RESILIENT: Many artistes have come and gone, but one of the things that have kept Bebe Cool around is re-inventing himself. He tells Isaac Ssejjombwe & Edgar R. Batte his next move.
You recently released your Go Mama album that you said had taken you three years to compile. Why did it take you such a long time to compile it?
Well, it has taken me this long because the dynamics of the music industry have changed. The audience was not ready for it then, but they have understood and appreciated the idea. I took three years because it was important to go back to the basics. The music industry was used to a person releasing three songs in a year and somehow this has led to the stagnation of the industry. There was a need for fresh ideas and as one of the founders of this industry, I took the lead to show people that we needed to take music to another level.
It is an awesome album. Fans can now buy an album that is worth Shs50,000 and they will not complain of being cheated or fleeced. It is how the rest of the world works and we can do it in Uganda as well. Artistes need to depend on loyalties like CD sales, concerts, corporate endorsement deals and so on. I am redirecting the industry and artistes need to learn how to make money out of their music career. I am expecting to feed off this album for the next three years as I make another one.
What strategy do you have to keep the standards that you set for yourself in this industry?
You know I am not in this industry by mistake. I am working on my next album that I will be releasing in 2018, that is another three years ahead. I can tell you that I have invested a lot into this album and I am not yet done. I am still pumping cash into it and a lot more to come. You see, a good investment will definitely bear good fruit. I am going to invest $500,000 (about Shs1.7bn) in the next three years. I am going to work with two celebrated African artistes on my next project.
Who are those artistes?
I cannot let you in on that. I cannot disclose their names now. You know there are a lot of smart Nigerians and they have a lot of money. They could approach the artistes and start making offers to them. But seriously as Ugandans, we do not need to be sidelined and it is up to people like me to hold the Ugandan flag high among Nigerian and South African stars.
You previously said that you spent Shs120m on the Love You Everyday video … you are investing quite some money in your music which was not the case before, what informed your decision to start on this and where are you getting this money from?
Not just Love You Everyday, but all videos of my new album. I shot Old Skool for Shs48m and it was done by Ogopa. I shot Go Mama for Shs48m, by VJ1 in Nairobi. For Everywhere I Go, I spent Shs85m and it was shot by Godfather Productions in South Africa. I recently shot African Girl for US$38,000 (Shs125m). It was shot by Clarence Peters the same guy who did Love You Everyday. It is a new strategy to invest more because the return is there. I have always had my money and I think it is time that we compete with Nigerians on all fronts. When you have a good music video, it takes you places.
Your nomination for the Best Video in the MTV Africa Music Awards (Mamas) did not earn you a win, but it must have been a learning process. What was your experience at the awards?
It was an eye opener because these awards are not about voting or numbers. It is a business. There is a lot to learn. There is no single company from Uganda or the East African region that advertises on MTV. How do you expect us to make presence at such awards or to win? Our corporate companies and governments need to represent us out there.
Sections of the media said it was actually Clarence Peters, the video director of Love You Every Day, who was nominated for the MTV Awards not you. What do you have to say about that?
All I can say is that those people are naïve. I mean if it was my picture and name on the nomination list, how then would Clarence Peters be nominated? It hurts them so much to see me prosper. I went there and I represented and it still gives them troubled thoughts about me. I don’t have time for their nonsense.
Your rival Bobi Wine rallied fans to vote for you when you got nominated for the award…
His fans do not have smart phones so they couldn’t vote for me.
Which is your favourite song on the Go Mama album, and why?
There are some interesting tracks on that album but my best is Freedom. Why? Because it also took me by surprise. I have to confess that I am a rock n’ roll fan and this track shows my range of reach. I have ably done reggae music, Rn’B, hip hop and now rock music. Everything about this song is massive. The writers who are Michael Fingers and his wife Esther Nabaasa were good. Michael Fingers did the production, and the mixing and mastering were all on point.
Last year, it was the Best of Bebe Cool concert, this year you have dubbed it Friends of Bebe Cool, what will your concert be next year?
I will most likely name it Heights of Bebe Cool because of the journey I have gone through in the music industry. It is not easy being on top for over 20 years. For next year’s album, I will have a compilation of my best music, the journey from where it all started, all the way to where I am to date. Two decades on top.
We came across a social media post made by Bobi Wine saying he will only attend tonight’s concert if you can present a land title. Would you welcome his attendance?
I don’t have his time. I am busy looking forward to the show. He is seeking attention. What people need to know is that most land titles are in banks because they are attached to loans, but artistes keep posing in houses that are actually owned by banks. Now, if I bring a land title to Serena Hotel, will it be the one singing to the people? I wonder how people think things out. I can tell you that people have been posing infront of houses, but very soon the truth is going to come out. The problem is that the music industry has people showing off by telling people that they have much more than they can show. Some of us have chosen not to show off. I pay Shs12m a year as rent and people know where to find me, but pretenders are yet to be exposed because their land titles are attached to loans in banks. Some people have beaches on the Kabaka’s land, so should we ask them to show us their land titles too? I have properties worth billions and I am not showing off, yet my father Bidandi Ssali has not yet given me a thing even if he is a respected landlord. I am watching them. Let us see how this is going to play out.
Do we see Bebe Cool and Bobi Wine reconciling at any one point in their lifetime?
I do not think that will ever happen. I am sorry, I don’t deal with drug addicts.
Your music career started in Kenya and you have a strong attachment to that country especially after forming the East African Bashment Crew. Tokota is a Swahili track on your album. Is it enough to cater for the Kenyan fans?
Yes, that one Swahili song Tokota is for my Swahili speaking fans. However, most songs on the album are in English which cuts across the globe. Kenya and Tanzania are staunch reggae lovers, so I got them catered for in a number of songs, not just Tokota.
You charged an entrance fee of 50k for the ordinary ticket of your concert last year, why have you chosen to double the fee this year?
Well, the demand for those tickets is now high. Last year, all the tickets sold out and people were willing to pay Shs100,000 to attend the show. Unfortunately, the venue, Kampala Serena Hotel’s sitting capacity is only 1,500 so we can’t accomodate everyone. We have been selling the tickets and they are almost sold out, so the price is not an issue.
Last year, the tickets were in form of ATM cards. Are they still valid?
Yes. We have been in touch with people who bought the cards last year and we have been calling them up to find out if they will return. Many have said they will also attend this year’s show. All they have to do is load money on their cards and come and swipe at the venue and get in.
Which other artiste in Uganda do you think can raise our flag high?
I think the Goodlyfe boys can do it especially if they are focused. They have done it before so doing it once again cannot be a problem. All they need is to look beyond local fame and re-organise for international stardom.
Venue: Kampala Serena Hotel
Date: Today, August 7.
The charges: Shs100,000 for regular tickets, Shs2m for VIP tables and Shs5m for VVIP tables.