MANAGER SAY SO: Bijou Fortunate is no stranger to the entertainment scene. She is one of the many who have grown up with the industry, having cut her teeth in the early 2000s as a dancer. She is Jose Chameleone’s new manager. Edgar R. Batte caught up with her on her plans for the musician.
Give me a little brief about your journey that has materialised into you becoming musician Jose Chameleone’s manager.
It is a journey that started long ago when I was just a dancer and doing other small things to earn a living, including ushering at different events. I used to dance on promotion trucks, then got promoted to office attendant. After a while, I left for Rwanda where Balaam Barugahara would take us to do promotions. When I returned I was hired as a dancer for the initial Kampala City Carnival. During that hustle, I got a gig from Sheena Ruparelia to provide ushers at her sister’s week-long wedding. Before then, I had worked with Club Rouge management and when Aly Alibhai started Talent Africa he gave me a job as events and operations manager. That was my breakthrough into starting up an events company called Muchachos.
How did you and Chameleone come to the decision for you to manage his music brand?
I have known Chameleone for a long time because I was a very good dancer so I have worked with most artistes. If you look at some of the old videos, you will see that I feature as a dancer. We first met in Rwanda and built a friendship since and he would call me up whenever he needed back up. At Talent Africa, I was in touch with artistes and I always called them to confirm their time for stage appearances. The idea of managing him came up in late December and we asked each other to think about it. Later, we met and agreed on what our roles would be so I sat with my team and we drafted a contract and sent it to his lawyers. I went to his home in Sseguku and signed the contract. We then organised for a presser to announce the development and now here we are.
What new approach do you plan on using to bolster Chameleone’s music career?
Chameleone is a big artiste. He is huge. It is a name that can be identified by different age brackets. When you go to his social media pages and read comments, people really like him. Our plan is to first and foremost clean up the bad reputation of him being advertised and organisers and fans are not sure whether he will turn up. That means working on discipline and respect. People who hire us expect returns because by the time they come to us and pay, they expect a service. We also plan to work on an album; not these things of hearing someone has outed a song and we also dash to studio and make a song. We want to focus. With the changing dynamics of music consumption, I am optimistic we can make some revenue on streaming platforms as well.
As an active player in the entertainment industry, what is your observation of the trends?
Music is well received and consumed today more than ever. It is no longer about having a big name. There are new kids on the block creating music day-in, day-out. Artistes create songs from things as obvious as slangs and they are making money. Then look at the revolution of music that is now taking us back to the old skool styles, take an example of Sheebah Karungi’s Sweet Sensation whose rhythm is from that old ragga tune, Eddy Kenzo’s Semwekozo which reminds me of the Lingala style. Ugandans have embraced music and credit is due to music producers. Many times we forget to celebrate producers. I was in studio with Chameleone and amazed at the craft of producers, many of who are young people.
What defines Bijou when you are not working?
I am a very humble and quiet person. I have done it all. Sometimes I go to a club and stand or sit in the corner and look at people having a good time. I like the way people groove to Chameleone’s Baliwa. I guess the message in the song is one many people relate to. Given that I am a nocturnal person, I mix work and pleasure but outside that, I use my spare time to grow Muchachos.
Previously, show bookings were handled by a number of people. Mutima was receiving payments, so has Basiima Ogenze. For example on Christmas, Chameleone was booked to perform at about 15 shows, which was impossible. We had a lengthy discussion and agreed that there will be one channel. We are not going to be greedy, we shall handle what we can and let go of what we can’t.