Med Mushaijamukuru Kimbugwe
Hit after hit, album after album and year after year, Chameleone has for the last fifteen years authoritatively written his name in the history of Ugandan music, just as much as he has written it in the hearts of music fans in Uganda, East Africa and Africa at large. Since his trail blazing album Bageya in 2000, the Leone Island boss has wowed fans with his unique style, vocals and consistency; and not even his fair share of challenges has deterred him from delivering good music. His ability to stay for all these years and still make sense is indeed a great gift.
The Ugandan music industry is so rocky that for every one hundred musicians that join the industry, ninety nine drop out as fast as they joined. Zero point five of them stick around without having any tangible impact; and the remaining zero point five make some mark. Yet in such a tricky industry, Chameleone still makes a huge impact after some fifteen years in the industry.
Much as his first Album was Bageya, Chameleone’s real deal came in with his magnum opus hit, Mama Mia! This song was so big and immediately turned him into Uganda’s biggest music export of the time, with wide fan bases in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. As if in a statement of his staying power, Chameleone has since followed Bageya and Mama Mia with such albums as Njo Karibu, The Golden Voice, Mambo Bado, Kipepeo, Shida za Dunia, Sivyo Ndivyo, Katupakase, Bayuda, Jamila, Vumilia, Valu Valu, Badilisha, Tubonge and Wale Wale.
The singing Doctor has over the years swept local, Regional, Continental and International awards including Song of the year and Best Male Zouk Song for Badilisha at the prestigious 2014 HiPipo Music Awards, Best Afro-Beat song for Moto Moto at the prestigious 2013 HiPipo Music Awards, a Beffta Award, a Kora award, an MTV Europe award and a MOBO.
He has over the years used his music to better society and as a result, the speaker of the parliament of Uganda, Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, designated Chameleone to be the Ambassador of the Busoga Tourism Initiative. He also volunteered on a mission aimed at returning former LRA rebels and inspiring them to start a productive life. You may also recall that his One Man, One Million concert was aimed at availing water to the people of Karamoja.
There are a number of things that have kept Chameleone afloat for all these years and singing songs with a message comes first on the list. The message in most of his songs has been able to appeal to people in different age brackets and across social classes and has often times touched issues of motivation including work, gender based violence and gratitude.
His hoarse voice, singing in Swahili (especially in his early days) and sticking to his style are also some of the reasons that have kept Chameleone going!
When I talk about sticking to his style, it is very easy for anyone to assume that he is not versatile. To the contrary, songs like Movie star have proven that even when Chameleone ventures away from his comfort zone he still makes an impact.
Just like the adage goes, credit must be given where it’s due. As such, we must all credit Chameleone for his staying power. Whether you are his fan or critic; you must appreciate that in an industry where people come and go every day, Chameleone has stayed and stayed with a massive impact. He has faced challenges along the way, that no other human being would wish to face; yet each time, he has come out on top of his challenges.
Dr. Jose Chameleone is indeed legendary.
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