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Bobi Wine rough as a musician, smooth as a father

By Vision Reporter

Added 11th September 2014 07:30 PM

He has recorded over 70 songs since his breakthrough in 2002. Despite Bobi Wine's celebrity status, he still balances work and family, Steven Odeke discovered.

Bobi Wine rough as a musician, smooth as a father

He has recorded over 70 songs since his breakthrough in 2002. Despite Bobi Wine's celebrity status, he still balances work and family, Steven Odeke discovered.

He has recorded over 70 songs since his breakthrough in 2002. Despite Bobi Wine's celebrity status,  he still balances work and family, Steven Odeke  discovered.

Finding him at his home located in Magere village of Wakiso district, Bobi Wine (real name Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi) is making sounds laced with patois. Only his sounds reverberate in the vast compound that sits on 15.8 acres of land he purchased in 2003 from his then popular songs Kagoma and Funtula.

Bobi Wine performing at one of the concerts. Many of his songs are society-conscious

Nothing can be made of what he is singing about, as we approach him. Maybe he is composing a song that would reignite a fire in his music career sooner rather than later, who knows?

But then, Bobi Wine does not need any golden bauble to certify his majesty as a musician in Uganda. He could be making those sounds just to keep his voice in check as is the norm for musicians, that could even be his way of living at home
His three children, Solomon Kampala Nyanzi, Shalom Namagembe and Shadraq Shilling Mbogo, run towards us to unlock the gates and usher us inside their plush compound, and their palatial mansion.

Inside the mansion, the couple offers us their greetings, “I beg you not to take pictures of me in my house. I am a Muganda man and I am not supposed to expose what is in my house to everyone,” Bobi Wine politely requests our photographers, who want a relaxed photo of him at his home.

Starting small

The man who was denying us photo moments in his house is a well-documented artiste, who grappled with all colours of hardships to hit the top. This is someone, who once sold grasshoppers in his A’level vacation (1998) to save money to record a song of good quality.

And today, at just 32, Bobi Wine has recorded over 70 or so songs since his breakthrough in 2002 with Akagoma. Many of his songs are society-conscious such as Taata wa Baana, Maama Mbire, Wendi, Adam Ne Kawa, Abulungi Balumya, Mazzi Mawanvu, Mr. Money and Carolina, among others. His style is a reggae/dancehall approach that has garnered him a wider appeal.

Married to Barbie Itungo Kyagulanyi, the self-proclaimed ghetto president grew up in the ghettos of Kamwokya, a Kampala suburb.

He still carries himself around like some ghetto youth, noticeably with a spring in his gait, dreadlocks, loud patois-laced manner of speaking and indulging in a certain lifestyle. Perhaps he behaves the way he does not to forget his ghetto roots.

Grooming children

But doesn’t that ghetto-like image seep into his young family and affect it? The more reason we paid him a visit at his home to find out his mode of parenting. How does Bobi Wine, who publicly carries an image of a rogue ghetto youth, behave when he is with his young family?

“My children are clearly aware that I am an entertainer so they do not expect me to wear suits all the time. But, I have tried so hard not to let my work issues affect them. When I am at home, I am a father to my children, not a musician with his family. I am their best friend at home,” he says.

Bobi Wine says his job as a father is to teach his children how to survive. “I have this big garden at home and I always ensure we go together to dig and get food, whenever we can. I do that because I want them to learn to live an ordinary life, not as a celebrity’s children,” he says.

Bobi Wine says he grew up not having everything a child wanted, but his mother always taught him how to work hard to earn a living. He did so many odd jobs to survive while growing up and that life shaped him to know what was good and bad for him.

“So, it is my role to teach my children such survival skills. I do not know what they will be in future, but I would like to be one to guide them to their dreams even if I wish one of them becomes a musician like me,” he says.

But do his three children even harbour ambitions of ever emulating their father? At least not his six-year-old daughter Namagembe. 

“I want to be a teacher in future because I like teaching other children,” her innocent response says it all.

For nine-year-old Nyanzi, the couple’s first-born, he wants to be something different. “I want to be richer than Sudhir (Ruparelia) in future by being a pilot, lawyer and musician when I grow up because all three jobs have their advantages. I can make $2,000 (about sh5.2m) a day with those jobs. Already, my mother is teaching me how to save money,” he says.

Bobi Wine takes us to his expansive garden just to show us what he has taught his children. His children join him to pick amaranth (a leafy edible green plant known as dodo) to be eaten for dinner that day. Amazingly, they knew how to go about gardening. 

“I wanted you to see how good they are in the garden. I rarely buy food because I have it in the garden. Over time, Barbie and I have taught them how to pick vegetables for supper and other crops such as sugarcane,” he says.

Bobi Wine jokes that it also helps that their mother is a better ‘villager’ than he is when it comes to farming. She grew up a farmer under a richer family than his and that has helped their children a lot.

So, how does Bobi Wine live with his children at home? As a musician, does he extend his public lifestyle that has won him a sect of fans towards his family?

“I do not drink alcohol. My children will never see me staggering home any time or “high” on anything. Every day, I wake up early in the morning; we say a prayer and then I take a jog of 10km as they go to school,” he says.

Bobi Wine says on weekends, he takes them to his beach at Busaabala and they have fun as a family.

“If you make a mistake, dad warns you five times. Then when you go wrong again he puts on a tough face and speaks in a deep voice. That is when you realise there is trouble, but again he would not slap you, that is what I like about my father,” says Nyanzi.

Bobi and his children in his garden. He makes sure they acquire life skills to be better people in the future


Father figure

Being a musician shrouded in all manners of attention, good or bad, the Bada singer  gives the impression of a man who, should he find himself capsized in a storm of controversy, would be able to find the last piece of debris to cling onto with a prize fish clamped between his teeth.

“The difficult times for me are when I get bad publicity. It can be so disturbing. Whenever something bad about me is written in the press, my son Nyanzi rushes home from school and asks me about it all,” he says.

Bobi Wine adds that he has always found ways of explaining it to Nyanzi. He also explains about his work as a musician and circumstances that come with it,” he explains.

On ensuring children behave well, Bobi says: “Always make children your friends as parents. I do not like caning children, but I find a way of punishing them. Caning them is never the level to start from, but warning them and guiding them is the best way to send your message across,” he says.

Bobi Wine says sometimes he punishes them by giving gifts to the well-behaved. One way he has groomed his children to be themselves is to ensure they do not live as celebrity’s children.

He rarely picks them from Kabojja Junior School, but lets them ride on the school bus with the rest of the pupils.

“Dad rarely picks us from school, but whenever he comes by, it is like a launch,” says Nyanzi, summing up the kind of attention that, perhaps, their father does not wish for his children.

Barbie, his wife speaks out

I will give Bobi as many children as he wants

Barbie Itungo says she has the kind of husband she wished for  while growing up. “He is my dream husband and a good father to my children. My future changed when I met him. Growing up, I wanted to be a resourceful woman. What I like about him is that he is a strategist, who is aware of everything he does,” she says.

Barbie says her status as Bobi Wine’s wife, a celebrity, has earned her recognition and many friends. But because a person like Bobi Wine would not be short of foes from the music industry and all, she has found herself sometimes trapped in her husband’s mazes.

“It is exciting to be a famous person’s wife. You are easily noticed in public and even sometimes get served faster,” she says.

Itungo says the problem is that when you are a celebrity, people sometimes expect you to be happy all the time just because you are a known person, yet sometimes you are just not yourself.

“Many times, I have had men hit on me just because I am Bobi Wine’s wife. Good thing is, my husband is aware,” she says.

When asked whether they will stop at three children only, Barbie assures there is no limitation in their family.

“I will give Bobi Wine as many children as he wants. He comes from a family of many children and I am sure he will not have a limit to the number of children he wants. ”

Counsellor's note

Advice on parenting

Parenting requires one to go an extra mile, whether you are an entertainer or not. How artistes conduct themselves before their children matters a lot. Treat others well and your children will observe and learn from you. If you have made a genuine mistake in public, apologise to the family.

Children believe by seeing, so if you misbehave in public, they will do to others what you do since you are a celebrity parent.

People like Bobi Wine should speak more with action than words. They should always entertain their families and take them out on picnics and to church.

Joseph Musaalo, a councillor, Uganda Christian University, Mukono


Bobi Wine bonding with one of his children and teaching him self-defence techniques

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