I’M NOT A PASS: Latinum, real name, Tonny Mbangira, is an 18-year-old dancehall artiste whose sound has been mistaken for A Pass. He is based in Mbarara, but at the end of last year, his song Amanya Gange, was dominating local radio airwaves and hangouts. Lawrence Ogwal caught up with the singer and they talked about his music, education and whether he will one day leave Mbarara to do music in Kampala.
Who is Latinum?
Latinum is a dancehall singer who was born to Jim Twesigye and Rosette Ninsiima. I am a student in my Form Six at Window International School in Mbarara doing Geography, Economics Art and I.C.T.
When did you start doing music?
About two years ago while in my Senior Four vacation. I got some Shs30,000 and decided to go to studio.
So you mean studios in Mbarara charge Shs30,000 to produce an audio?
Not really. It was the only money I had and didn’t have any idea how much it would cost me. I went to Elgon Studio, which was nearby and the producer, T.o.N, told me audio production was Shs150,000, but since I was a young artiste trying to make ends meet, he accepted my Shs30,000 and I recorded a song called Ova Kampala.
Did you produce your next songs at the same cost?
The producer actually asked if I was signed to any music group and since I wasn’t, he thought I was talented. He signed me to his label called Game Park Music and decided to produce my music free of charge. It was then that I did another song called Zimenya and Sum More Mi Want, which is a Moscato riddim. I also collaborated with Beenie Gunter on a song called Ready Know.
Your song Amanya Gange is big in Kampala. What was the trick behind it?
The vocals were different; I was maturing musically after doing about three songs. I also think the song won people’s hearts when they realised it was a 17-year-old singing like already an established artiste.
How is it possible that you are able to write your own songs at a young age?
Ever since I joined school, I have been in the school choir and they have always told us to write songs. It taught me how to think and one day the choir master told me to write a song to test me if I was good.
What inspires your lyrics?
I relate to daily life and what happens in the environment. What inspired Amanya Gange is because people thought I was copying A Pass.
But you sound exactly like A Pass. Why not admit that you copy him?
Truth be told, I don’t copy A Pass in any way. He is a good musician. I am inspired by Jamaican singer Alkaline and he is the one I try to sing like. I guess A Pass is also inspired by Alkaline, so at the end of the day we all sound the same.
Are you friends with A Pass or you have met in person?
I am not friends with him. I am friends with Nutty Neithan because he is a good person and at the same time a good singer. I have never met A Pass but I like his comic side, he posts humorous videos on Facebook Live.
What is your best song from A Pass?
I like Tuli Kubigere.
Your song Amanya Gange was produced in Mbarara. How come it is hitting in Kampala?
We have friends in Kampala like DJ Fikie, DJ Shiru, Douglas Lwanga and other people who are willing to push my music in Kampala at no cost.
How did you feel the first time your song played in Kampala?
There is a guy called Mc Kacheche from Mbarara who had come to Kampala to help Douglas promote his Purple Party event. He sent me a WhatsApp voice note one night and the song was playing at Laftaz. I was so happy that the song had cut across to the city and not only hitting in Mbarara.
What did you do when you knew it was doing well in Kampala?
I travelled to Kampala for the Premiere Monday at Laftaz Lounge and performed the song. Everyone was happy and I was surprised that they were already singing along.
Are you planning on settling and doing music in Kampala?
I want to move to Kampala when I am done with my Senior Six. Then I can do music while attending university.
Which university do you want to join?
I want to join Kampala International University (KIU) or International University of East Africa for either a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication or Information Technology.
Has your hit song helped you musically?
Because of the song Amanya Gange, I have met people like Douglas Lwanga who hosted me on NTV The Beat, I got a chance to perform at Laftaz Lounge, Club Establishment and Amnesia, among other places. I also made friends with DJ Shiru and DJ Fikie. I even have a song titled Tornado with DJ Fikie, which is also doing well. I have another song called Baabo and other projects are still in studio with Kent and Flosso.
Have you started earning from music?
Yes. I actually get some money which I save and pay school fees for myself as well as buy other necessities.
How much do you charge for a performance?
Since they consider me as one of the best artistes in Mbarara, I charge between Shs800,00 and Shs1.5m, depending on the type of event. In Kampala, I am a new face and at the moment I charge just Shs500,000 to perform at an event.
How many languages do you speak?
I speak English, Luganda, patois and some little bit of Runyankole. I don’t know a lot of Runyankole because I grew up with my parents in Kampala and only moved to Mbarara when I grew up.
How do you find the music industry so far?
Not challenging because I write my own music and I have a good promotion team. I am also proud that I am now part of the Ugandan music Industry.
Artistes are snubbing Ugandan awards, are you going to follow the lead?
I will take part in the awards because as a young artiste when someone nominates you, it means they appreciate and recognise your work in the industry.
Are your parents supportive in your music career?
It is only my mother who supports me because she has always told me to do what I can do best. My father, on the other hand, thinks I am a joker; he wants to see me wearing glasses sitting in front of a computer in an office, but I don’t see myself doing that.
Does your celebrity life affect you at school?
As a celebrity, the students don’t expect me to be in the queue at lunchtime. I therefore move with some money, which my manager gives me and I send for my own food outside the school or at the canteen.
Which artiste inspires you?
Jose Chameleone because I wake up every day and wonder how he has managed to stay on top for all those years.