HITMAKERS. The Ugandan music industry was at its best between 2000 up until 2010. Those were the years of – Goodlyf, Cindy, Grace Nakimera, Rabadaba, GNL, Mun G, Aziz Azion, Keko, Sweet Kid and Toniks among others. But those artistes would not have been relevant if it was not for the efforts of music producers, who also competed amongst themselves to produce some of the best hits. In fact, some were more recognisable than the artistes for whom they produced the music. However, most of these producers have gone AWOL. Isaac Ssejjombwe looks back at some of these hitmakers, their works and what they are up to now.
Steve Jean was once a musician. However, he bowed out in the infancy of his career. He then joined ‘the branch’ that made him who he is today – music production.
Through his Fenon Records, Steve Jean was perhaps the best thing to happen to the music industry in the early 2000s. Steve did not only stop at opening up a studio but he also formed a girl group that went on to conquer East Africa. Blu *3, comprising Jackie Chandiru, Cinderella Sanyu and Lillian Mbabazi ruled the airwaves for many years, winning all sorts of awards there were. With the trio, he produced the entire ‘Burn’ album that had songs such as Nsanyuka Nawe’ among others as well as Juliana’s ‘Nabikowa’ and ‘Kanyimbe’, and others.
Because of the rise of various studios, Steve decided to shift his attention to producing adverts before starting up Fenon Events, providing sound system and lighting. He is behind some of the biggest events in Uganda lately, including last week’s ‘The Uganda Music Awards.’
The rise of Benon was through a singing duo of himself alongside his childhood friend Vampos now Vampino. The two kick started their singing career at the same time and gave us hits like ‘Mumulete’, ‘Nsazewo’, ‘I know’ and ‘Nze nawe’ among others.
Benon knew he needed a new challenge and in 2004, he pursued production lessons from Eddie Mpagi alias Ayde of Ngoni. After acquiring some skills, he was hired by Steve Jean at his Fenon Records where he mastered his game.
A few years later, he started his own production studio in Makindye before he entered into a partnership with Julius Kyazze. Together, they shifted to Muyenga and named the studio Swangz Avenue.
At Swangz Avenue, Benon fully concentrated on producing music and was a recipient of the PAM-Awards best producer in 2010. He was responsible for producing songs such Nkumila Omukwano by Aziz Azion, Mr DJ by All stars, Where You Are by Blu *3 and Goodlyf, Rabadaba’s Bwekiri and Mukyamu, Nyumbani by Viboyo, Mr Right by GNL, most of the songs on Bebe Cool’s ‘Go Mama’ album and all the songs on his ‘A New Day’ album.
With his production skills, Benon has single handedly contributed to the rise of musicians like Irene Ntale, Winnie Nwagi and others and also produced for artistes like GNL Zamba, Rabadaba, Juliana Kanyomozi, Iryn Namubiru and Navio among others.
Benon is now more into producing adverts and voicing them at Swangz Avenue but has always promised that his second album is coming out soon.
If there is any producer that has left a mark on the music scene, then it is Washington. He has the most hits on the Ugandan music scene and his dominance extended to Kenya and Rwanda where his services were sought after by Nameless and Kitoko. Infact, Benon of Swangz Avenue posted two years back that. “I don’t think there’s any producer in Ug that has consistently put out hits like this guy. Please correct me if am wrong.”
Washington, birth names David Ebangit Washington started his career at Dream Studios back in 2003, doing songs for Bobi Wine. He’s responsible for producing Bada which earned Bobi Wine ‘Artiste of the Year’ in that year’s PAM-Awards. He was also announced ‘Producer of the Year.’ He went ahead and did other songs like Kube and Fire by East African Bashment Crew, Fire burn dem by Bebe Cool and Dizzy Nutts, Kuku, Potential, Ngenda Masso, Kidula and Ole by Moze Radio and Weasel, Gold Digger by Jackie Chandiru, Tebakulimba by Ziza Bafana and Yiya Moze, Ayokyayokya by Cindy, Taata Wabaana and Mama Mbire by Juliana and Bobi Wine as well as Salari and Butterfly by Nameless. He was also the man behind President Museveni’s Kwezi Kwezi.
However, about six years ago, Washington ventured off into singing, releasing songs such as Ejijiminoi, Iyege, Adusele and Magic Anthem alongside Goodlyf, Diamond Oscar, Maurice Hassa and Sizzaman. Truth be told, his music does not sound anything like the work he has produced. Henry Kiwuuwa
Sambagala by Halima Namakula and Bebe Cool was 2004’s anthem. It was played everywhere. In clubs, on streets and on radio. It brought producer Henry Kiwuwa into the limelight. He went on and produced other songs such as Anfukula, Kiva Kuki by Grace Nakimera, Desire Luzinda’s Baswazze, Henry Tigan’s Abogezi, Iryn Namubiru’s Empisazo, Nakutamani By Goodlyf, Wampisa by Aziz Azion, Nategedde by Kenzo, Kibaluma by Juliana and Jose Chameleon and Prof Jay’s Sivyo Ndivyo. Other artistes such as Sheila Nvanungi, Mariam Ndagire flocked his No End studios for an opportunity to release the next hit.
Kiwuwa’s success earned him a PAM-Award in 2007. Then he decided to borrow Shs30M and start up his own studio known as Grace Records. Things did not work out as he expected. Hits became scarce in between for the civil engineer, also Steve Jean’s brother. Search results show that he now owns a band known as Drumex and still produces Grace Nakimera’s songs.
In 2009, the best producer was definitely Swangz Avenue’s Just Jose.
Joseph Mwima, or Just Jose, started out at No End Studios in Kamwokya under the guidance of Henry Kiwuuwa. He then hit stardom around 2009 after applying his Midas touch to some of the biggest names in the industry at the time.
He is the man behind hits like Ability by Rabadaba and Goodlyf, Mun G’s Ebintu, Vampino’s Kwekunyakunya both original and remix, How we do and Whistle Song by All Stars among others.
He also worked with other big artistes such as Navio, Juliana, Angella Katatumba, Don MC and Viboyo to mention a few.
Just Jose ditched music all together for a gig with EasyTicket limited, a ticketing company that provides paying options for entertainment and sports events, as well as conferences, transport systems and cinemas.
Do you remember Sweet Kid? To make it easier, do you remember songs like Silikyusa, Kankutwale, Silinawo Mulala with Juliana’, ‘Kiba kibi’ alongside Bebe Cool and ‘Akadde’ among others. The artiste behind those songs is Sweet Kid and the man behind the production of those songs is Allan Okia. He also produced others like ‘Abakyala Bazira’, ‘Ngolabye’ and other Jamal Wasswa’s hits as well as Bobi Wine’s ‘Bad Man from Kamwokya’ and ‘Ngoma Nene By Rocky Giant. All these were done in the confines of D Records.
Arguably one of the most talented producers in Uganda at the time, winning the PAM Award for best producer of the year (2008), Okia mastered most instruments including the guitar and the piano. But that is not what makes him tick.
Allan Okia was really meant for production having graduated in Sound Engineering. But despite that, he somehow lost touch in the production field. His new production studio known as AO Records is still in existence but Producer Allan only drops by sometimes to do his personal work.
Other than that, you will find him playing the bass guitar with Janzi Band.
The only reason why we have decided to feature Nash Wonder, real name Enock Kubeerwa, on this list is because he dominated the charts for not more than three years and vanished from the music scene thereafter.
Nash Wonder gained his popularity at Monster Studios.
Yes, Nash did wonders in the studio. He is the man behind hits such as Hellena by Goodlyfe and David Lutalo, ‘Ice Cream’ by Sheeba, ‘Gyayo Ntekeyo’ by Ziza Bafana, ‘Ndabirawa’ and ‘Oyitangayo’ by Khalifa Aganaga, ‘Ekyama’ by Goodlyfe and ‘Zero Distance’ by Anita Da Diva among others.
Nash could not handle the new found success and he was soon shown the exit at Monster Studios. He went into artiste management, signing Anita Da Diva but the two fell out soon after. He then took on an upcoming artiste known as Sumi Crazy. He is still managing her although after two years, she has not shown progress.
Producer Didi’s production career ended in 2014 when he was sentenced to four years in Luzira Maximum Security Prison over trading in pornography. The Chief Magistrate’s court at Makindye described his crime as ‘soft pornography.’
With this sentence, he became the first prominent victim of the Anti-Pornography law that many referred to as the ‘Anti-mini skirt Law’ after it had been passed earlier that year.
This was after Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo and police raided his studios in Makindye and arrested him and a musician known as Panadol Wa Basajja (real name Jemima Kensiima).
Despite not completing his four year sentence, that was the deal breaker for the man behind hit songs like Eddy Kenzo’s ‘Stamina’, Coco Finger’s ‘Emikono Wagulu’ and ‘My Miss’, Gravity Omutujju’s ‘Swagga’ as well as ‘Angella’ and ‘Mafaranga’ by Sizzaman among others.
Upon release, Didi became a singer but could barely utter a key. He thus diverted to shooting videos. Well, it was his choice of videos – soft porn shot by Didi Pix – that earned him the prison sentence. The last we heard is that Didi lost his license to produce music and both his audio and video machines were confiscated in 2015.
Ngoni (Ayde and Pato)
Two years ago, the super duo of Ngoni (Aydee and Pato) went separate ways and ventured off into individual careers. They had been together for ages. Pato is said to have turned to God while Aydee got married and settled in the UK.
But before all that, Ngoni had contributed to some of the best urban and zouk sounds in terms of production in Uganda’s music industry. Songs like Mumulete by Benon and Vampos and Yoyo by Michael Ross, Yenze, Njagala Nkutwale and Nzewuwo by Toniks, Super star by Diamond Oscar, ‘UTAKE anthem’ by Juakali, Babaluku and AY have their signature touch. They didn’t only stop at that as they also produced, mastered and sung hits like ‘Biguula’, ‘Digi’ alongside Mr Mosh, ‘Banacity’ and ‘Mimi Nawewe’ alongside Tanzania’s legendary musician AY, ‘Nina Omwami’ alongside Desire Luzinda, and ‘Nasiima gwe’ through their Goodenuf Studios. They are credited for having brought up artistes such as Chilli Gals, Cyclone and Krystal Babes (Former Wafagio) onto the music scene.
The Dream Studios’ sound engineer, has crafted beats for most of the popular hits that come out of the Kamwokya-based studios. He did tracks like Carolina (Bobi Wine) and Sunda, Nabi Omukazi by Maggie Kayima and Yanimba by Mickie Wine.
Ronny Lutaaya aka Crouch.
He also worked at Dream Studios before joining Fire Records, Gong Records and forming his own Jeeb Studios. He produced songs like Oliwange, Kukaliba by Rema, Kabirinange by Bebe Cool, by Rema, Cinderella by Nince Henry’s, Kisumuluzo by Diana Nalubega and Kamunguluze and Ongedankuzisa by Kenzo.
DR Tee (Travis Kazibwe)
He produces songs from Divine Life Studios and behind his hits is Kakondo (Angela Kalule), Taaliyo (Mesach Ssemakula), Akamasu (Sophie Nantongo)
Tulepuke (Mathias Walukagga), Ticket (Haruna Mubiru), and Land Lord (Ronald Mayinja) among others.
D-King (David Arinaitwe)
He started at Fenon Records in 2011 by doing adverts and a few years after, he started his own production house called Neutriq Town which released songs like Sejjusa (Mun G), Jungle and Samanya (Levixone), Deep In Love and Sitaki (Rema), Kasenyanku (Roy Signature), Kumulamwa (Toniks) and Prophesy by Exodus among others.