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There is no other Chameleone, I am extraordinary

20 years on: Jose Chameleone, real name Joseph Mayanja, celebrates 20 years as a musician this year. He is probably the most popular artiste in East Africa and you have to give it to him for remaining relevant. EDGAR R. BATTE caught up with the legend ahead of his Saba Saba show.

Are you content with the achievement and progress your music career is taking?
I am happy because if I wasn’t relevant and consistent, I would not have been here for 20 years. The fact that people still appreciate my presence and contribution to this industry is enough for me to be happy.
Any artiste has dreams and ambitions beyond what he has achieved, so to be honest, I have achieved. I had a successful Hit after Hit show last year, so I anticipate that this concert will be bigger.

The music industry is witnessing a wave of new artistes whose talent is formidable. How are you positioning yourself to remain relevant?
I remain relevant simple because I am not them, I am me. God gifted us differently so whether there are new people or not, I am different.
As long as I maintain my originality, I will remain relevant. That is the purpose of art. It is not only in Uganda. It is worldwide. We have a new generation of artistes everywhere but at the end of the day, how you stay relevant proves how talented you are. You cannot stay in this music industry if you are not relevant.
If people are tired of you, they will stop supporting you. People still support me because what I have is still extraordinary. It is still me. There is no other Chameleone. I will give you an example. When we lost Radio, there are many that want to sound like him but they are not Radio, so I will keep my originality whether there are new kids coming or not.
I was once a new kid but I have stood the test of time. Will they stand like I have for 20 years?

Chamelone says people still support him because he has kept himself relevant.
Photos by Edgar r. Batte/ Abubaker Lubowa

What are your thoughts on collaborative works given that some of such ventures earned you cross border fame?
Music is music and there is time to do collaborations. Music is a reflex. I will give you an example of my collaboration with Khalifa Aganaga. I have always wanted to sing with him because I am his fan from the time he sang Ekitangaza. I was curious about him, I attended his unplugged shows, I told him that we would sing a song together. That was years ago. However, had we done a song at that time, it would be a ‘forced song’. We have done a song in 2018. My mission is not to write my own legacy.

Your concert is code-named Saba Saba, a title linked to historical melancholy, what could have motivated you to name it so?
I was born on April 30, 1979 and that is the famous year of change of politics and status of governance. That is the year when President Milton Obote and the Tanzania government invaded Idi Amin, the person they claim was a dictator. In invading his government, they brought a special kind of gun — the Saba Saba — which was mounted in Mutukura but could throw its canons to shoot all the way to Kampala. That type of gun was never heard of. Coincidentally, the date of my concert is December 7 and seven is in my year of birth. It is artistic. Some people just wake up and pick dates gafula.

Your relationship with your wife, Daniella, has been on and off, as read from your social media posts. What is its status, and underlying issues?
I am not prepared to talk about my family issues right now. All you should know is that I am married to Daniella and she is married to me and we are still together. We have five children and we are happy. That is what it is. The fact that we get on and off is less important. It does not matter how many times a man falls but the times he gets up. It does not matter how many times you break but the times you make up. Can I ask the people if I am the only family that breaks up and makes up or they expect me to be God?

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