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Rema and Kenzo: The mango that never ripened

Eddy Kenzo hands Rema a bouquet of flowers during one of her birthday celebrations. PHOTO by Michael Kakumirizi/courtesy

A love lost: Last Saturday, news of Rema’s upcoming introduction ceremony hit the webs. To the shock of many, the husband in waiting was not Kenzo, bringing to light proof of the end of a relationship that has been scrutinised from the time it started. Andrew Kaggwa and Nicolas Akasula look back at the relationship that was.

It all started with a rumor in 2012. Word was that Rema was in a relationship, although there were no facts.

The allegations were that she was seeing kadongo Kamu artiste Mathias Walukagga, Bebe Cool, her boss then and Eddy Kenzo. It was even insinuated that she was pregnant for one of these men.

But they were just rumours, Rema was not pregnant at the time. In fact, it took until 2013 for questions surrounding her relationship status to get back in the news. Then, Bebe Cool had had a long exchange with Big Talent boss Kenzo.

The rumour was that Kenzo, real name Edrisah Musuuza , was confusing the Gagamel want-away vocalist — it was during that confusion that she got herself a manager and later started organising a concert without informing Bebe Cool.

Much as Kenzo and Rema never confirmed their union, the media somehow concluded they were an item.

Even when Rema was expecting the couple’s first child, rumours surrounding her relationship were never clear. It was said the child belonged to Walukagga while there were those insisting Kenzo was the father.

And just like that, Rema and Kenzo had started a union filled with rumours that were circulated on her side. Well, because at that time, Kenzo was somewhat a stunted artiste whose clout did not go beyond Upper Masaka and some parts of rural Kampala.

At the time, if you asked any music lover, Kenzo was the poison Rema needed to murder her career — for them, he was an artiste whose career had hit a plateau and thus was here to stunt Rema as well.

Enter Sitya Loss

If a story on Kenzo is ever written, they will talk about Kenzo before and after Sitya Loss. It was a song whose video may not have taken Uganda by storm but definitely got Africa and the world buzzing.

Kenzo was soon transversing the world making a name for himself, then followed the awards in West Africa, southern Africa, Europe and America, but the best was yet to come.

In 2015, after MTV’s African wing MTV Base had announced the nominees for that year’s award show, BET Awards, an award gala organised by the Black Entertainment Television network, announced a new category — as their way of tapping into the African market that was yet to appreciate their awards and station altogether.

Known as Viewer’s Choice Best New International Act, the category was voted for online with the use of a hashtag; with the push of a viral song that Sitya Loss was, South Africa’s Cassper Nyovest, Ghanian singer Mz Vee and UK-based Ugandan poet, George the Poet were not a match.

Kenzo became East Africa’s first artiste to win a BET Award that was soon followed with endorsements with a pay TV, a telecom company and other nominations such as Channel O, Afrima and MTV.

Soon, he was not the local artiste pulling down Rema’s career. He had started going to places that even Bebe Cool only dreamt of, if the notion that had existed when Rema and Kenzo were getting together had to exist at the time. Many would believe she was not too fly for him.

He was Eddy Kenzo of Uganda, people in South Africa, Cameroon or Senegal would always ask if you knew Kenzo, if you were friends with the star or if you have had a meal with him.

“I remember going to Burkina Faso for a festival and people kept asking if I could sell them Eddy Kenzo’s pictures,” says Daniel Ecwalu, a photographer.

Rema and Kenzo during their happy moments

Hooking up

But Kenzo and Rema had met in the most surprising ways. It is said it all started with an initiative of Dembe FM’s DJ Jacob Omutuze that was meant to create awareness around HIV/Aids.

Rema and Kenzo were part of the whole star cast that appeared on the song, Togwamu Suubi, and apparently it was at the video shoot that the two met.

Then they went on to play cat and mouse with media that had more than three years to figure out if they were a couple or not.

At the time of the meeting, Kenzo was known for a number of forgettable songs such as Yanimba, Kyomisinga, Kamunguluze and above them all, the runaway hit that was Stamina.

Rema on the other hand was fresher with songs such as Oli Wange, Atuuse and Kaliba, a steady rise for a youngster. With the guidance of Halima Namakula and Bebe Cool, a footballer turned musician in Kenzo was a detractor.

And Kenzo knew what these people thought of her relationship, in fact, those close to the artiste note that the song Ogenda Kunzisa was one of the many inspired by their relationship.

Yet they found ways of staying together in different ways, always cagey about their union, letting only a few things out.

Making it official

At the height of his fame, Kenzo was headlining a festival around the world at least every month; when he was not posting videos of jubilant supporters in Yaoundé, it would be a picture of him in studio with some artiste from DRC.

At this time, rumours started going around that Rema was bossing their Seguku home even when she was not a wife — it became hard for anyone visiting Kenzo to leave without noticing she was the lady of the house.

Then rumours of the storm in the paradise started making rounds early on in the relationship. At one point, a neighbour at their Seguku home said the two had vacated the house, and that was regardless of the fact that they were in the country or not.

Yet at the height of all the rumours, their PR machine knew what to do whenever needed. On public holidays, for instance, a picture of them sharing a meal as a family was always present for netizens.

Then there was a question of a second child, which left many wondering if their daughter was getting a baby brother or sister soon. It was a question that started haunting Rema on all the media appearances she made.

Frustrated with the question, at one time, she seemed to suggest to a local TV presenter that she would do so when the latter makes their relationship official.

While in another interview, when asked about the state of their relationship, she only noted: “We are there”.

She would later, during her concert Banyabo last year, go on jokingly, “He spends a week in Nigeria, Congo and Mozambique among other places and after returning for a day or two, you will hear him say he is flying to France.”

“To all the women out there, we are campaigning for #MakeItOfficial. This business of let’s wait is no longer applicable,” she said, leading her audience, which Kenzo was part of, into  a frenzy.

For a moment, TV presenters Mc Kats and Douglas, had started calling her Mrs Official after she had made the same comments on their show.

A close source that requested anonymity says Kenzo loved Rema, though always believed she deserved a wedding or at least a traditional marriage.

“Kenzo is an orphan and always believed that before getting married, he had to buy a piece of land to establish a family burial site and then later he would give her the marriage she deserved.”

The source adds though, that he too admits Kenzo left Rema alone for too long as he went on his performances. “Sometimes he was away for six months.”

Siri Muyembe

Towards the end of 2018, Rema released Siri Muyembe, a song Ugandans easily connected dots to conclude she was sending a message to the father of her daughter.

In the song, she talked about a man that had neglected a woman to a point of her informing him that she was not a fruit that takes time to get ready.

Kenzo would answer with Don’t Care, where he seemed to tell this woman not to listen to people’s words because love does not care. More dots were connected.

On Saturday, news of Rema’s upcoming introduction ceremony started making rounds on social media and before it was too long, the cat was out of the bag. The husband in the waiting was not Kenzo.

Social media swung into action with people throwing blame all over the place. Our anonymous source says much as Kenzo was hurt, he and Rema have been apart for two years.

The source says things between the two had deteriorated when the artiste learnt Rema had built houses without telling him, yet he had always played a transparency card of even keeping all his assets and land titles with her.

Dembe FM presenter Jacob Omutuzze, a friend of the couple, says the relationship was never nurtured, “They did not give their relationship time to grow, everything was rushed and before it was too long, they had a child.”

At the moment, social media is still looking at the drama while listening to Kenzo’s reaction song, Bibawo.

The social space is also awash with images of Rema and a man some believe is the one soon to wed the songstress, though other theories suggest he may not be the actual husband in the waiting.

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