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Musical asylum: Ugandan artistes who quit the industry for the diaspora


GNL is better known for his Luga-flow music. Photo by Abubaker Lubowa

Plan B: Some of them like GNL had quite a lucrative career lasting a while, but for others things had totally failed. Either to escape the humiliation or find greener pastures, it is their story. Ian Ortega writes of the artistes who ‘ran away from us’.
In the 90s, Rasta Rob (Robert Ogwal) was a celebrated radio presenter. To his role in the media, he had a hit song that was playing throughout the country. Remember the “Kilikili Mabelo” song? It introduced his morning show to the listeners and was a song on everyone’s lips. Then it happened, he left for the UK where he spent a number of years on Kyeyo (greener pastures). By the time he returned, he could not recover his glory and supremacy as a renaissance man, a deejay, a music producer and a motor racer. Many had no idea of Rasta Rob. To them, he was another struggling presenter.
Just like Rasta Rob, many Ugandan artistes have in the past left for the Diaspora, riding on the adage of that the grass could be greener on the other side. Who are these artistes and celebrities?



Toolman Kibalama

He is famous for his Ekisumuluzo hit song. For many, Toolman was a darling, another self-appointed king of the dancehall, Uganda’s Shaba Ranks. Toolman aka Fredrick Kibalama, sought musical asylum in Germany. Even though he continues to release music while in Germany, it is not his source of income. As soon as he landed in Germany, he pursued a certificate in Nursing and upon graduation was employed in a hospital to look after senior citizens. He now speaks more German than Luganda. The grass, for Toolman, has proven to be greener. Early this year, he released a new song titled Oyaka.


Faridah Walden

Just when Ugandans thought they were having another successful duo of Walden and Chosen, their hopes miscarried. In 2012, the duo split. Walden then tried out a solo career but was not able to achieve the same success previously attained by their song, Pressure Ya Love. She then had a stint at Dembe FM as a radio presenter but this too did not meet her expectations. She is currently pursuing her studies at Middlesex University in the United Kingdom.


                                                                                 Kid Fox aka King Stephen 

If you asked Bebe Cool about his best Ugandan dancehall artistes, Kid Fox will certainly feature somewhere. One of his songs that charmed Ugandans was Luganda N’emikwano. Even though his other songs received airplay, they did not bear the desired fruits. Stressed, and feeling rejected, Kid Fox rebranded to King Stephen but this did little to help. The king decided to migrate to Japan, after all, a prophet is never accepted in his homeland.
Unknown to most people, Kid Fox has been singing from as early as 1991. In 2014, rumours went around that he had been killed in a drug-trafficking incident. He came out to deny the rumours and blamed the Babylonians for spreading false information.


 GNL Zamba. Photo by Abubaker Lubowa

The man who introduced Luga flow to Uganda? The Babaluku fans would argue otherwise. Then perhaps, we can brand him as the man who popularised the Luga Flow genre. It was his first song, Soda Jinjale that took Uganda by storm. Next to this were songs such as Koyi Koyi, plus collabos with the Goodlyfe just to mention but a few. He was a true darling and one of the first Hip hop stars to have a fully packed concert that challenged other mainstream artistes. With his Baboon Forest Entertainment crew, he mentored artistes such as Mun-G to greatness. Today, he has decided to take a sabbatical in the lands of California, trying out a number of things such as acting and poetry while releasing songs on the side. He has worked on his fourth studio album titled ‘Zambaland’.


Mega Dee

Before Maro, there was Mega Dee as the Knight of Busoga. The arrival of Maro into the industry coincided with Mega Dee’s travel to the US. The western world presented new beginnings. Mega Dee had in the past organised concerts that flopped. Soon, he was being nicknamed the god of the flops, despite having some of the best music at the time.
Upon arrival in the US, Mega Dee embarked on studies at Kaplan College in North Hollywood. In May 2015, the Twegaite Annual convention in Minnesota honoured him for his contribution to the music industry in Busoga Kingdom. He is also marketing his newest song, Nali Wandanga.


Rachael K

The daughter to Halima Namakula came from the United States full of energy and ready to conquer the music industry in Uganda. Her mother at the time owned a studio and one of her brothers was a producer. Everything was already working to her advantage. But like they say, we all do our best, but concerning the rest, we can do very little. Despite having some of the coolest music videos at the time, her style was one that most Ugandans didn’t understand. At one point, she even talked of being the first Ugandan rock singer. The musical kitchen in Uganda was getting hotter, and the young girl decided to return to her ‘motherland’ just to start afresh.


                Lizard (Pallaso)

He features on this list for one simple reason; he went abroad with a different name, and a lame career. On his return, he had a new name and a hit song and since then, he has not looked back. He could be the unicorn that has left Uganda for the states only to return with a disruptive touch. Back then, Pallaso was another of those Chameleone brothers who went by the name of ‘Lizard.’ He spent some time in jail while in the US, found a beautiful White lady, and when the Goodlyfe made a visit to the US, he grabbed the opportunity. Together, they recorded the ‘Amaaso’ song. Immediately, it was playing in every club and on every radio station. The Lizard was now Pallaso. Today, he is currently one of the most popular Ugandan artistes, having uncovered his Midas touch. For every song he touches, turns to gold. Now that is a story worth narrating.


Guvnor Ace

It was news in August last year when the 28-year-old Guvnor Ace wedded his 68-year-old Swedish lover, Mona-Lisa Larsson. He called it love; others saw it as a quick route for a visa and citizenship. Hardly five months into the marriage had the couple broken up, with each citing different reasons. The break up happened after the two had relocated to Sweden. The former Leone Island singer has not released any new songs, though it seems, the asylum has paid off compared to his struggling music career.


Pastor George Okudi

Wipolo was the household song in Uganda in the years preceding 2005. In the whole of East Africa, Pastor Okudi was the Pastor Bugembe of his days, but even much more. He had won two Kora Awards. While receiving his award, he called upon Bebe Cool and Chameleone to join him on stage and they both carried him shoulder high as a show of respect. As they say, it is one thing to be number one, and it is another thing to remain number one. The songs that followed Wipolo did not receive the same massive airplay. The musical pastor was left with no option but to pack his bags and get on the earliest flight to USA. Months ago, he accused one of his employers of failing to pay him for his baby-keeping services. He also continues to release songs while in the US and has shown no sign of coming home.


Mary Luswata

She was never an artiste, but she put every celebrity in Uganda on the tenterhooks. She was every musician’s nightmare with her show where she exposed their lives. At one time, it was rumoured she moved with bodyguards lest she gets beaten by those she had exposed. However, her show ratings begun to slump, she took a mini-break, travelled, returned but the numbers continued to decline. Without announcement, she benched at the US embassy for a Visa and when her prayers were answered, she left. It is coming to a year since she left and there is no sign that the lugambo goddess is about to return.

  • Restiey Katooko

    Aha the lugambo queen took off ASAP! I thought she feared no one

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