HOW DOES HE DO IT? Ever since he hit the music scene in the year 2000, Jose Chameleone has played at the top level, releasing hit after hit. He celebrates the milestone at a concert at Kyaddondo Rugby Grounds this evening. Edgar R. Batte talked to him.
It has been hard to track you as you have been out of town, yet your concert is on. What have you been up to? I was appointed by Maisha Magic Channel on Dstv as a music mentor for the Maisha Superstar Search in Nairobi and that has kept me busy for the past eight weeks. I am also rehearsing for the new season of Coke Studio.
Why did you choose to call your concert that is on this evening the Wale Wale Double trouble concert?
Wale Wale the song is a double phrase. I am also trying to see that people can anticipate for a double musical score like the other concerts that I have been doing.
How different is tonight’s concert going to be?
Every time I come up with a concert, I formulate a different approach. It is going to be different, from production to performance and a lot of other things, telling you now would spoil the surprise.
Is your son Abba going to be one of your curtain-raisers?
Abba has grown and he is no longer that little boy who he was yesterday, so it is up to him. He was actually doing rehearsals and I asked him, ‘Abba are you going to perform?’ He told me, ‘Lemme think about it’, so I didn’t go ahead to ask him why he had to think about it because he is entitled to his opinion. Of course if he wants to perform, I will let him do so.
How much guidance do you give him?
This is a generation in which we are giving children a chance to do what they want to do. I am not negative about him being an artiste although, like I have always said, I am more interested in his education. But, that won’t stop me from supporting him as an artiste. I have supported so many artistes and their careers have become fruitful, so honestly does it make sense for me to support other people and not my son?
What would you say has been your biggest actual achievement in the last 15 or so years?
My biggest achievement is not material. My benefits are those relevant people that I have met like my wife, children and friends. That is practically it.
How do you manage your image and brand for all these years?
That is actually the hardest part of the job because as much as you build a brand and present it to people, we are in a society that believes more in controversy than positivity, so my biggest challenge is the way media portrays my brand. So, instead of working hard to push the brand, I have to work harder to clean the brand.
The other day one of those mad tabloids went and wrote that the Wale Wale concert was cancelled, so instead of promoting my concert I had to revert to clearing the air. It is such a pity that we have such society. As for image, I am trying my best. You can see that my sense of fashion and style is growing every other day.
You are holding a concert on the same day with your former protégé King Saha … was this coincidental?
There is totally no problem with King Saha having a concert on the same day with mine. We are doing the same business but we are different. I honestly wish him the best and I hope he wishes me the same. All King Saha fans, please go and support him at Freedom City and Chameleone fans, you are welcome to Kyaddondo Rugby Grounds. I mean, otherwise Kisseka Market would have one spare parts’ shop, but variety brings beauty. That’s it.
What do you have to say about King Saha’s talent?
I am not a fan. The only thing I will say is that I supported his talent when he needed support and now that he can stand on his own, he is ready for his career. It is just like when you lend shoes to a person when they need them, you don’t ask them where they are going to.
What is your favourite drink?
My favourite drink was Johnnie Walker, Red Label but I quit. It was my New Year’s resolution. I only take a beer once in a while. I am reducing my drinking habits. I am a free-style drinker. I don’t drink to fall.
Is it true you are into real estate business?
Yes I am. That is one of the easiest businesses for any young man. Haven’t you heard people saying I sold Nansana off? I buy and if I get a better offer that can earn me a profit, I sell. Daniella Villas and Coco Beach are all part of the estates.
What has been your happiest moment? The day I walked again after my Arusha accident. When I see a nice shoe, I buy it because I still walk.
What things do you regret?
Not finishing my university because I would have a side job. Music is fun but it is boring doing the same thing year after year.
There is the Bible challenge going around…what is your favourite Bible verse?
I actually have tattooed it on my right hand… “No weapon formed against me shall prosper”. It is in Psalms. It encourages me as a God-fearing person. I believe that with God, everything is possible.
Remembering his little brother
You recently lost your young brother AK47 who was mourned by the nation, how do you remember him?
I remember him more as a friend than a kid brother because regardless of the many years I was older than him, we always agreed and disagreed as if we were age-mates. He had big ambitions and big dreams. I loved the fact that he listened to me and he was daring. You can’t believe at his age, he built a house.
What went through your mind when the news was broken to you about his passing?
Initially I thought it was this artistes’ drama because people kept telling me if I had heard the news that my brother had died and I didn’t believe, not until one of my friends Moses Walugembe came and told me that he had seen AK’s body in Nsambya Hospital and it had been wrapped. He advised me to be very fast so I rushed to Nsambya and when I reached, I went to where he was laid. He was covered in a white sheet. I asked the doctors to open so that I could see him. When they unfolded him, I just could not hold it. It was the worst moment of my life. My world just crumbled because I remembered him as a friend and comrade. I remember him in very many moments.
What was the last conversations you shared with your fallen brother?
My last conversation with AK was actually an argument about his house. I was asking him to add more effort than spending money on funny things because his house was almost complete and he was starting to neglect it. I was asking him to come back and work with me. I felt I was paying him more money than he was earning in Team No Sleep.
What fond memories did you share with AK?
He was so scared of heights and turbulences. He would refuse to get on roller-coasters with me, imaging the planes would breakdown and we fell and died. When turbulences came, he would be so bothered.
Are you in touch with the widow?
Yes, I am in touch with the widow. She actually visited my studio with the twins and we spent the whole day together.
How is she coping, and then the twins?
It is hard for each of us and once in a while we breakdown and cry but she is strong. The twins are doing well. They were baptized last Sunday.
How did AK’s death affect your family?
It reminded us that death is very close to us. I mean, being the first brother we lost, death became a reality. My children are very bothered. Every time they see AK on TV, they start asking me so many questions and they start breaking down and crying. I really miss him. We really miss him.
Your father hinted on abuse of illegal drugs…why do you think so?
People misinterpreted his statement, but in my understanding and my father’s opinion, he is concerned that youth these days are abusing drugs. That doesn’t mean that AK was on drug abuse because I worked with him for about eight years and can stand tall for him that AK didn’t use drugs.
Have you abused drugs yourself?
Nope. I don’t use drugs. If Chameleone without drugs is this energetic, what if I were on drugs?