SHOWBIZ BUSINESS: Suudi Lukwago is an events promoter and international artistes’ booking agent, behind shows by singers Busy Signal, Shaggy and Patra from Jamaica, Timaya and Burna Boy from Nigeria, R.Kelly and among others. Lawrence Ogwal caught up with him about events business in Uganda, Wikid’s flopped show, his beef with Don Zella and more.
Why didn’t Wizkid come to Uganda last December?
Wizkid’s show was well advertised. In fact it was one of the best advertised shows and I have to give the organisers credit. The only reason he didn’t come to Uganda was because FACE TV or Star Times did not get professionals to act as booking agents. Navio was among those booking the artiste; why do you get an artiste to book a fellow artiste? The other two were Nutty Neithan’s former manager and a renowned wedding decorator in Kamwokya.
But he recently tweeted that he will have two free shows for Ugandans…
Wizkid cannot tweet if he is not told by his management or promoters. The tweet actually spoiled it all. It was a negotiation between Wizkid and Face TV to tweet. What he should have known is Ugandans are proud and are not that broke, they can pay for the show; it was bad publicity for him and the show, that’s why he got a reply on his tweet, saying ‘he should come with his crowd because Ugandans have moved on’: Even though Face TV announces Wizkid again, it will terribly flop.
How about the video drop where he apologised for not coming to Uganda?
When you closely watch the apology, he was in sunglasses. He even looked drunk or high on substances.
But Wizkid was already paid part of the money, isn’t it him to blame?
Wizkid is not to blame, he ate that money and that was it. It is Face TV to blame for the unprofessionalism. People shouldn’t blame Star Times because 90 per cent was Face TV. The booking agents thought it was only about money, they didn’t know it is more than just money but also his personal demands. They should have gotten promoters such as Balaam and KT, who know how the business works.
But how do you know all this?
I did thorough investigation after finding out that Wizkid didn’t perform in Uganda and after seven months, no one has been refunded. It was because I felt like some Ugandans were cheated, although some had their money refunded. As an events promoter, I felt I should look into things and let Ugandans know what exactly happened.
So how did you do it?
Wizkid’s manager and the whole administration team are my friends. I talk to them on a daily and I am currently helping them organise a show in Kenya and my show, which will be headlined by Busy Signal and Shaba Ranks will be at the same venue (KICC) on July 29.
But he is a big artiste, do you think he can fail to perform again in Uganda?
Yes, he is big but Uganda is bigger than him. At the end of the day, we are the ones paying for his show and he needs the Ugandan crowd. No one should bring Wizkid to perform alone in Uganda, they should bring him alongside other singers such as Timaya, Tekno, Davido.
So with your knowledge and street-smartness, how would you get Beyonce to perform in Uganda?
It is very easy. Jay-Z’s backup singer Memphis Blick is my good friend, I can easily convince him to get me Jay-Z’s number and once I have it, everything else is history. I remember before R.Kelly performed in Uganda, Zain worked with a promoter who conned the company of $500,000. I was then approached by ZK, an agency that was handling Zain’s PR and they told me to help them get R. Kelly to perform in Uganda. It was so easy for me because T-Pain is my friend, so I asked T-Pain for R.Kelly’s number and I contacted him directly.
What was your first international event after graduating at Berkley?
It was when I was doing internship with my friend Scott Horde Redman; I booked Eminem for a concert called ‘Eminem Live’ in Mexico through his company Horde Booking. It was from that concert that I got too much money and even bought a house in the US, where my father stays.
When was the last time you organised an event in Uganda?
Everyone does not believe I booked Busy Signal in 2015 when he performed alongside Konshens. It is just that the promoters, BK Afro Beat, and other little known promoters failed to pay my money. The case is still in court. I also brought Akon, Kirk Flanklin, Shakira in Egypt, Rick Ross in Nigeria and others whose names I have forgotten.
Was it from that concert that you promised Don Zela you would get Busy Signal to perform at Resort Beach in Entebbe but you fled with her money?
Yes. They took me to police claiming I had conned Don Zella of her money. That woman just wanted to frame me because I failed to deal with her the way she wanted.
What exactly happened?
After Busy Signal’s performance in Kampala, she contacted me to help her organise another extra show for Busy Signal in Entebbe but she did not have the cash that I asked for. She was instead telling me to take her Hummer but the Hummer had no value in Uganda.
How true is it that mostly Nigerians and Jamaicans get to perform in Uganda because they are cheap?
That is a big lie. Nigerian music is taking over Nigerians are the most expensive artistes in Africa and right now. Tekno Miles is one of the most expensive singers to book internationally because his fees start from $45,000 to $60,000. It would even make no business sense bringing him to Uganda.
But we heard Aly Alibahi is flying him in this October?
That is up to Aly, let him bring him.
Have you ever had problems getting an international singer to Uganda?
That was R.Kelly. I brought him after a long hustle, at some point he changed his mind at the airport. He complained of many things such as power cables not being favourable for his performance in Uganda, yet the ones he wanted were not available at the moment.
Has any international artiste ever asked you for a show in Uganda?
American rapper Drake and Janet Jackson told me they loved Ugandans and they wanted to come and perform here. I told them I would get them a show but I foxed. Ugandan corporate companies don’t want to invest in entertainment.
How much do you charge a client to book them an international gig?
I charge according to how one approaches me. When you come arrogantly, I will charge you highly and when you are calm, I charge you as a friend. For example the show I am handling in Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga will be on the same stage. I didn’t charge them a coin because I want to be part of the concert.
Did you fail Tigan’s music career and also run away with Ceaserous’ money?
For Henry Tigan, it was only a little misunderstanding but I didn’t fail him I even worked with him after falling out. I hired him to write songs for Ceaserous and also train him vocally. About Ceaserous, we were meant to work together but I got some family problems and told him to find a new team. But I told him to come to me when he needs help.
What has been your worst moment in this business?
It was in 2014 during the first Club MegaFest show in Namboole. A Jamaican female singer got high, became unruly and started a fight with Shaggy. The place was messed up, doors were broken but thank God people were around to cool her down.
What are the stages involved in getting an international artiste in Uganda?
When you contact the artiste, you meet them. Before signing the contract, you ask them for technical riders (personal demands) such as what he wants backstage, security, and hotel and airline ticket. You then sign a contract after a certain payment is done. The work of a booking agent ends at the airport when the client sees the artiste.
How do you get to speak directly to international superstars?
I went to school and studied how to do these things. I studied at Berklee Music School in Boston and I graduated with a diploma in Events’ management and artiste booking. Even though I am a professional in the field, it also requires someone to be street-smart to survive in the business.
Around March last year, a local TV presenter called Phiona Nabitengo aka Fifi Da Queen connived with my brothers to fight me using the media channels she was working for. They wrote false stories of how I chased my mother from the house and a lot more. They did all this because I refused to sell my father’s land in Ggaba that has a mosque, although they were all having plans to sell off the land to the former mayor. My father left that land in my hands but my brothers wanted to sell it off for a beach but I couldn’t give away a holy place.