Behind the scenes: Singer Moses Ssali a.k.a. Bebe Cool is set to hold his first indoor concert at Victoria Hall, Kampala Serena Hotel, tonight. Many a time, so much pressure comes with heading the organisation of such a concert, but Bebe looked relaxed during the interview at his home in Ntinda. He had just returned home after picking his children Alpha and Beata from school. Bebe Darius Mugisha talked about his career, family and his future in the music industry as well as tonight’s concert.
Eid was just the other day, how was Ramathan? did you fast?
I didn’t fast! Reason; I am heading the organisation of my event and it was impossible for anyone organising an event of such magnitude to fast. I have been leaving my house by 6am and I have been rehearsing every day for the past one month. But my wife and every other adult in my home fasted.
Musically speaking, how would you rate your 2014 music compared to the past years?
According to me, 2014 is just beginning for me. Every other year has been more fruitful than the past one and I am sure 2014 is going to be very fruitful for me. I always start my year after July and I always have the remaining months of the year to make an impact. People are going to see so many new things from me in the remaining months of 2014, because 2015 is the launch of my real career!
Some people think your songs this year haven’t been as popular and huge as the past years?
As I grow musically, I decided to change direction about the music I do. I have different reasons I do certain songs. Unfortunately, for people that think like that, this year’s songs are the ones that have gotten the most attention. Besides, at my level, I no longer live by a song, I live by my status and legacy. People should have known my strategy by now; I always have the biggest song towards the end of the year, not the in middle of the year. Right now, we all know which song is the topic on social media and music channels across the world (In reference to his new song Love You Everyday that is on rotation on Channel O and MTV Base).
Your song Nkola Byafayo is supposed to depict you as a man who makes history, why did you choose to shoot the video at your unfinished house? What is historical about an unfinished house?
If it was shot at an unfinished house and they don’t find it historical, then why is it always on their lips? My house has been an issue since it was at foundation level, people are still talking about it. They are asking questions as if I have nowhere to sleep, as if I sleep in a tree. The reason they are still asking questions about the house, is the very reason I did the Byafayo video there!
Speaking of your house, what is taking you so long to complete it?
My house being unfinished is no longer an issue for me. All people need to know is that it is there and finishing it is just a decision for one morning. For now, my choice is investing more money in my music! Look at my latest video- Love You Everyday, I invested over Shs100m and I am sure that would have built another house for me altogether!
This year has been quite free of fights, you haven’t been involved in any fight with any artiste yourself, what do you think brought the peace?
Basically, it’s the choice of the artistes. I think fighting is old fashioned and it cannot be an order of the day anymore in Uganda. I have heard of a few small fights and I don’t blame the people involved, but age will wield them. But at my age now, I am better off sitting home with my children or spending time in studio than going to a bar to collide with little groups. In simple terms, it’s about one choosing their class and I did that. Some other singers chose their class and I’m sure the fights are going to reduce tremendously!
By the way, what made you bury the hatchet with Radio and Weasel?
I think it was time up for the beef! There was nothing major between me and them. It was always lack of respect and they addressed it. So we started a mutual respectful relationship and that is the friendship we have today.
Why mend fences with Radio & Weasel but not Bobi Wine and Chameleone?
I know it takes two to tangle, so if a hatchet is to be buried, it has to involves willingness from both parties. Then besides that, the hatchet has to be worth burying. I don’t think those two are worth mending fences with.
I have reconciled with Chameleone several times, but he has always disrespected the truce. We end up all looking foolish, so I don’t want to keep making the same mistakes.
For Bobi Wine, it’s even worse. I don’t want to be associated with a person of his character, his behaviour and the things he stands for. Drugs have a big influence on his course of action; such a person is not worth burying a hatchet with.
You and Chameleone joined voices about pushing Nigerian music out of Uganda, what’s your problem with Nigerian music?
Nigerian music is not the problem, the problem was the DJs. Some DJs are misleading other DJs. It’s only logical and common sense to promote what belongs to you first before anything else. The Americans didn’t begin with promoting Africans, they promoted their stuff until we liked it.
It’s the same case with Nigerians, they have promoted their stuff until everyone recognised them. So I told the few dense funny DJs that want to promote Nigerian music over Ugandan music that we fought Congolese music by prioritising our own music, that’s how the industry managed to get where it is today and it can only get better.
Besides, the arts define our values and culture as Ugandans, so tourists come to Uganda and they want to listen to Ugandan music not the American music they play in their countries.
The Nigerian music industry is way more organised compared to the Ugandan industry; they have serious record labels, they sell albums, their copyright law is very effective, they get big endorsements; what are you doing to make sure the Ugandan industry gets to that level?
Unfortunately, Nigeria and Uganda are two different countries in many ways. Let’s start by size; Nigeria is much bigger than Uganda, population wise, Nigeria has over 200 million people compared to Uganda with only about 36 million people.
Nigeria is a second world country while Uganda is a third world country, hence their economies differ by far. So if you are to compare any business in the two countries, Nigeria will take the lead, because they have worked for it for a longer time.
But the Ugandan music industry started and has grown with the likes of Chameleone and I. But even then, we have managed to attract the world’s attention, which shows some serious progress.
The DJs argue that they cannot headline Ugandan music because its quality is still wanting?
I will guide those DJs with a few sayings, “charity begins at home.” “When you want to climb a tree, you don’t start from the leaves but from the stem?” And finally, “No one can fly without wings.”
What I am trying to say is that this industry is still very young and it doesn’t have so many people to finance it, so not so many artistes can afford the costs of upscale studios and video production. But once you push the music, the artistes will get the money and they will keep upgrading. But the same people saying Bebe Cool has an unfinished house are the same people that want me to have a video of Shs100m and they are the same people who will not buy my original CD, but will instead go to a computer to pirate a CD at Shs2,000. Some DJs are really supportive and personally, I have a DJ pushing my music in over 100 countries across the globe!
Speaking of quality, your Love You Everyday video has created so much buzz in such a short time, what’s next for you in terms of videos?
Like I just said, it was not just a coincidence, it’s been a lot of organisation, identifying the right people and waiting for the right time. I’m dropping two more videos at the same level of quality as Love You Everyday. I will also drop a special video that I intend to shoot in the US. That’s why I am calling on every Bebe Cool fan to come and support me tonight at Serena Hotel. I promise you, your money is going to be put to excellent use. Videos like that will also help me win over all these international music channels like MTV and I will keep the Ugandan flag high out there!
We heard your son Alpha was in Spain for a soccer competition a few weeks ago? What happened to taking him to the Arsenal Academy and how did he perform in Spain?
My son is quite talented and he will definitely join a serious academy either in England, Spain or Netherlands. But the reason he didn’t join years back, was he was too young. His mother wasn’t comfortable letting a young boy alone out there; different countries have different cultures and we didn’t want Alpha to lose grip on his culture. But we agreed that after his P7, he will be old enough and will be able to go out there by himself, as long as we can communicate with him from time to time!
A few months back, we woke up to news about you having a teenage son, how did Zuena handle the whole idea of an elder step son coming into your home?
My wife did the right thing, any responsible woman would do to have a settled home. Once a man has a child out there, the best way to keep the man in your grip is bringing the child home, under your care. So Zuena told me that since Allan was old enough, I should bring him home and he gets closer to his brothers and sisters.
So what is your eldest son up to?
Please call him Allan! He is 19 and he is still in school. But he is another musical talent in the making. I’ve listened to two of his songs and I can confidently prophesy that he will be a great thing to the music industry. But I told him to first finish S.6 and then he will have my full support as he embarks on his music journey.
Should we expect a father-son collabo?
On the contrary, when it comes to bringing up my family members in the music industry, it’s the hard way. Look at my nephew Short Kut, he has hassled his way and now he is at a level where I can confidently say; that’s my boy! So as long as Allan proves he is worthy of a collaboration with me, I will give it to him, but he will have to hassle his way through first.
Court ruled in your favour over the 2010 incident where you were shot at and we understand that you and the other victims of the shooting are supposed to be rewarded about Shs380m. Did you get this money?
The Attorney General’s office decided to appeal the ruling. I am waiting for that official communication from court and I will be just in time to counter the appeal. I am shocked that up to today, some people don’t know our worth. A man stood in front of me and told me I wasn’t worth that money, but if I am doing one video at Shs100m, what’s Shs380m to me if I was shot and rendered out of action for months. I looked in his eyes and cautioned them not to underestimate talent. I have achieved what I am through a tough journey, I am worth so much and I earn quite a lot, so these people need to start respecting us.
But I am not in a rush, I have waited for four years, I will wait till justice takes its course!
All about tonight’s concert
You are charging Shs50,000 for the lowest ticket, at your Serena concert tonight. Is that not too much for your loyal fans that have attended your past concerts at Shs 20,000?
As we speak now, I don’t think you can still get a single ticket costing Shs50,000. That’s how ready fans are to support me. People are willing to see us take our concerts to the next level and to world class standards. I’m so happy and I don’t know why it took me so long to realise that there are a lot of people willing to watch me at any cost. Besides the Shs50,000, we came up with a provision for 100 people to pay Shs100,000. Then, the people that want to sit on tables but cannot raise the number to occupy a whole table, are paying Shs 350,000 per a person. People like Sudhir Ruparelia, Amelia Kyambadde, Charles Mbiire, Patrick Bitature, Ham and the entire Kwagalana group have made me realise how much people are willing to see the industry get to the next level.
In terms of costs, what’s cheaper to organise, an event at Serena or outdoor event?
I am finding it cheaper to organise a Serena event. You are not worried about rain, thugs, security and access control issues, the bathrooms, parking and other aspects that people think about when going for events. And above all, the financial returns are also very good.
You said your digital swipe tickets can be used as financial cards, what else can they do and were they legalised by Bank Of Uganda?
Definitely. I couldn’t be posing for press photos with an illegal card. One of my sponsors, SMS One, had an idea related to a financial card, and when we shared, ideas we decided that these financial cards can start as tickets to my concert. The cards are going to do a lot from school fees payment to other Bebe Cool concerts and they will be used in different ATM machines across different banks. These cards are a big business and it should prove to people that we (musicians) are not as naïve as they think. This initiative has taken years of thinking and SMS One already worked on the legalities with Bank Of Uganda.
What should people expect at your show tonight?
I am not holding a funeral at Serena, so I strongly advise everyone coming tonight to be ready for a fun-packed night. People that paid for tables of Shs5m, should come early for their cocktail and dinner that starts from 5pm to 8pm. These will also have reserved parking spaces. Those that paid for tables will also have liquor bottles of their choice served to them on arrival or at leisure.
My other people of Shs50,000 will get a soft drink on arrival, while those that will pay Shs 100,000 will get some beers.
Me and the Gagamel band have rehearsed for this show for over a month and we are ready to put up a world class performance.