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Worlds Apart! Have Bebe Cool and Bobi Wine lived in Parallel Music Worlds and Contrasting Schools of Thought?


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Nicholas Kalungi.

The greatest and most published myth within journalism circles is that; we are objective, detached from our emotions and always rise above ‘cheap politics’ to honestly report the truth. Nonetheless, in my world, I believe that lying is such a huge sin and burden to carry. As such I choose honesty even when that means being seen as partisan on extremely sensitive matters. I will not lie; there are some musicians I passionately love, those whose works I admire and some whose works I find disgusting!

Born and raised in Masaka, I had by the year 2000 made less than 10 trips to Kampala. In my head, I knew very little about this ‘chaotic yet lovable’ capital city. My mother was and still is a great supporter of Ugandan Entertainment. As such, we always had some worthy knowledge about the best musicians and actors in Uganda. Our home was always among the very first ones to buy new cassette tapes recorded from Kasiwukira studios. The likes of Elly Wamala, Jimmy Katumba, Livingstone Kasozi, Herman Bassudde, Prince Paul Kafeero (all RIP) plus Fred Ssebatta rocked our world. New talents like Ronald Mayinja, and Abdu Mulaasi were doing well while Red Banton was the real deal at one point.

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However around 2002, a few things happened and changed my perception of music. First, I listened to a song titled Akagoma and it all sounded different from the music I was accustomed to for years. I paid little attention to who sang it but I loved what I was hearing. Secondly, after some time, I listened to another song titled Funtuula and it was even more hyper and exciting than Akagoma. The former got so much airplay that in a few days, I would mime it from start to end. It was at this point that I got to know the details of the voices behind Funtuula. These were Bobi Wine and Bebe Cool, both under Firebase crew.

I learnt that even though Bebe Cool was a son of a wealthy and much respected minister, he had abandoned Education, dropping out in Advanced Secondary (A-Level) all in the name of pursuing a music career. Quite ironical considering that from childhood, all we were told was that Education was the key to Success. Didn’t he want to succeed? I kept pondering!

On the other hand, I understood that Bobi Wine came from a humble (you may call it poor) family, and now lived in a Kampala slum called Kamwokya. He was pursuing music but also still determined to excel in his Education. When I asked around, those in the know told me that Kamwokya slums could be equated to a place called ‘Kakyafu’ in Nyendo, Masaka district. Of course I knew Kakyafu as it was very popular for its dirtiness, small bars everywhere, congestion, thieves, prostitution and all sorts of abuses. With this in mind, I easily got a picture of what Kamwokya slum would be like.

Armed with all this background information, I favored Bobi Wine who seemed to be on a ‘zero to hero’ journey.

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2003 came and was action packed! I joined senior one at St Mark’s College Namagoma, just 20 kilometers from Kampala. This became my second home for the next 5 years. It was at St Mark’s that my support for Bobi Wine became very evident and practical. We formed a school based Fire Base crew that would; mime Bobi Wine songs at every entertainment show within school, our books had words like ‘100% Bad News,’ bought all Bobi Wine branded merchandize and religiously followed all his activities. Our love and support for the Fire Base president was unmatched.  We came to be known as Bobi Wine fanatics everywhere we went.

There was a rival camp for purely Bebe Cool fans. The latter always dissed us for being local and outdated. The bitter truth though was that Bebe Cool fans were mostly spot-on with their profiling of Bobi Wine fans. 80% of those that loved Bobi Wine were either from outside Kampala (rural areas) or from the Ghetto parts of Kampala. Most of the students from relatively high end areas and wealthy or well off families were Bebe Cool crusaders.

To date, this status quo is still existent though the gap on both sides narrows each passing day. Bobi Wine predominantly attracts more fans from the Mass, Emerging, Rural and Semi Urban Youth audiences. The elderly love his personality more than his music. They hate his relationship with drugs!

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On the other hand, Bebe Cool chiefly appeals more to the Wealthy, Urban and Semi Urban Youth and the Ladies. Not to forget, wannabes love him to the fullest. Many old people love the smart man he is but can neither catch up with his energetic music nor live with his sheer outspokenness on controversial matters and perceived arrogance.

Any honest music follower out there will tell you that while both Bobi Wine and Bebe Cool are talented Artistes and sworn arch-rivals, each one of them has had his own era of reign.

Before 2004, Bebe Cool was the bigger artiste in Uganda and everywhere. His songs were more popular coupled with his ‘show-business’ expertise. I can comfortably tell you that at that time Bobi Wine was only getting started but his nemesis was already doing well.

Things changed from 2004 until 2008 as Bobi Wine took over from Bebe Cool thanks to songs like Maama Mbire featuring Juliana Kanyomozi, Wendi, Adam ne Kawa, Abalungi Balumya, Ghetto, Omwana Wabandi ‘Bada’, Kiwaani and Mazzi Mawanvu among others. He became the darling of the Ugandan audience. During this period, Bebe Cool was focused on Africa, neglecting the Ugandan audience. Under the East African Basement crew; Bebe Cool, Nazizi and Wyre together rocked Africa. Songs like Fire Anthem, Kube and Combination together with Peter Miles and Meshan were massive hits that saw them get nominations at MTV MaMas and win continental awards including Channel O accolades. It was clear that at this point, the two were taking different musical directions with their endless bickering only intended to keep them in the news locally.

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However around 2008, Bebe Cool rethought his whole strategy after realizing that while his music was doing well for Africa, his home performance was not as reflective and Bobi Wine; his known ‘sworn rival’ was doing so well, perceived more musically and financially successful than him. As a result, Bebe Cool gave the Ugandan audience priority. It was during this time that his wife Zuena left their marital home sighting a couple of relationship issues. This temporary separation of Bebe Cool and Zuena was a blessing in disguise for the former as he went on to record and release several emotional songs including Agenze, Bamugambe, and Trouble that all became hits.

While all this was unfolding, Bobi Wine grabbed the opportunity and went on to release what he termed as ‘Edutainment’ songs namely Carolina and Wesotinge. These were directed to Bebe Cool with personal advice on how ‘real men handle their family matters.’

Coincidentally, it was during the same time that the Goodlyfe dynamic duo of Radio and Weasel took over the charts with a quarter of their songs directly and indirectly bashing Bebe Cool.

This all free drama climaxed with the two artistes organizing album launches on the same dates; 2nd October 2009 and at venues separated by about 2 kilometers. Ghetto Gladiator Bobi Wine held Carolina launch at Hotel Africana People’s Space while Big Size Bebe Cool launched Agenze at Kyadondo Rugby Grounds. Both album launches sold out. Zuena also returned home. However, most neutral fans sided with Bebe Cool as they believed that Bobi Wine was riding on his nemesis’ misfortunes and over mingling in what was a private family affair.

After this, Bebe Cool took over thanks to both fortunate and unfortunate occurrences. The unfortunate occurrence was that he and his crew got shot by a trigger happy officer between Nakumatt Oasis Mall and Centenary Park in the early morning of 30th January 2010. This was after his wooing performance at the R. Kelly I Believe Concert held at Lugogo Cricket Oval the previous night. Bebe Cool particularly was shot twice in his thigh. Fortunately, he and his team survived but not without damage. For over a year, he moved in a wheel chair while some of his crew members took over 3 years to fully recover.

Away from the gun incident, he had very good music for the Ugandan market during the same period. This kept him strong until 2013.

From 2013 to date, Bebe Cool undertook a deliberate yet expensive business decision of investing massively in his music, home and away. As far as I know, this approach is paying off. You may be boiling out there but let me first validate my statement and you may stone me thereafter.

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Since 2013, Bebe Cool has concentrated on staying on top of Uganda music industry while re-opening gateways with in Africa. It is thanks to this approach that instead of hurriedly completing his houses in Kiwatule (both apartments and family home will be complete this year), he has been injecting millions of cash in his music production and promotion. Audios mastered from London and Videos shot from South Africa. His approach though not returning any billions yet is paying off. If you don’t agree, please ask about ‘Love You Every day’ and its performance across Africa.  His plot is to remain big in Uganda but also have an outstanding mark on the continent. Ask him about how soon he hopes to achieve this ambitious goal and he will profoundly tell you that ‘slow but sure.’  Many that still doubted him were silenced on 5th August as he held a matchless, nonpareil, and par excellence show. From production to performance and attendance, the LIFE of BEBE COOL concert was overwhelmingly outstanding and incomparable.

On the other hand, Bobi Wine has consistently maintained his love for entertaining Uganda and only Ugandans. But, between 2013 and early 2015; he somewhat had a change of mind when he massively invested in his Africa-Jamaica connect program that revolved around him doing songs with Jamaican artistes. The projects worked on included several songs with Mr. G (Dilemma, Filthy Rich, Girls and Clean & Out), Patra – Burn Dem and Vershon – High Grade. During this period, he traveled to Jamaica, recorded audios and shot videos there. Among the key fruits from the Africa – Jamaica Connect initiative was Bobi Wine and Mr G performing at International Reggae Splash held in New York in August 2013.  At that event, the other performers included Mavado, Junior Reid, Mr G, Elephant Man, Lady G, I Wayne, Assasin (Agent Sasco), Pichas, Lady Ann, Nado Ranks, and Barlington Levy. Unfortunately, this initiative somewhat ended before it attained massive success.  Since then, it seems he gave up on this ‘international dream’.

During an interview on a national Television Station, the Ghetto President noted that ‘even though becoming a continental or global icon would be an extra ordinary accomplishment, he doesn’t lose sleep over his music’s under-performance in foreign lands.’ He is contented that his target audience; the common people, the suffering people and the Ghetto people relate with his music, are educated, entertained and inspired by his works.

Having been actively involved in the music industry for now 10 years, I will openly tell you that our musicians have underachieved at the continental and world levels. All we can show are a few Kora Awards plus nominations, a BET award and a nomination, plus a few MTV MaMa and Channel O nominations and accolades. One of the key reasons for this continued struggle has been failure to invest in high quality work.

We were always supposed to start from somewhere and with someone. Bebe Cool offered himself and committed to producing material that can compete with the Nigerians and South Africa Artistes. Hopefully, he reaps big from his massive music investments sooner or later.

Nonetheless, even if he doesn’t achieve his set targets, Bebe Cool will forever be remembered for passionately pursuing a journey that all his peers dreaded.

But in all; while the Bebe Cool vs. Bobi Wine debate (music, finance and politics) may never be settled, it is evident that these two great talents have lived during the same era but in different Music Worlds. Their music priorities have always been very different!

Still in the KABULENGANE challenge look at over 10000 ppo dancing to the wonderful song,this was yesterday at the cancer run at kololo airstrip #GagamelNews

Posted by Mas Sam on Monday, August 29, 2016


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