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The Chameleone is still changing colours

Jose ChameleoneNew turf: As he launches his Tubonge album tonight, singer Chameleone is eyeing dominance beyond regional borders, Edgar R. Batte writes.

Tonight Jose Chameleone is live in Tubonge concert at the Lugogo Cricket Oval. Many Ugandans don’t know what the Tubonge song is all about even if they love it because it was done in Swahili. Tubonge, he says, is a song he did to appreciate what the Lord has done for him.

“There are times you feel down or you feel like jubilating because of what the Lord has done for you. You feel you want to thank Him but unfortunately we cannot see Him physically. He is there for me even in my darkest hours, He sees me when nobody sees me,” Chameleone explains his inspiration for the song.
The musician, with 14 albums to his name, is expected to host East African artistes AY, Ferooz, Nameless, TID, Lady Jay D and Ray C at the concert.
Last year, Chameleone also hosted the region’s music heavyweights at his Badilisha concert. In attendance were Professor Jay from Tanzania, Redsan from Kenya, plus Jean Paul Samputu and General Samba from Rwanda.

This year, Chameleone says that he is taking a leap of faith, and holding his Tubonge Concert at Lugogo Cricket Oval, a venue where foreign artistes like R Kelly, Wyclef Jean, Akon, Joe Thomas, Sean Kingston, Sean Paul, Konshens and recently Busy Signal have held concerts. The only Ugandan artiste who has held a show at the oval is Bobi Wine, who late last year staged a charity concert, with free entry for the public.
To hold a concert or an event at the oval, one has to part with approximately Shs50m. Chameleone says he is a music giant and is willing to take the risk.
“I know Lugogo Cricket Oval is a big challenge. You do not have to go to school to know how big that place is, but let us not underestimate Chameleone because he is a big artiste, with a big fan base,” the 35-year-old musician says.
He said in case things go wrong, he is ready for the shame like he is ready for the pride. “Quality has a price. If my counterparts fear the venue, it does not mean I should fear it. If I fail to ground Lugogo this time, I will be going back until the day when it looks the way I want it to look,” he vows.
This is not the first time Chameleone is taking on a challenge. In the aftermath of the July, 2011 bombings at Kyadondo Rugby Club, when everyone feared to hold an event there, he held his 2012 concert at the grounds and managed to attract an impressive crowd, a few months after the annual Christian event, Phat Fest had broken the venue’s jinx.
Clearly, Chameleone is making a point that Ugandan music still rules in the face of competition it faces from Nigerian and South African music that seems to be enjoying ample airplay in bars and discotheques.
“Let people not look at this as an individual benefit because I feel very bad that foreign music is starting to eat into our music turf. That is the reason you walk into a discotheque and they play 60 per cent Nigerian music, 20 per cent Jamaican music and the 20 is for all of us Ugandan artistes to fight for. I am up for the challenge, to stand tall and take our music industry forward,” he says.

And Chameleone’s music star has shone beyond home borders in the recent past. He won the Africa Entertainment Awards as Best African Artiste, Kilimanjaro Awards as Best East African Artiste and bagged the Best East African Single accolade for Valu Valu and the Kisima Award for Best Single for the same song. He is an African nominee in World Music Awards, which he says is a big pat on the back.
“The chances of winning are not there, I will be very frank about that, but qualifying to be there is big for a Ugandan who was born in Kawempe and did not have a mic in his hands at one point. This is a big recognition,” he says.

He says if luck smiled his way and he won the global award, where his former protégés Radio and Weasel are also nominated, it would be a big platform for him.
Already he is rebranding himself as he prepares to hit the world stage. He is re-shooting videos for songs like Valu Valu and Gimme Gimme to acceptable standards of global broadcast platforms like MTV, Trace and Channel O. By delving into expensive videos, he seems to be borrowing from a script of his former students Radio and Weasel, whose quality videos saw them nominated for awards like BET and Channel O last year.
Chameleone says the harder he has stayed behind is the harder he has sprung ahead. He explains that this is his rebirth.
“I have only redone two old videos and three new videos. I feel like an upcoming artiste because I am starting to venture differently. I am the same artiste but venturing into unchartered waters. That is why I am starting to step onto the international stage. I want to see my weight at the international platform felt, and it is one of the reasons I am going to Cricket Oval,” he elaborates.

Chameleone gives a nod to Nigerian artistes who are packaging their stuff uniquely especially when it comes to their music videos.
“It is a shame on us honestly. If you cannot spend Shs100m on music videos and you are driving a car worth Shs150m it does not make a lot of sense. It is like milking a cow and not feeding it. That has changed for me. I am looking for new competition,” he says.

Venue: Lugogo Cricket Oval.
Cover charges: Shs10,000 and Shs30,000 for V.I.P.


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