Even before Jamaican reggae/ragga stars Wayne Wonder and Demarco performed at the Lugogo Cricket Oval recently, organizers were assured of a killing.
The show may not have met their expectations, due to the persistent downpour, but Jamaicans usually bring a certain assurance to Ugandan music promoters. Jamaican artists hardly ever flop in Uganda. Why are the Jamaicans so revered here? Well, the local industry today is literally built on Jamaican music.
It all started in the early 90s when an ambitious music promoter, Reggae Winston, who has since changed name to Tshaka Mayanja, took a gamble and shipped in a couple of Jamaican artists. First, he brought in Aswad (1995) and the show sold out giving Mayanja confidence to bring Chaka Demus & Pliers (1996) and Spanner Banner in 1997.Third World and Papa San later performed here in 1997. The shows made Mayanja a millionaire.
At the time Congolese music was the in-thing, but with Mayanja’s initiative, Jamaican music instantly became Ugandan youths’ favourite.
“Ugandans and audiences all over the globe were mesmerized by the rebellious tone and lyrics of Jamaican music,” says Mayanja, who has since switched to promoting jazz. “This unique style gave birth to Ugandan pop music.”
The pioneers, most notably Rasta Rob MC, Shanks Vivie Dee, Emperor Orlando and Ragga Dee rushed to Peter Sematimba’s Dungeon Studios to lay their Luganda vibes over Jamaican riddims. But it is perhaps Menton Summer (RIP) who championed the wave of ‘localizing’ Jamaican music. Critics believe Summer had the potential to beat Jamaicans at their own game. His Jamaican-styled songs Sirikawo Baby, Kaneemu Kanabbiri and Leka Tuzirye remain hits long after the dreadlocked singer died in a car crash in 1997.
Summer kick-started what has now turned out to be the blueprint of Ugandan pop music. This blend is only getting stronger as more and more Ugandan artists look up to the rugged, danceable and slang-filled Jamaican music. Jose Chameleone, Bebe Cool, Bobi Wine, Coco Finger, Rabadada, Sizzaman, Peter Miles, Menshan, Margla, Weasel, Dizzy Nuts, Cindy, Henry Tigan, Vampino, and others have all made a name for harnessing Jamaican styles.
A few have gone ahead to record collabos with their Jamaican idols. Peter Miles recorded Nice and Polite with Elephant Man, Chameleone [How We Go Ft Beanie Man] and Henry Tigan [Out of Control Ft Mighty Mystic and My Country/ World of Scandals Ft Marlon Asher]. And just like our stars look up to the Caribbean influence, Ugandan audiences too can never get enough of Jamaican artists performing here.
Some Ugandans actually prefer Jamaican music to the local flavour. Many would rather watch Shaggy (the Mr Bombastic singer has performed here a record four times) than say, Juliana Kanyomozi. With Wayne Wonder/Demarco out of the way, thirsty Jamaican music lovers are rubbing their hands in anticipation for the next Jamaican-styled gig. Already, scores of other Jamaican artists are said to have forthcoming shows in Kampala by the end of this year.
Top of the list is Konshens of the Come Over hit, who is slated to perform here on October 5.
Jamaican artists that have performed in Uganda
- Sean Paul
- Red Rat
- Tanya Stephens
- Brick & Lace
- Spanner Banner
- Sean Kingston
- Third World
- Papa San
- Isaac Blackman
- Buju Banton
- Marlon Asher
- Shabba Ranks
- Beenie Man
- Morgan Heritage
- Chaka Demus & Pliers
- Elephant Man