Still going strong. Jose Chameleone is launching his Badilisha album tonight. Edgar R. Batte caught up with him on Tuesday night when he returned from a show in the Netherlands.
How were the shows you’ve just been performing at in Europe?
They were successful. I enjoyed myself performing to a mixed audience of African and Dutch people.
What were the big highlights for you?
The big highlight was the great reception I received. I kind of didn’t expect it because the year began tough for me, but I recollected myself, and when I have love and support from people I am happy.
In what context do you mean “the year began tough”?
What don’t you know? It began with a lot of uneven social happenings and when I am disturbed, I cannot represent myself musically. It is very hard to be focused.
What else has Jose Chameleone been up to of late, apart from performing at shows?
I have come to realise that Ugandan music is stagnant because we don’t have foreign challengers. We cannot look at Nigerians as our challengers. They are geographically far from us. Back in the day we had the Ogopa Deejays and the likes of Professor Jay across the borders and we would compete. Today our music sounds the same. Our music is going back to being strictly Ugandan music and that is what I am back to fix, and that is why I have invited comrades from Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda.
Did you buy a house in Muyenga recently?
I think in my opinion that doesn’t matter because a house is a basic need. Anyone can own a house. What is important is that I have where to live and what to eat.
Okay, but you were recently ranked Africa’s 10th richest artiste by a certain website. What assets do you own?
Yes I am an entrepreneur and a businessman on the side but I want to be identified as a musician. All I own is for my kids. I am a poor man. I think I was ranked for working hard.
Okay do you then mind telling us what your children own?
I want to raise my kids privately. If you want to know what my father owns, I can tell you but if you want to know what my kids own, then you can ask them. As a reminder I have been working for more than 3,650 days, that is more than 10 years. If my manager can build a house and complete it and my protégés AK47 and Papa Cidy can build houses, then if I don’t own what I have, I have been living negligently. I don’t waste my money going to Bahamas for holidays.
Talking about your children, we hear your son Abba is a talented guy who even knows how to play the guitar… are we getting a song from Abba soon?
To be honest with you, I am proud he has that skill. A son of a carpenter will know carpentry but I have not pushed him to learn. My priority for him is education. For him it is hobby, it is not a profession.
Are you that strict a dad?
I am, that is why I say he has to play guitar as any other kid will play a game, but he has to learn when I want him to. I am a friend of my children, but as a parent, I have to be strict with them.
How much time do you spend with your family?
As much as my free time.
At one time Radio and Weasel were family. Do you hope to ever get back with them?
I think our divisions are immature. We were immature, but as we grow they become simple things that we can solve. I look forward to that day when we are back together. Remember Weasel is my brother and where does it happen that brothers die enemies?
What happens at family functions when you meet Weasel … do you guys talk?
Yeah a little bit, not comfortably. When we talk everyone gets paranoid, but we talk.
What do you talk about?
We talk about everything except music.
It is a sensitive issue.
When was the last time you talked to Radio?
Oh..he he he.. it is a long long time ago. I cannot remember. It is a long while ago. Some years ago.
There have been lots of Facebook exchanges of late between you and Bebe Cool, what is your beef with him?
Bebe doesn’t want to stop talking about me and unfortunately I get caught up in those issues. He doesn’t want to take me out of his mouth. He spends time observing me but I don’t take a second observing him.
May be he is seeking the attention of an old musical comrade…
Like you say may be, I am not sure.
Do you have beef with him?
No I don’t. It has been like three years since we last dialogued so I have nothing to talk to him about. It is time we respected each other. We have children. We need to spend more time guiding our children than trying to guide one another. I have no beef with Bebe Cool unless he declares it.
Have you listened to his new song Cocodiosis? He seems to throw jibes at you for saying you are among the richest African musicians, with a house in Muyenga.
I have not had a chance. I have been very busy with my Badilisha concert. I don’t listen to Ugandan music. There is very little to learn from Ugandan music if you want to grow and sell your music beyond Uganda.
What does Badilisha mean?
Badilisha is a Swahili word meaning change and in this particular song I am singing about a couple where one partner is feeling unfairly treated because they are not loved enough. They are asking their lover to change their ways for the better because they can leave.
What is the inspiration of this song?
I always sing about what I observe in my community and what I go through. I have my wife who is always patient. There are times when I leave her home I can see she longs for me.
What should fans expect at the Badilisha concert?
Everybody is invited. I don’t want Bebe Cool, Radio and Weasel to think they don’t have space at Kyaddondo. And it is the beginning of my future where we are beginning to celebrate East African music. I am one of the architects of the East African music landscape. I am one of those people that revolutionised this industry, that is why I am inviting my comrades.
Who is coming?
Redsan from Kenya has honoured the invitation, Masamba from Rwanda, Professor Jay from Tanzania is also coming, and many more East African figures.
Where do we see Jose Chameleone in the next five to 10 years?
What I can talk about the future is working hard towards the future. God has His own plans. God is using me and He knows where he is going to deliver me in the next five years.
What word or words do you have for your fans?
I would like to thank my fans for showing their unending support, emotionally and musically, and besides Badilisha is the first Chameleone concert I have so anticipated for. I wish I was a Chameleone fan watching the show, to show love to Chameleone. It is unfair that I perform and not see myself.
Do you have an idea which concert in number this is?
I had Mama Mia in 2001, Mambo Bado in 2003, Kipepeo in 2005, Shida za Dunia in 2006, Befuula in 2007, Katupakase in 2008, Bayudda in 2009, Basiima Ogenze in 2010, Mukisa Gwo in 2011, Valu Valu in 2012 and now the mighty Badilisha.
Looking back what has been your saddest moment in your music journey?
When I hurt my feet in Tanzania.
And what has been your biggest career highlight so far?
At the Basiima Ogenze, the concert at which I was able to get on my feet again.
When was the last time you cried?
When I saw my son, Abba, play the guitar. It was a talent show at his school. I was not there at school, but watching the recordings got me emotional. There he was, so innocent and playing the guitar so well. I could not help but break down into tears
When was the last time you felt so happy deep inside?
It was the same moment, seeing Abba play the guitar. I cried out of happiness.
Should we expect him to perform tonight?
No, he is still in school. Wait for his own show.