The adage goes “For every successful man, there has to be a woman behind.” Well, the same adage could be used in the music industry only replacing the ‘wife’ with ‘fans’ and man with musician. Fans play a big role in an artiste’s career and today, ISAAC SSEJJOMBWE looks at some of the top fan groups in Uganda, the roles they play, how they benefit from being loyal to artistes and the criteria followed to joining the group.
TEAM KING SAHA (Kings Empire)
King Saha is among the new crop of artistes making a mark on Uganda’s music industry. Though relatively new, he has garnered up to 1,000 fans.
His fan group was started last year by Jordan who began by inboxing another Saha fan on Facebook. A month or so later, they opened up a WhatsApp group where they included all interested Saha fans across the world. Unlike other groups that are formed with the knowledge of a said artiste, ‘Team King Saha’ was different. The artiste didn’t even know of the existence of his fan group after until May last year when he endorsed it.
“After the number had reached 170 people, some members started complaining why a group of so many people could exist without the artiste’s knowledge. They had a point so we embarked on every possible way to meet King Saha. It was not easy because on two occasions we were given wrong numbers until we finally got the correct one. We talked him into meeting us and when he did, he liked our determination and idea and endorsed us last year in May,” narrated Jordan.
He also adds that they have four full WhatsApp groups each consisting of 250 members and are soon opening a fifth one.
Their only satisfaction is in King Saha knowing that they exist and to talk to them every now and then. They even meet their own fares everywhere he performs just to show solidarity. Among the things they do is to represent him at awards ceremonies that he doesn’t attend and when luck strikes and he wins, they take the award back for him.
They, however, point out the negative media stories to be their main challenge although it doesn’t bring them down.
BEBE COOL’S ‘GAGAMEL PHAMILY’.
Some write it as ‘Gagamel Family’ but the correct way is ‘Gagamel Phamily’ and this is because they wanted to be unique according to Kleberson who is the chairman of the fan group.
Currently with over 3,500 members, Gagamel is arguably the most vibrant artiste group and oldest in Uganda having been formed in 2007 by Solomon Afuna, Nayoga Hannah, Aaron Mugwanya, Ronnie Muvunyi and Nsubuga Richard. The group’s role is to promote Bebe Cool’s music all over social media, radio and TV station as well as voting for him in every awards ceremonies he’s nominated in. This, they have done besides defending him, shutting up artistes, rival fan groups and some media personalities who talk ill about Bebe Cool. But surprisingly, they are not paid to do this but rather to get close to their artiste.
Because of the endless support they have offered to their artiste, Gagamel Phamily has won quite a number of awards including HiPipo music awards and Zzina awards, among others, as the ‘best fans group.’ According to Kleberson who became part of the team in 2009 but took over its leadership in 2010, awards are not what identify the group’s success but helping each other through tough times.
“The group is successful in many aspects, for example, it has created a sense of belonging and strong bond among Bebe Cool fans, we have promoted Bebe Cool’s brand at all levels which why he’s the best artiste in Uganda, but most of all we help each other during tough times like death, sickness. We we have also been involved in so many charity activities,” he said.
The group has grown from just being Bebe Cool’s fans to forming a football team, which aims at playing in Uganda’s Super League.
TEAM RADIO AND WEASEL.
Radio and Weasel started their singing careers in Jose Chameleon’s Leone Island. When they became independent, they formed Goodlyf which has gone ahead to become the best dynamic duo in the country over the years. With this success, their ardent fans led by a chairman and head of public relations Emotions decided to open up a group in 2012 with the aim of uniting other fans. This did not take long to pay off. Right now, they have five WhatsApp groups which they use to interact and communicate but chose one that only management and committee use for their administrative work.
Different from others, Team Radio and Weasel elects a new ‘cabinet team’ of 15 people every year who are financed and facilitated by the artistes and management. Besides all that, any member on the committee of the 15 is entitled to medical insurance and a monthly salary. However, others only benefit from end of year parties that are held in different locations to interact, check their performances and future plans.
Team Radio and Weasel also has both a football and netball team that participates in different competitions.
SHEEBAh’S – SHEEBAHOOLICS
You can’t mention Ugandan music lately without mentioning the name Sheebah somewhere. Not because she’s the best artiste but because she has perhaps remained consistent for the past three years partly because of her fans group ‘Sheebaholics’.
They are so loyal to her just like how a football team can be towards their coach.
The group was formed in 2009 by Sheebah herself and her sister Mariam Jumba. The group only became popular in June last year after the creation of a WatsApp group. The committee has 50 people but four people run the things with Jesse Sheebaholic as the chairman, Jamila Muhammad Sheebaholic as the vice and Remmy Sheebaholic as the treasurer among others. Every member on the committee has to end their name with ‘Sheebaholic’ to prove their royalty. According to Jesse, “Sheebah is our artiste’s name while ‘holic’ means that we are crazy about her.”
Besides promoting their artiste, the fan group also helps in the running of Sheebah’s other businesses such as a salon and housing estate, among others. They are also responsible for all her dress code both in videos and performances. In return, the artiste bails them out financially by supporting their businesses as well as including them where necessary in her endorsement deals.
The fan group however doesn’t want to stop at supporting Sheebah only but to also use their fashion sense to organising shows like ‘Black and White’ parties according to the chairman Jesse.
TEAM DAVID LUTALO (Da Hares)
Headed by Ivan, who is also the manager of David Lutalo, ‘Team David Lutalo is fast becoming one of the most active. Before he attends a concert or an event, they are the first to make an appearance to create awareness and see how things are before the main man. They are so active when it comes to voting; requesting his songs and representing him everywhere they go just like how the manager puts it.
“The group is the ears and the eyes of David in all corners especially social media.”
Just like King Saha’s, David Lutalo’s team was formed in May last year with the aim of updating the public about David Lutalo’s music, give updates about his shows and to inform and hype his music as well as motivate him to work harder.
What is so different about this team is that the committee has only 12 people who co-ordinate the rest when need be. They are recognisable by their ‘Team David Lutalo’ t-shirts.
To be part of this group, one needs to be passionate about the artiste and willing to go an extra mile for him on top of being learned.
Manager Ivan also adds that it is important for artistes to have these kinds of fans because they not only make the artiste’s work easier of promoting their songs, but also in making the musician more recognisable.
This team was started in 2009 with five people headed by Abdulrazak Muyanja. They have been branded as the most notorious and uncivilised group in Uganda by ‘rival gangs’. However, The chairman disregards this, saying the group he heads are literate people who can never be involved in illegal activities. “The major challenge we face as Team Chameleone is that we have been branded as crooks, thieves and so many other things but the truth is that we have never been involved in any criminal activity. Our major target is to ensure that Chameleone’s good image and music keep in the public eye. Those involved in criminal activities just want to tarnish our group because some even belong to revival groups,” said Muyanja.
When asked how they benefit from this group, Muyanja said they are compensated financially by the artiste as well as other members of the group who are well off. Besides that, they help Chameleone in the day to day running of his businesses.
They even have one specific WhatsApp group where the self-proclaimed music doctor is also a member. It’s this group that he uses to communicate with them in case anything and if need be, they link up with him once a month to discuss more.