Legendary Jamaican performing duo Chaka Demus and Pliers will bring their unique blend of emceeing, rapping and singing to Kampala one more time tomorrow evening as we usher in 2012.
The show in Munyonyo has got the city buzzing and many party-goers wouldn’t want to miss the event, which will feature other stars like Spanner Banner and Goofy who now goes by the names Mr G. Everyone is excited, but the biggest fans of the Jamaican duo must be the local contemporary artistes we call our stars today. They will also want to be there and witness their childhood idols do what many Ugandan artistes pretend to do.
Over the course of the duo’s time together, deejay Chaka Demus and singer Pliers, with other Jamaican artistes have had a profound impact on the shape of local popular music. Little wonder Bebe Cool, the man bringing them to Kampala is a musician with heavy Jamaican influences.
The man responsible for the Jamaican music craze in Uganda is Tshaka Mayanja. He might now be involved in promoting jazz but his music genre was reggae and ragga during the early 90s. In fact he was then called Reggae Winston. He was the first, under his promotion company Yohannes Ham Inxs, to bring Chaka Demus and Pliers and Spanner Banner in 1997.
Many of the people attending tomorrow’s show will do for memories sake as the Jamaican duo ruled the early 90s. Some of us were finishing our primary school and others were in secondary school, so they might not have attended the 1997 concert, but they all danced to the duo’s hits like Murder She Wrote and Pita Pata.
With its heavy beat dance inducing nature, Jamaican music received a warm welcome by the youths who ruled the party scene and your guess of whose music was on high rotation is as good as mine.
Tshaka then also brought in Aswad, Buju Banton, Third World, Shaba Ranks, Papa San, Cedella Booker Marley, Red Rat & Goofy, Brian & Tony Gold, Rayvon, Twiggi and South Africa’s Lucky Dube.
With these artistes playing energetic and fun-filled concerts in Kampala and reggae/ ragga music having paved its way into Uganda, the stage was set for a revolution. Both music wannabes and party lovers adopted fashion and styles of Jamaican artistes – dreadlocks and Patios lingua crept in. That is still a mainstay in urban Ugandan music.
The rebellious tone and image of Jamaican ragga and dancehall musicians became popular with Ugandan youths in the 1990s manufacturing pioneer emcees like Rasta Rob MC, the late Menton Summer, Shanks Vivie Dee, Emperor Orlando and Ragga Dee among others.
These Ugandan entertainers would pick beats and rhythms from songs like Chaka Demus & Pliers’ Murder She Wrote or Morgan Heritage’s I’m Coming Home and simply lay their own Luganda and Jamaican Patios lyrics onto the tune.
Though a majority of them who started this style did not survive its end, many others would become icons of Ugandan music. Because he was the best at replicating the Jamaicans while carrying a rough/ hoarse voice like that of Buju Banton, the late Menton Summer was the man of the moment on the local music scene and people believe he would be unrivalled now hadn’t he passed away.
Having sensed a crave for local lyrics on the heavy Jamaican beats, Menton Summer launched a music career and his collaboration with Rasta Rob and Shanks Vivie Dee in the shape of Kaneemu enjoyed serious airplay. He soon followed it up with other bangers like Leka Tuzirye and Sirika Baby, a song he created from a radio advert for Sirika baby jelly composed by actor Abbey Mukiibi – and Ugandans then described Summer as “the finest emcee of his era.”
All his songs had a heavy component of Jamaican instruments and it was all clear he was trying to rap like Buju. Later Peter Ssematimba formed Dungeon Studios and others like Ragga Dee, Orlando and Shanks and also went full throttle – with one thing clear, following the Jamaican music style that was all the rage thanks to the likes of Chaka Demus & Pliers, Buju Banton and Shaba Ranks.
That marked the beginning of the Ugandan music liberation from Congolese Lingala and it is clear that Ugandan artistes used music from our distant relatives to quash the tune from the neighbourhood. Although it wasn’t until the early 2000s that Ugandan music managed to “kill” Congolese music here, the revolution had started a few years back.
Some leading artistes still borrow beats, rhymes and styles from Jamaica. Even for recent artistes like Coco Finger, Sizzaman, Rabadaba, Weasel, Peter Miles and Menshan, the Jamaican ragga influence on them is as clear as black and white.
Even perennial chart toppers Jose Chameleone, Bebe Cool and Bobi Wine are heavily influenced by the Jamaicans. The fact that Ugandan artistes still look up to what made them as the benchmark for great work just shows why Ugandan music lovers also never get tired of Jamaican artistes coming to perform here. We have had more artistes coming to perform here from Jamaican than any other part of the world.
You will find that there is someone who has watched Shaggy performing in Kampala more times (he has been here four times) than they have watched Juliana Kanyomozi live. Ugandan music may lack identity but we tend to like whatever comes from Jamaica and we always blend styles from the Central American state with our local rhythms to form what we call Ugandan contemporary genre that some have Christened Kidandali.
So when Chaka Demus and Pliers collect their pay from Saturday’s concert, they will be simply harvesting from a field they sowed their musical seed years ago. Chaka Demus and Pliers were established musicians when they teamed up and earned international recognition during the early 1990s. The duo was the first Jamaican act to have three consecutive Top 5 hits on the UK Singles Chart; a record unsurpassed until Shaggy scored four consecutive Top 5 hits in 2001.
Their hits like Tease Me, Murder She Wrote, Bam Bam, Gal Wine, Pita Pata, Twist and Shout and She Don’t Let Nobody topped the charts in Uganda for long periods. Even one of their latest tracks Bounce off their 2008 album So Proud was big here a few years ago so tomorrow’s show should be a carnival like it is appropriately named.
Entrance fee is Shs15,000 in general area whilst VIP ticket holders will part with Shs50,000 and there are also tickets for “VVIP at Shs100,000 while a platinum ticket is at Shs1m entitling you to a dinner and autographs from Demus and Pliers besides being picked from your home to and from the venue in a limousine.
Other artistes performing are Jamaicans Spanner Banner, who is Plier’s brother and Swaggerific singer Mr G, plus the show’s organiser Bebe Cool, Peter Miles, Coco Finger and Madtraxx from Kenya.