There was a time when the Ugandan music industry was dominated by Congolese artistes. When Christmas season and other public holidays came, partiers looked forward to storming Sheraton Gardens to watch Awilo Longomba, Tshala Mwana, Yondo Sister, Pepe Kale and others.
These artistes had a huge fanbase, and it is probably this that drove the likes of Bebe Cool and Chameleone to hit the streets of Nairobi and for 20 years, these two with the falling in of Bobi Wine, redefined Uganda’s local entertainment scene.
Not until a few years ago when West African music, Nigerian music in particular came to spoil the party. When the Azontos of this world hit airwaves, DJs and radio stations almost forgot that there was Ugandan music.
At this point, Bebe Cool started a war with club DJs and condemned them for playing more West African music, arguing that it was what was making the local music industry lag behind. Alas, his cry fell on deaf ears.
And although Ugandan music eventually picked up, West African music continues to dominate, and we have seen several Nigerian artistes grace Ugandan stages to the high expectation of fans and revellers. But as we have seen, the artistes seem to only be as good on stereo because on most occasions, they have put up mediocre or awful performances, to the disappointment of promoters and fans. Here are some raw deals we have witnessed from Nigerian artistes.
Seyi Shay cannot be rated among Nigeria’s top artistes, but she has had some hits in Uganda, such as Murda and Right Now so her name is not that alien to Ugandans. The Nigerian singer-song writer has been in Kampala twice in one year alone. The first time was at Club Play at a not-so publicised event and the next time was when she headlined the 18th edition of Blankets and Wine. However, the Nigerian musician got the surprise of her life when Rabadaba stole her shine. Despite the fact that she was on stage for more than 30 minutes, only a few people remember her performance. Rabadaba sent Seyi Shay’s performance down the drain from the time he started performing songs such as Bwekili, Love Portion and Mukyamu. At the end of the day, no one could even remember there was a Nigerian artiste in the country. Victory to Rabadaba!
In August last year, Uganda Entertainment Awards came highly billed with the announcement that diva Yemi Alade was the headlining act. With the event described in words like “most talked-about” and “glitz”, the Johny singer was meant to be the perfect icing to the cake for the event’s second edition held at Kampala Serena Hotel. But as fate would have it, revellers were left in shock when Yemi Alade’s stage appearance took forever. And when she finally came, her performance was akin to a beep. It felt like such a waste of a night despite the fact that she was looking dashing and her delivery was fair. She would have probably been able to wow Ugandans more if she had spent a bit longer on stage. For an artiste known to exhibit some kind of energy in her music videos, it was quite sad!
What happened to Kiss Daniel is exactly what Run Town experienced when he graced Brian Ahumuza’s Abryanz Style and Fashion Awards last year. Not many people were excited to see RunTown on stage, mostly because they did not know who Run Town was. It took his songs Lagos to Kampala and Bend Down Pause for the crowd to know who he was, but again that was where it all ended. The rest of the songs were not recognisable and the story was the same when the artiste performed at the Buzz Teeniez Awards the next day.
Davido has performed twice in Uganda but we can only describe him as unlucky. The first time the singer was announced for a concert was in 2013 in what was referred to as the Battle of the Titans. The Battle of the Titans featured Jose Chameleone taking on Davido in what was called a musical war. The show was first cancelled by KCCA because the management of Kyadondo Rugby Grounds had not complied with KCCA’s terms. It was until a few hours to the show that they confirmed the show was on, but it was a little too late for the revellers who had moved onto the next one. The next show was in December 2014 but the show was disorganised, as the promoter changed dates from December 5 to 6, a thing that confused revellers. Only a few turned up, and even other invited artistes shunned the show.
The singing duo who are said to have broken up recently have been darlings in Uganda. They have performed in Kampala thrice but the most memorable of all their performances was in 2006 at Lugogo Cricket Oval.
The artistes, whose song Temptation was almost every snob’s ringtone then, performed at a venue not many had dared. Among the other songs they performed was Busy Body, Omoge Mi, and Story among others.
After filling up Lugogo, the duo went to Resort Beach Entebbe two days later to a massive reception. They must have set their bargaining bar there because at the next two occasions they were asked to come to Uganda, they had reportedly tripled their asking price.
He is currently playing on our heads about coming or not coming, and he has every reason to because Wizkid has built his brand and he surely knows how ‘important’ he is in Uganda. Let’s put aside the Twitter war with this guy and remember his performance at the unveiling of Guinness’ new look in 2014. At the event dubbed ther ‘All-Black VIP Party’, it was a full house and the Nigerian performed hit after hit. It was probably this memorable performance, coupled with great hits that saw WizKid get booked to perform at Lugogo Cricket Oval in 2016. He was a no-show, now we are waiting to see what happens come December 7… if he comes.
The self-proclaimed ‘coco Master’ also came to Uganda in 2015 courtesy of Ciroc, for which he is an ambassador. Right from the airport, the kokomaster was in a jolly mood, interacting with anyone and taking selfies. His show was at Club Guvnor street and the only thing that stood in his was the limited space. And although he was singing on CD, the Confidential artiste took revellers through a musical treat, performing all his hits, dancing with Ugandan ladies and appreciating them as well as commending the celebrities in the audience. He sang for an hour but left revellers asking for more.
Nigerian Singer Kiss Daniel was the star of the day in December 2015 when he was booked to perform at that year’s Buzz Leavers Rock. Apart from dancing to Laye and Woju because they were the only interesting songs that the teens were familiar with, there was nothing much to write home about. At the show, Ugandan artistes Mun G, Gravity, Navio, Radio and Weasel brought the house down.
Tekno and Mr Eazi show
Sometime last month, two Nigerian artistes; Tekno Miles and Mr Eazi were in Uganda as headliners of a show at Lugogo Cricket Oval. As usual, Ugandans came out in big numbers, because well…Pana, Diana, Be, Rara, Leg Over, they could not miss this show for anything. But forget even Anita Fabiola’s terrible emceeing, many revellers felt cheated. After preparing their dancing shoes in anticipation for Tekno to blow their minds away, the Nigerian just came and teased on stage, even leaving unceremoniously. There was some good effort from Mr Eazi but because Ugandans are familiar with only two or three songs of his, he could not do much to save the day.
Why Nigerian artistes?
According to Ali Alibhai, a booking agent and events organiser, from his experience, American artistes are hard to bring into the country although they are the most demanded for artistes. However, what deters most of the event organisers is that these artistes are very particular about their technical riders, hospitality, security and logistics compared to African and Jamaican artistes, who are a bit more relaxed. “I think Tekno and Mr Eazi put up decent performances. They are both new acts in the industry, so they cannot perform for one or two hours like Shaggy, Neyo, Sean Paul, P Sqaure and other acts that have performed in Uganda before.” Alibhai.
He added: “We did numerous polls which asking Ugandans who they wanted to see perform in Uganda and Mr Eazi and Tekno were voted highest,”
The Talent Africa boss said he was supportive of any movement that can benefit our local music industry. If the #SaveUgandanMusic campaign can help to escalate Ugandan music it is win-win for everyone. “I will always promote our local music industry. But there will always be a platform for international artistes to visit our country. People here love going for concerts!”