BANYABO: Singer Rema is without doubt one of the best female vocalists in Uganda and she has proved it since she broke away from Gagamel 2012. Tonight she will have her Banyabo concert, and she talked to Lawrence Ogwal about why it took her so long.
Five years! What took you so long to hold a concert?
The music industry is not like a school where every term or year has examinations. It is not written anywhere in the music industry that artistes are supposed to hold concerts every year. It depends on how ready someone is.
So what makes you think this is the year?
My last concert was successful yet I was new in the music industry. I was supposed to have a concert last year but I was disorganised after Hotel Africana stopped me from using their venue.
No one saw Rema going to Serena, whose plan was it?
After missing out on last year’s concert, I sat down with my manager and looked at the kind of fans I have and realised I have both uptown and downtown fans.
The concert is a day after Women’s Day, is it why it is called Banyabo?
The concert has nothing to do with Women’s Day because it is a coincidence that it happens the day after Women’s Day. We only came up with a convenient date to hold the concert and nothing else.
Why name the concert Banyabo?
The song Banyabo is one of those that has brought people together. The song was dedicated to mothers and somehow became a darling to many, so it was an appropriate name.
What inspired the song Banyabo?
I had a careless father so I wanted to do a song thanking my mother for the love, and when I talked to my manager Kayemba, we happened to share the same story. I talked to Jamie Culture, one of the best songwriters, and he penned Banyabo for me. There were many songs praising mothers and I only thought of how I could do it differently, and there came Banyabo.
Speaking of Jamie Culture, the late Radio was a good songwriter too, did he only write Tikula for you?
I had chosen to keep quiet about this, but Radio had actually written Neera for me but due to his great talent, I was scared to voice the lyrics of the song.
What do you mean by his great talent?
The whole Uganda knows Radio was the most talented songwriter and a powerful vocalist who wrote a song in just 10 minutes. When we met, he said he wanted to write me a song and he came up with Neera. He voiced the demo and some people in the studio released the demo to a few people and when I listened to it, I worried that I would not bring it out as perfectly as Radio did. I told him to do the song and write me another one and that is when he wrote Tikula.
When Neera became a hit, did you have any regrets?
When a song has Radio’s touch, it definitely becomes a hit. I was not surprised Neera had taken over airwaves but my mother had always told me that when something is not meant to be yours, it can never be yours. Neera was meant to be Radio’s not Rema’s.
Had you planned more projects with Radio?
Radio did not work on programme. The two times he wrote a song for me were not on programme. When he found you somewhere and he was in a good mood, he would write for you a song there and then. Death robbed us of our best vocalist.
Do you think the industry will have another Radio?
What I believe is that God only makes one Rema Namakula and one Mowzey Radio. If Radio is gone then there cannot be another Radio.
What is your take on the Ugandan music industry?
The music industry has grown. The quality of audios and videos being released and the artistes coming up is proof that it is moving from one stage to another. The only problem is that many artistes want to go international but what they do not know is that they are going to lose originality by trying to copy artistes from other countries.
What is your advice to artistes that want to go international?
Going international to me comes when someone sticks to being original. Uganda is known for having slums and bad roads; when you accept that the roads are bad, then shoot a video from the bad road and sell your culture or country to the outside world. It attracts more attention than you going abroad to shoot a video.
Kenzo sang in broken English and made it to the BET, was that his magic?
(Laughs) I would not say the broken English made him earn international recognition but he is a hardworking guy. He keeps telling me he will only stop going when he cannot breathe. The other good example is the Sitya Loss dancers who performed at the BET after showing they are from the slums and that was how French Montana noticed them.
Does Kenzo help you musically?
Kenzo has always been there for me besides as a family. He guides me where I fail, and advises me on how to conduct myself since I am a public figure.
Rumour has it that you have a bad attitude towards his friends and visitors.
Those who say I have an attitude do not really know me. They are actually people who come to me thinking we have met before but when I try to figure out who they are, they take it the wrong way.
When are we seeing a collaboration from you and Kenzo?
Everything has its own time and when that time comes, you will see a song from Kenzo and I.
Who do you attribute your musical success to?
Besides God, there has to be that one person.
I don’t have any particular person that helped me because the list is endless. The one I may mention is Halima Namakula who realised my talent and helped me join Bebe Cool’s Gagamel Phamily as a backup artiste.
Talking about Bebe Cool, when was the last time you met?
Last year on Christmas at Calendar Guest House in Makindye. We said Hi to each other and nothing else. I will only have a conversation with him when my daughter Amaal needs a birthday cake from his wife Zuena because they say she makes great cakes.