“Don’t be a fall. The belt it tied up here”, my brother Robert told me as he pulled his pants towards his chest. Robert, unlike us who grew up in Ntungamo, over 380 Kms from Kampala, had lived in Kampala. He had returned after 3 years of staying away.
So I pulled mine till it split my behind. The grey-walker trousers that had been customised and designed to touch the heels by our local tailor, were now almost up towards the knee, exposing my white socks. So we walked to church and the village kids looked at us in wonderment. We were like a tourist attraction. When we explained that that’s how Kampala kids wore their trousers, soon everyone was doing it our way. At the Well, everyone surrounded him to hear and share their stories. Everything he did, even if a mistake, we thought was the way to go. We put on our caps – for those who had them – backwards, slipped our feet into shoes without socks on Sunday and ate porridge with spoons instead of cups. It was typical monkey-see, monkey-do, for us. Everything from Kampala was seen as the eish … without TV or electricity and with Radio Uganda only saved for evening news and radio announcements, we had no choice but to believe him.
The same astonishment with which we admired and changed to appeal to our brother then is how many of our artistes act. They hate everything Ugandan and are very excited about their music being played on an international channel, even when that channel is only watched by a handful of listeners. We have slowly lost our Ugandan sound and are now having every artiste trying to play the tempo and style that dominates the Nigerian channels. When their song plays on a Nigerian or South African channel once, they are all over the place as if they have won a medal.
Recently, a Tanzanian channel came here and big artistes lined up, waiting hours for their turn to take their interview on a channel that is hardly watched here. For artistes that predominantly sing in Luganda, how much more value would such channels add onto them and their music? Strangely, it’s not unusual for these same artistes to miss an interview or an appearance for a Ugandan channel that is by and large the biggest reason they are known here.
When an international artiste comes to town, big names that we respect here, turn themselves into body guards, super glueing onto them with the hope of getting a collabo. Those who do, often never hear their songs promoted in those countries which probably would be the reason they are benching for them anyway. What a waste of pride and time!
If anyone has been to these countries, it’s no secret that the radios, TVs and Clubs there only play their homeboys’ music. If you are lucky, you will get to hear or dance to one or two songs from Radio and Weasel, Sheebah and maybe Kenzo. So, why are we down on our knees, bending backwards to appear foreign? Nigerians aren’t big because they are trying to be Americans but rather, original in their Nigerianness if that exists. South Africans break through, not because they try to be British, but because of authentic Kwaito beats and currently Amapiano sound. Even here, the most memorable acts weren’t carbon copies of other sounds but truly Ugandan sounds. Take for instance Kenzo’s ‘sitya loss’ song that went viral and transformed him into an international act. Or the ‘mad’ tunes of Radio and Weasel!
If we are going to be competitive, we need to love ourselves as Ugandans first. Push the Ugandan sound. Love and support Ugandan channels that play your music so that we can push more and more to play Ugandan music. Eventually, they will love us for who we are.
Bebe Cool has raised his voice on the continued influx of foreign artistes into the country for shows and how expensive they turn out to be for the population. How can this change if Bebe and his colleagues in the music industry want to sound, dress and eat like the imports he is trying to attack? Tweddeko!
By Innocent Nahabwe
CEO at BlueCube Limited Incorporating Kagwirawo sports betting, 100.2 Galaxy FM, Bluecube, Katogo 24 and 911 Lounge Salaama Rd, Kampala
Deputy Chairperson of National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).