Singer Joseph Mayanja aka Jose Chameleone has been in the industry for about 17 years now but the last time he sat down for an interview with the Daily Monitor was almost five years ago. Lawrence Ogwal & Isaac Ssejjombwe sought him out about his dwindling music career, Karamoja promises and family.
You never grant journalists interviews. Why do you distance yourself from the media?
The higher you go the cooler it becomes. Responsibilities pile up on us everyday and you will realise that my activities last year were few. I have not distanced myself from journalists because I want to, but rather because I have so many commitments such as family and my farm.
But how come suddenly you are on every TV?
The reason I have been firing my managers is because they have failed to manage my time and a lot of other things besides music. So I have just decided to manage my time.
Should we say Sam Mukasa was your best manager since you spent the most time with him?
Sam Mukasa was different from other managers, at least he tried to manage my time even though it was barely there. I actually realised that after he left. You can have a manager who makes money but at the end of the day, it does not make him the best manager, he was just my best friend.
Why was there no concert for Chameleone last year yet you used to have them every year?
First ask Julianna Kanyomozi why she has not done so many concerts for so many years. Why am I subjected to a concert every year.
But your fans demand you give them a show every year…
I know, but if you are going to run by a certain theory then your going to crush your time. Creativity needs time. Maybe last year I wanted to take a break, which I think is normal. For the past years, people have thought making one song means a concert, I wanted to give it time so that people can come and get more than three songs. I also had to take a break because of the political storm (Tubonge Naawe) that we had. Uganda has just regained stability; every business was halted, why would I do business in a dry season? Scarcity creates demand, you see how people are anticipating for the concert, If I had one last year, it wouldn’t be the same.
The Hit after Hit concert is a compilation of all your best songs, does it mean you are taking a break from music?
People that have run out of music have taken a break but I was born a musician. I am trying to rejuvenate my music. For example, an events promoter will fly in UB-40 and they will fill up Cricket Oval yet they last sang in 1990, why is it okay for them to do it and not us? People fill up Obligato every day yet Afrigo has no new music. I am therefore trying to check out the purpose of my old music and see what it can do for me today.
What has Chameleone done that is going to raise the Ugandan music industry?
People love music and they support it but we can be better than that. I have ordered for 50,000 Ugandan flags and I will give one to everyone who will come for the show. I want to remind them that this product is Ugandan, let us buy and support Uganda to the next level.
We see Bobi Wine has gone political, Bebe Cool claims he is going international with his expensive videos, where do you stand?
Maybe Bebe Cool has just gone there so he is excited. If I can flash you back, in 2005 I was nominated for MTV Europe – was that an international or local event? Bebe has a right to jubilate but it is the way I have been living. Ugandan artistes should not mistake the word international. Having your music play on local TVs does not mean you are international because back there, those TVs are local. Shaggy in Jamaica is a local artiste, BET is a local station in Carlifonia. The definition of International artiste is being recognised internationally. I have gone for Coke Studio twice, I even sent my children Radio and Weasel and then my grandchildren Eddy Kenzo, Lydia Jazmine and Ykee Benda, among others while Bebe Cool was just taken there this year by Ali Alibhai. I was there on merit.
Talking about awards, many Ugandan artistes have pulled out of local awards, have you?
Ugandan music awards have not yet gained momentum that is the problem; they look at musicians as assets to excite their business. What criteria are they using to judge? If you want to chase Chameleone from your awards, give him the Lifetime Achievers Award, and if he returns the next year tell him he is going to give out an award. That is how you get rid of him.
You had a charity concert at Kampala Serena Hotel recently, was it a one-off or do we see more charity events coming from you?
One of the reasons I have stood out of public charity is because it has a lot of challenges. I still do charity; I have paid school fees for someone in Jinja since Primary Three to Senior Three. The only problem is that public charity brings lots of disappointment because you depend on many people.
Your ‘One Million concert’ concert was meant to help people in Karamoja, what became of that?
That is what I am trying to tell you. After the ‘One Million’ concert, I was meant to deliver 20 boreholes to the people of Karamoja but I ended up delivering only five. It is sad that I did not keep my word, but it the problem was the sponsors of the project, who did not give me the package they had promised. I ended up using my money, yet it was not the initial plan, so I am very skeptical now when it comes to charity.
Chameleone and stunts seem to be synonymous. Are most of the things you do stunts?
Instead of people going to the Internet to broaden their knowledge, they go online to abuse others. People still believe in mysteries such as Illuminati and witchcraft. Why do I have to do stunts when I am not an upcoming artiste? If people think that I am doing stunts to stay relevant, then they should stop looking at my stunts.
You changed your concert dates thrice. Didn’t this set you back somehow?
The first date we set was May 19, but then the person we sent to book the venue did not get the right confirmation so we went for May 26, but the date collided with the ICC World Cricket League Division Three tournament that was happening at the same venue. But anyhow, what is wrong with changing dates if the show is going to happen? I even have the right to change it right now.
But that hurts your fans. They probably thought their artiste was disorganised.
The fans should stop customising their demands and interests. I go to Serena to eat food but I have never demanded to see the kitchen and I do not know how clean it is. But you guys give the fans a lot of empowerment. A fan is the one who demands a good video from Chameleone. Who tells you? If they need a good video then they should give me the money to shoot it.
Speaking of videos, we have seen only a few high budget videos from you. Why?
What returns do videos bring for us? This is show business my friends. People learned the show but never learned the business part of it. I cannot spend $20,000 (about Shs70m) on one video yet that money can buy me a house in Seeta. We are not as organised as Nigerians, South Africans and Tanzania. They have royalty and copyright law. They earn money every time their videos get views or is played on TV stations. Let me assure you. I will never invest more than $15,000 (about Shs50m) in a music video. Let me ask you: Love you Everyday was a good video but what returns did it bring Bebe Cool? You do not have to do a big budget video to make it in this business. Look at Sitya Loss and Wale Wale, they were all small budget. You are just making those directors rich. With the $100,000 you give Godfather to shoot five videos, you can use it to educate a person here, then send him to the UK to study video directing.
To what do you attribute your success?
God’s grace. Whatever we are showcasing is what God made us to be. While God has tailored waistcoats and pants for other people, he has tailored a suit for me. As some people enter studio with four writers, I enter alone and come out with magic.
PJ Powers is performing at Serena and Oliver Mtukudzi at Imperial Royale tonight. Don’t you think this will somehow affect the attendance at Cricket Oval?
Are those two Chameleone? Let their fans go and watch them.
Is ‘Hit after Hit’ a one man concert or you have other people going to support you?
Afrigo Band, Radio and Weasel, Pallaso, Maddox’s mood is on and off but he is also supposed to perform as well.
Your son Abba Marcus started off with a singing career but along the way, he switched to swimming. What happened?
Truth is he was intimidated by the industry. But every child has unlimited ability. He is now on the Uganda swimming team.
Would you want any of your other children to be a musician?
For me it is passion but for them it might be a job. I want them to follow their passion.
How would Chameleone like to be remembered in the music industry?
As the man who changed the face of East African music.
What new artiste do you think is exceptional?
Gravity Omutujju has the resistance, King Saha and Pallaso, and not because he is my brother but he is a persistent artiste. Those three have the attitude.
What about Sheebah?
I have not paid much attention to her because I am not a big fan of female musicians.
Many people are comparing you to Diamond. What do you have to say about it?
There is a difference between a king and a prince. Diamond is a prince of the new generation while Chameleone is a king of all generations.
So which East African musicians are in Chameleone’s league?
Nameless, Proffesor J and AY.
Have you sorted your issues with Daniella?
None of you was there in my bedroom. Marital issues are always solved internally. People do not have manners. The only problem is that my problems spilled to the public. When we removed it from the public and took it back to our house, it was solved.