I used to have a dream that one day I would get the chance to write a book of essays of impressions some of Uganda’s leading cultural lights have made on me. That dream is further from coming to life in the life I’m living right now than it ever was, I’m afraid I might never be able to write that book I wanted so much to write. But today is a good day, I’m in nostalgia mode and because I heard someone I work with fulsomely holding a whole room spell bound with his tale of how Bobi Wine cannot construct a sentence in English and I wanted to make a few things clear. From what I remember I know…
Bebe Cool is no an uncultured rogue with no manners just because he once so long stomped on immaculate dinner tables. He is an entertainer, one of the best whose live shows I have attended. To see him in full flow alternately delighting and teasing a crowd is a treat you will never forget. Then there is his range we shall talk about another day! If you wish for manners, come to the Bebe Cool home like I have been, past Ntinda, and show me a man who is more courteous to his wife than this estranged son of a former minister or a more doting dad. I have seen Bebe Cool the family man and despite his awesome talent, at the drop of a hat he would quit music if he believed his family life would be better for it.
Bobi Wine is no drug addled fool who somehow happened to stumble into the riches he enjoys today. He is one of the intelligent people you will ever meet. Note that I did not say musicians. People, as in yes, put him in a room with you and me and his knowledge will leave you shocked. He maybe the center of attention wherever he goes but there are few people who are more observant than Bobi Wine. Those hits you hear boda boda guys connecting with are from a brain that lives more than most of us ever demand our minds live.
Jose Chameleone chose his moniker well. You can make all the jokes you will about how all his posse fall under some reptile name but Chameleone has achieved the feat of being many things to many people. And making it seem effortless. I have seen him deal with his parents, his brothers, his hangers-on, girlfriend (s), musicians of equal stature, promoters with unsmiling corporate types, mechanics in the space of an hour and each time it was a totally different being with each of them and it was no show. Chameleone is just as much an artist in his life as he is in his home studio.
Juliana Kanyomozi is not as mean and so much a diva as you read in the press. She is as much a victim of her fame as the prime recipient of its rewards and she is learning on the job how to handle the kind of fame where she actually has to deal with stalkers. To know who to trust everyday is a moment to moment decision. Eye-level she is shy and sweet, and sometimes you will find the girl she used to be when she first started out at Hope Mukasa’s Sabrina’s Pub.
Iryn Namubiru is one of the damaged people I have ever met who is unfortunate enough to be an artist that the pain of her past is ever with her more than it would be if her senses were less acute. It has made her a fighter, a schemer, a tad bit hard with a glint in her eyes but her son has been a redeeming influence; no one appreciates the journey she is on more than she does. She is the artist least likely to ever trip up and if she does, you will know she trusted someone more than she trusts herself.
Ragga Dee has a secret sadness he never talks about, has drowned out with his joi de vivre, his lyrics, his drinking and a resolute driveness that would not be out of place in New York and even there would be cause for pause. I have sat at table with him four hours straight and while around us the company dozed off, sat back and became uncouth, gave up the night and wandered home, Ragga Dee was never going to sleep or sit still; this is a man who has not said all he has to say.
There are some sad stories, some puzzling stories, some to make you catch your breath, some to make you laugh out loud and some that will leave you begging for more and maybe I will have the chance to tell them all. Today I do not.