Flying High: He is doing to the Nigerian comedy industry what the Nigerians have done to our music industry. The Man From Ombokolo, who returns in his one-man show talks of endless trips to Nigeria, the break up with BFF Alex Muhangi and UG comedy. Isaac Ssejjombwe writes.
Isn’t it high time you got rid of the name Salvador? Some people did not even watch the Telenovela (Second Chance) that inspired it.
The name has become a brand. In fact some people actually think it is my real name.
There is this Save Ugandan Music campaign that musicians have embarked on. Do you have any conflict with UPRS as a comedian?
I do not have any conflict with anybody; all I pray is for Ugandan musicians to realise their worth because we have some of the best music in Africa.
What parameters are you using to rate Ugandan music?
I have travelled to most of these African countries and besides being biased, our music is nice because when I play it for people, they are amazed yet I do not feel the same about their music. I once asked a DJ in Nigeria to play Ability by Radio and Weasel and everyone was blown away but they kept asking who the artistes were. They were not known yet.
Would you say you are Uganda’s greatest export when it comes to comedy?
I would not say the greatest, but I am on the list (laughs). Anne Kansiime, who I admire very much is our chairperson in regards to international representation.
Besides you two, who else, in your perspective, is doing great?
We have very good comedians in Uganda, it would be unfair to just mention one. We have guys whose time to break through to the international market is soon; Ronnie McVex and Prince Ehmah top that list.
The comedy industry is growing but there seems to be something missing.
Professionalism, which I can happily say is now being exhibited by some comedians. I know for a fact that very soon, we shall be up there with the rest.
And what have you done about it?
I have brought back what I have learnt from my travels. I am blessed to say that so many young comedians approach me for advice, which I happily give and I believe it is the reason we have so many good young and upcoming comedians in Uganda.
Why do you think you have succeeded and others have not?
I am favoured by God; all that I have achieved and keep achieving, I owe to God. I am not lucky, I am blessed.
We have heard mbu you and Alex Muhangi are not on good terms because you abandoned him at The 400 to be at Diners lounge, where your brother operates.
I did not abandon him as is suggested, but rather attended the comedy show at Diners Lounge which I can now confidently say I do not regret because of what transpired after. To blame me for all the problems he faced with Diners is ridiculous, considering the fact that his problems with the Diners management started last year. Besides blood is thicker than water, I will always choose my brother over anyone else.
What are some of those problems that Alex faced with Diners?
His ego got in the way. Disrespecting the owner of a venue you perform at is not something that always ends well. They could not agree on certain issues and getting a solution to them was hard because pride came in the way.
Should we conclude that you and Muhangi are no longer friends?
We shall always be friends but not as close as before because our relationship was compromised. I know deep down he knows he overreacted but his pride will not let him admit. (We once profiled the two among the Celeb BFFs).
Man from Ombokolo Season 2 is here. How different is it going to be from the first season?
I have matured in this industry, so my experience in regards to the show will be felt by whoever attends.
It will be a VIP show, so expect a VIP experience.
The venue has changed from Serena to Imperial Royale. Are you broke?
It is not about money. Serena was actually cheaper than Imperial Royale when I did Man from Ombokolo 1. I took time to book a date at Serena and by the time I made up my mind, all the good dates were not available, but I have done shows at Imperial Royale Hotel before, so I trust the choice.
Some people said the first season was mediocre. What arrangements do you have to prove them wrong?
Hahaha the show has not happened yet, I have a lot in store for this show. But I have Janzi Band and Mr Silverback aka DJ Apeman supporting musically.
We saw many Nigerian celebs endorsing the show. Will they attend?
They just endorsed. I do not expect them to come through, but you never know anything can happen.
You were recently booked for more than 20 shows at the Glo Lafta Fest across Nigeria. How did you do this?
I have a great relationship with BasketMouth, whose company handles my bookings in Nigeria, and after impressing on the first tour, it was easy to have me booked. Besides, I have become a household name in Nigeria.
Nigerian acts are paid really well in their own country. You must have made a killing!
Hahaha. I will not say how much but I made some good money.
We see you flying to Nigeria for every show like an important person. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just book an apartment there?
Nigeria is not a cheap country, they have the money so it is easy for them to fly me in every week and book me a hotel, although I prefer an apartment, which I have, especially when I am staying there more than a week. And yes, I am important. (Laughs)
What do you consider first? Family or career?
Family will always come first, no matter how busy you get.
But you are always busy, how do you compensate for that time with family?
When I get time, it is fully for my family; I actually spend a lot of time with my family when I am around.
Don’t you think your children are at a point of calling you uncle because of these endless trips?
(Laughs out so loud) Impossible!
Back to the show, there is a blogger who claims you just turn Kapale’s jokes from Luganda to English. Is it true?
That blogger was seeking attention. That was a misguided accusation that was initiated by Kapale himself, which he later apologised for.
But we also heard that it was a strategy to use him to publicise your show?
Yes it was because he has a huge following.
So which is which? Kapale initiated the accusations or you used the blogger to publicise your show?
Kapale initiated the accusation, which he later apologised for, but it had already hit the bloggers’ notice and you know how our people like spreading negative news.
Do you miss being an engineer?
Yes, I actually do.
What exactly do you miss about it?
The late night call outs and working on work orders in the night with my friends and the adrenaline that you get when fixing an Optical fibre cut.
Don’t you think by this time you would be earning about Shs20m had you stayed?
I do not think so. Being employed is very unpredictable. I make that money now, even more (laughs).
We have heard you mime. Has singing crossed your mind?
It is something in the pipeline. Once I get the time and courage, I will hit the studio.
Comedy has taken you places. Tell us some of your memorable shows.
There are two shows I will never forget; Basket Mouth’s two London shows at the Apollo Theatre Hammersmith in London 2014 and 2015.
What was so special about the shows?
Please google about the Apollo Theatre then you will know why I will always cherish those shows I did there.
What challenges are you facing in comedy?
It is still the issue of being undervalued, especially at functions. A comedian who is hired to emcee still gets less than an artiste who comes and performs three songs.
What is the biggest stage you have performed at in your career?
So far and by far it is the SSE Arena Wembley in the UK, I performed for more than 10,000 people.
Are we getting Man from Ombokolo 3 next year?
Next year we have Africa Laughs; Lagos to Kampala where the best of Nigeria will face off with the best of Uganda.
What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you in this industry?
I would not say embarrassing but disappointing/heartbreaking, when my very close friend accused me of sabotaging his show. It is very sad when somebody tries to tarnish your name to gain sympathy because they fell out with another person.