20 magic years: He is one of the pioneer producers in Uganda’s music industry in the recent times. Washington Ebangit has produced hits and made stars, including Radio and Weasel, Cindy, Bebe Cool and many more. On Monday, he celebrated 20 years of the Magic Washington Legacy at Casablanca in a show attended by Kenya’s Nameless. Lawrence Ogwal caught up with him to share his 20-year journey.
Congrats upon your 20 years of producing music…
Thanks man, it has been a long time coming but thank God here I am.
Tell us about the 20 years as a producer
It is not practically 20 years of successful music recording; I like to break it into five years of hustling and struggling to find my way through and then 15 years of enjoying my fruits of hard work and still counting.
How was the struggle?
I had a thing for instruments and during church service, I used to play almost all musical instruments. When I finished school, I joined Dream Studios where I met Eddie Yahweh and he gave me some technical training and I learnt how to produce.
So you attribute your success to Eddie Yawe?
I wouldn’t want to say I attribute it to only him. When I was starting out, Eddie Yawe and Nicholas Mayanja helped me a lot in learning production and they always gave me opportunities to learn on job.
When did the five years of struggling end?
When I was introduced to Bebe Cool, Chameleone, Cindy and Bobi Wine. I did for them songs that became hits and marketed me as a producer and that was when I started going places and getting recognised in the music Industry.
What kept you moving up?
One trick I always give young and upcoming music producers is that to be the best, you have to point out a good artiste who will sell your brand. I worked with Bebe Cool on very many projects that included Kube with East African Bashment Crew, Fire Burn Dem with Dizzy Nuts and many other songs. As these songs were hitting, it wasn’t only Bebe Cool being recognised, but me too and that is how the name became big in the Industry.
As a music producer, tell us about the transition in the industry over the last 20 years.
The industry has gone from good to bad because of people like you (journalists). Journalists are always paid by artistes with no talent and they later feed the world with wrong news. When the world is seeing and taking someone without talent as the best singer, the music industry will not grow because talented artistes are not recognised by the media.
Don’t you think the problem is with our big artistes, who are no longer vibrant?
You know they say when change comes, you have to embrace it and change with it. When you wait for it to change you then it might change you in a way you will never like and regret your entire life.
What exactly is the change we are talking about here?
The music industry like I told you, is still not doing well. When young artistes dominate the industry and outshine the big artistes, then just know they are working very hard and promoting their music.
Should we assume the big artistes focusing on international recognition?
There is nothing like international music or being international. When music is exported, it becomes international music. When Ugandan music or musician goes to Nigeria, they become international artistes. For example Chris Brown is international here, but in the US he is local and our artistes are international.
Is it working with Bebe Cool that brought you this far?
Not really. I have also worked with Radio and Weasel for about 10 years, Nameless from Kenya, Silver X from South Sudan, among others.
You spent quite some time working with Radio and Weasel. How did you guys hook up?
They approached me before they became singers and I realised they were talented but I told them to look for me when they start singing together. After leaving Leone Island, they came and we started work.
What was the first song you did with Radio and Weasel?
The first song we did was in 2009 called Number Emu and after that we did hit after hit. The songs are very many, I can’t mention all but they were all good.
So how come you no longer work with them?
Good artistes don’t work with one producer; they tried to explore some other producers. I only work with them on international projects. We are currently working on a song with Wizkid, Snoop Dogg, Dbanj, P-Square and P.J Powers, among others.
But we hear people say Radio and Weasel no longer do good music.
I don’t know about that because to many, they are still good artistes. Ugandans should just wait for their international collaborations and they will know they are still good.
Wait, the last time we checked you were also singing, where did that end?
I still sing, although I sing in my language (Ateso). I do coconscious and love reggae songs.
You celebrated this 20-year milestone. Does that mean you will be bowing out soon?
I am not bowing out, I just organised the event to show young producers that they can make it no matter how the industry gets. This industry is tough in that music producers are disrespected by artiste and other stakeholders.
Why didn’t you take the celebrations to a big venue?
I always don’t want to exaggerate things because like I told you, we (producers) are not respected and even though we go to a bigger place, who cares.
How do you feel after making a hit for an artiste and they don’t remember you?
It is painful but one way you can get out of it is using it to your advantage and charging them very highly. The other trick is to work with a few artistes because at the end you have quality music to your name.
Is Washington the best producer in Uganda?
Yes I am the best in the industry and it is the reason I am celebrating the milestone. But just because I am the best doesn’t mean I don’t respect other producers who are in the industry because they give me a run for my money.
Who are some of those good producers?
Tonny Holes, Paddy Man, Benon, Steve Jean, Kiwuuwa and Allan Okia.
You mention only producers you started with. Are the young ones jokers?
Not really. There are good producers like Nessim, Producer Crouch, Nash Wonder, Andre and Big Nash, among others. They have great music out there.
Have you mentored any people?
I mentored Bushingtone and I am proud of me because he followed what I told him. He is managing Lydia Jazmine and the two are successful in their careers.
Where do you see the future of these young producers?
These producers like I said have very good music but they don’t benefit from their good work because they are paid less than they work for.
What advice do you give them?
I advise these producers not to be stuck in one production house and move and work around the world and make your talent be out there instead of being in one place where you are paid peanuts.
How easy is it for them?
Everything is possible when you have the talent. You only have to talk to people who know people who can make things happen and you are good to go.
Ugandan artistes have of late shunned music awards, what is your comment on that?
I totally agree with them. Entertainment awards in Uganda are money making machines that organisers are putting up to make big money from the fans and the artistes themselves. I think the only people who can organise awards should be those with knowledge about the entertainment industry.
What have you achieved in these 20 years?
I don’t want to talk about money, cars or houses as my achievements. I have achieved one thing and that is the success of artistes such as Bebe Cool, Cindy, Nameless and other big names that passed through my hands.
Last words to your fans and followers…
I thank them for the love and support over the years and I urge them to accord the same respect to producers as they accord to artistes.
Producer Washington is an architect, he shapes and produces an artistes’ individual style. I went to him with ideas and he made my dream a reality when he first produced for me Nawewe. I think what makes him good as a producer is because he is an all-rounder unlike other producers who are good with one particular style.