican gangster culture has also caught up with us. This explains why they behave like real-life thugs by smoking marijuana and glorifying violence.

Chameleone’s Vumilia video clip was turned down by MTV Base because he was filmed brandishing an AK 47 riffle. So, where did he get the gun?

Perennial wars, rivalry in the music industry

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