Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Beef In the Music Industry: Why Bebe Cool is Uganda’s King of Showbiz

They are commonly referred to as the big three; Bobi Wine, Bebe Cool and Jose Chameleone in no particular order. They represent a breed of musicians that have revolutionized the face of Ugandan music over the past 10-15 years. They revitalized the average Ugandan’s interest in local music.

They revived the musical taste we had long lost to Soukous, Rumba and others from DR Congo. A genre we had grown to call Lingala, largely because of the predominant language (Lingala) in which the music was composed and sang.

The only genre we could call our own, --Kadongo Kamu was failing miserably in attracting crowds, and no show promoter worth their salt was willing to organize a concert that featured local musicians as headliners.

Outside of these, a younger generation cropped up. Some were from within their circles, while others sprouted independently. But the big three’s influence is perhaps more pronounced because of the state of Ugandan music at the time they broke through.

So the big three is only a title; A classification, if you like, and not necessarily an index ranking of who’s topping the charts at the moment. Otherwise, they would be called the top three.

The Jamaican Influence
While the Kadongo Kamu folks had stuck to the basics and monotony –singing in their original voices, style and lingua, this new crop of artistes appeared to draw their inspiration and style from elsewhere. It was around the time Jamaican Artistes were big hits in East Africa.

Suddenly, everyone wanted to sound like Buju Banton, Beenie Man and Shaba Ranks. Bebe Cool, Chameleone, Buchaman, Mad Tiger, name them all. They all grew husky voices. Others copied their dressing and Hair Styles. Until recently, Tool Man still spotted a similar hair style to what Shaba Ranks bore in his hey days. While all this was going on the late 90’s, their influence did not really gain momentum until the duo of Bebe Cool and Chameleone decided to hit Nairobi towards the turn of the century.

Ogopa DJs did their part in fostering an upturn in their fortunes, but the duo did not lose touch with their Jamaican influence. Upon return to Uganda, they teamed up with Bobi Wine shortly after, before falling out over a number of issues.

Bebe Cool and Bobi Wine now ganged up against Chameleone before the two falling out later. Bebe Cool would later make up with Chameleone, before the two fell out again, largely over the latter’s insistence on attending Bebe’s now arch-rival, Bobi Wine’s wedding.

Bebe Cool appeared to draw inspiration from the beef between Jamaican artistes Bounty Killer v Mr. Vegas, as well as Elephant man v Beenie Man. Such feuds often fueled CD and concert sales both in their homeland and abroad.

He would admit to the same much later, during an interview on Bukedde TV --Omubimba,  hosted by Miles Rwamiti(Now at NTV) before the two fell out. He was quick to vouch for a new and different approach though, if the industry was to see more growth.

In the end, three major ideologies had been imported. 1. The language –the adulterated patois used in many of today’s local songs; 2. The Beef, which you could say is on its last legs and lastly, 3. The musical style; one can comfortably say Kidandali (or what some connoisseurs call Afro-beat, these days) is a derivative of the original Jamaican dancehall beat.

Why maintain the beef?
While the beef was perceived to be real, a number of insiders strongly believe that it was only a façade created to keep concert revenues flowing, and point to Bebe Cool as the chief protagonist of the soap opera that has persisted throughout the 13 or so years since the trio first had their break through.

By the time Ugandans started paying attention to their music, piracy had set in, and music sales were on the ebb. The only way they could earn an income was through organized concerts and hired performances.

The bigger the crowd one attracted, the higher they would earn in concert sales. Consequently, the higher the asking fee would be in subsequent performances at different events. At the same time, each of them earned themselves a legion of loyal fans, with each camp claiming their star to be number 1. Having this kind of feudal façade kept them on their toes.

When Chameleone’s star was on the up, he coined the now forgotten phrase: “No Millions, No Chameleone”. Shortly after he had won the PAM award for the second consecutive year, he referred to the 5 Million prize money as an annual payout.

His rivals were not to be outdone. They soon followed suit. The trio now command hefty performance fees ranging from $800 to $2,500 each, in uganda, based on the location and the duration of the performance. This is no small money, considering that one can have at least 10 shows in a month.

The Birth of Battles
In 2011, Chameleone and Bobi Wine organized what they called a reconciliatory musical battle. It had initially been sold to the public as a battle of wit and talent, although both artistes admitted towards the actual battle date that the battle was only meant to signify the end of their beef.

“I and Bobi Wine have had a lot of ups and downs. However, ever since Bobi Wine visited me in the hospital, I felt touched about his generous act. From that time, my opinion about Bobi Wine changed. Battle of Champions is a concert we have organized to prove to our fans and everyone that Bobi Wine and Jose Chameleone are no longer enemies”, Chameleone would later say, in one of his final interviews in the run up to the D-Day.

The public had gotten sold. The fans from both camps were already charged. Not many could change their minds, if even they had read the interview. It was clear what that money was at play, here. Each of the camps pocketed about $10,000 (UGX 25 Million).

Certainly, no one else in the industry probably knew better how beneficial –financially, such a concert could be, than Bebe Cool. He elected to plot against Bobi Wine. He knew the public could not wait to be witness to such a contest. So he played his game well, Bebe. He knows how these things work. Like the way he handled that mini-divorce that attracted a record attendance for his Bamugambe album launch in 2009.

The stakes were certainly higher. He gave every media house the interview they wanted. Interviews filled with such venom that every music fanatic really looked forward to the big day. His cut in this was estimated to be about 60m; More than the combined pay-out from the previous battle between his nemeses.

Realizing how much he had reaped from this contest, he planned his next move. He plotted for the Goodlyfe duo of Mowzey Radio and Weasel. In public, he continued to diss them, calling them all sorts of names et al, while silently sourcing a promoter for their musical showdown. As usual, the public was polarized. Battle lines had been drawn.

Jibes involving all sorts of comparisons, ranging from age, through family and financial muscle to Awards and other achievements were traded. The payout would certainly be bigger. An estimated UGX 100 Million is believed to have exchanged hands, for each camp. This was way higher than any of them have sold album rights for, ever.

Bebe Cool rode on the crest of his social media following to claim victory, although both camps would call for a truce thereafter. One could even be tempted to think the ceasefire deal was already struck by the last and joint press conference at Kyadondo. Both camps smiled to the bank. Beef had won.

The latest advert for one of Bebe Cool’s perpetual annual shows now features Goodlyfe as headliner acts for his show on Boxing day. You can expect a packed show. Many a fan still want to witness the honey moon.

At the moment, Bebe and Chameleone are not on talking terms, although the former still reserves some respect for a man that prefers to call himself the musical doctor. Another battle could be on the horizon next year, featuring the two. And the public will again part with their hard-earned money to see two grown-up men fake another truce.

The payout will certainly be big. But it may probably not be bigger than the Goodlyfe – Gagamel package, partly because Chameleone seems to have lost the belligerent verve that once saw him trade jibes at the slightest provocation. This will most likely make media interviews and press conferences less interesting, and may not sway the neutrals.

By the time they are through, Bebe Cool will have pocketed a total of at least $100,000 (over UGX 250 Million) from the three battles. Now you know why beef thrives in the Ugandan music industry, and world over.

Dixon Okello, a renowned events’ security provider, and an ever present figure on most of these concerts had this to say: “There is no bad blood or beef In the Uganda Music Industry. All our top artists and promoters are business guys, who will always take advantage to fool the public and ignorant fans are still falling for it.

What is shocking is that some fans even fight believing in all these lies. I have handled most events organized by these guys, and I know for a fact that Ugandans are being taken for a ride. Stop being fooled. Just enjoy the music."

Dan A.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Miley Cyrus’ "Wrecking Ball": The Deeper Meaning

There are 4 main levels to this song/video (as there are to most so heavily laden with symbolism).  The first level is the “obvious” which is the supposed relationship aspect of this song relating to the difficulty in the “give and take” of relationships. 

While almost ALL popular songs mask themselves this way, this particular song does so in such a shallow way that it is an almost non-existent veil.  She only uses the word, “love” twice at the beginning of her song and once later.  The usage of this word is placed squarely within the concept of “loving one’s servitude”. 

When she says, “we clawed, we chained our hearts in vain.. we jumped, never asking why” it is a direct reference to this type of dark affection which can only be had by slaves that love their servitude.  Ironically this verse is rather apt for the populace as a whole today, but that is another topic.

The second level to this song is the still somewhat obvious timing of being released right after Miley Cyrus’s spot on performance (according to her marionettes) that caused so much buzz recently.  Her performance was indeed a “wrecking ball” and her line of, “I came in like a wrecking ball..” would seem to elude to the manner of her emergence on the public stage. 

This was all preplanned by the way as “Hollywood Insider” mentioned that her boyfriend was warned by her to not show up because her performance was going to be, “over the top”.  A publicity stunt?  Definitely, but it goes further than that.  This second level is about as far as the uninitiated usually get and they should pat themselves on the back for attempting to scratch the surface.

The third level is in regards to something known as, “ethereal tangential connectivity”.  Some people call this the “spirit realm” while others refer to it as the “other dimensions.”  For the purposes of this revealing I’m not going to get into the weeds on that debate but suffice it to say it is like an iceberg.  You only see 10% of the iceberg above the surface, but it’s the 90% that comprises the true mass, and therefore danger of the object.  The same is true here. 

While Miley’s performance was disturbing and somewhat damaging to the youthful fan base, it is nothing compared to what is propelling her and “keeping her afloat”.  In this third level you can see some very obvious symbols on Miley’s body during the music video in the form of tattoos.  Even though she got these tattoos at various stages they can be understood together and in context.  It’s like writing a book, you need words next to each other to understand what the meaning is, so it is with her tattoos and placement.

She flashes her hand which has both the eye of Horus and a heart which make it pretty obvious where her allegiance lies.  The eye of Horus can sometimes be construed as a “Nazar” which is a symbol to ward of evil but given her recent method of trajectory (abject sexualizing humiliation) I think it is safe to say it is the Horus version.  Also, her anchor tattoo was shown front and center so many times during this music video that the main theme of the esoteric messaging can be seen. 

The anchor is also the main symbol of the U.S. Navy and coincidentally the U.S. Navy was getting ready to launch over 140 tomahawk missiles into Syria.  The “I came in like a wrecking ball I never meant to start a war” is an uncanny reference to the exact political debate that was raging about going into Syria “recklessly”, but yet not wanting to “start a war”. 

When she says, “I just wanted you to let me in”… well now U.N. inspectors are going in she even says “and instead of using force”…  It would all be kind of funny if the timing wasn’t so exact and the stakes so high.  Needless to say this third level is in reference to current day issues of wide scale importance.

The 4th and final level of understanding on this piece is going to be difficult for those who don’t believe in other realms, spiritual beings, angels, or the afterlife.  I’m going to assume those reading this do and if you don’t I suggest getting educated on it.  Without this final level of discernment everything will appear as a “tree” when you are actually standing in a forest. 

The words to this song and just as importantly the visual imagery are a direct message from Lucifer (or any of the myriad names you wish to use) to God and the other angels.  It is a flagrant attempt at stating his “misunderstood” position on the cosmos, humanity, and his place in creation and an attempt to seduce others to fall.

During the video you see Miley standing in front of a wall that has cracks radiating out inside of a perfect circle.  This imagery is the same symbol used by many old sages to represent the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”.  As this image is flashed from 2:51-2:54 in the video she is seen slamming her hands against it AND the lyrics aptly state, “I came in like a wrecking ball” referring to Lucifer’s “wrecking ball” maneuver against mankind using the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” to essentially “wreck” mankind. 

Some have wondered, “What is up with the nudity?”.  Well it should be noted that she is not completely nude, but is always wearing boots.  This is to highlight the fact that she is engaging in the “evil knowledge” of nudity, as nudity in and of itself isn’t inherently carnal or evil (we’re all born and die that way).  The one piece of clothing actually emphasizes the lack of clothing with an attempt at a seducing angle.

Because this highest understanding is both so important and profound to truly understanding esoteric messaging I will transcribe the lyrics with the deeper translation.

“Wrecking Ball”  : Or more aptly Lucifer’s message to God and his angels

We clawed, we chained, our hearts in vain
This is his statement about him and his fellow angels having been ambitious (clawed) and yet humble (chained) and steadfast in their devotion (hearts in vain) to God.

We jumped, never asking why
This verse is rather self-explanatory as he’s stating that they followed divine orders unquestionably.
We kissed, I fell under your spell

The reference here is to his rather exalted status (literally above the throne of God – “The Cherub that covereth”) and intimate access to God and his original awe toward the Almighty.

A love no one could deny
Since both God and Lucifer were the closest in physical proximity and esoteric magnitude it would have been very apparent they had a stronger connection.  Lucifer wasn’t always God’s enemy (at least as divine time goes, human time is different).

Don’t you ever say I just walked away
So this is when Lucifer “walked away” from God and heaven.   A rather interesting spin on being “cast out” and falling to earth as “lightning” but he’s always been one to twist words.

I will always want you
Here he clarifies that he has never given up on his ambition to “become like the most high”.  Notice use of the word “want”.  It has a very different meaning from the word love, or to care for in reference to this situation.  When he says “want you” he’s referring to being a part of the Trinity, a placement he was previously denied.  This is an unrepentant statement showing that he has, does, and always will want this.

I can’t live a lie, running for my life
Now this line is rather telling as he considers his exile to Earth “living a lie” since he is only the “prince and power of the air” here and not in heaven.  When he says running for his life it is somewhat accurate as all of his actions are designed to somehow avoid final judgment.

I will always want you
This phrase repeats over and over again so I will not re-translate it as it is just his blind, naked ambition on display.

I came in like a wrecking ball
Lucifer tempts and succeeds in destroying man’s eternal soul by severing man’s connection with God via a disobedient act.  His “wrecking ball” did just that and was aimed at proving God wrong for having put some much effort and affection into man.

I never hit so hard in love
Quite amazing how true this is since his first wrecking ball did in fact doom mankind which is about as hard as he could hit.  This reference to “love” again refers to a mixed emotion (yes angelic beings have emotion) of missing the former glory and kinship he once had with God, juxtaposed by his now driving desire to prove him wrong.

All I wanted was to break your walls
There are spiritual rules in place that can be called “walls” and Lucifer has been trying to break them down.  One of them revolved around God’s “wasted affection” (in Lucifer’s viewpoint) on mankind and his attempt to break the laws in an attempt to circumvent long held decisions.

All you ever did was wreck me
We know quite well that Lucifer has taken a beating in both written text and in his attempts at completely derailing mankind.  Though it could be argued he has been wildly successful, it’s been a rough and tumultuous road.

Yeah, you, you wreck me
Just in case you didn’t know it, he says it again.

I put you high up in the sky
So here comes the part where he basically is saying he “believed in God” a long time ago and had him on a pedestal so to speak.

And now, you’re not coming down
Lucifer claims here that God won’t “get off his pedestal” and meet him where he is at.

It slowly turned, you let me burn
He’s making reference to time slowly ticking away and God “callously” allowing the judgment of eternal fire to continue.

And now, we’re ashes on the ground
The end state for him and his angels is basically little more than ashes, although technically you can’t destroy the eternal, hence the lake of fire judgment.  He obviously sees this as unfair and wants both good and bad angels to know this.  Angels do pay close attention to the affairs of men, and yes even to (and I would say especially for) music.

Don’t you ever say I just walked away
I will always want you
I can’t live a lie, running for my life
I will always want you

I came in like a wrecking ball
I never hit so hard in love
All I wanted was to break your walls
All you ever did was wreck me

I came in like a wrecking ball
Yeah, I just closed my eyes and swung

Now Lucifer is making an admission that his initial action was a blind swing at God by corrupting his creation.  This is a tacit, albeit brief moment of clarity where he implies that he wasn’t “thinking things through”.  The phrase, “swinging in a blind rage” comes to mind.

Left me crashing in a blazing fall
This has got to be one of the most obvious lines in the entire song.  Here it is in actual scripture, “I beheld Satan, as lightning fall from heaven.”  When he hit earth I’m sure he went crashing and he indeed had a “blazing” fall.  The usage of the word, “left” denotes that he seems to blame others more directly for his fall, but blames God for “letting” it happen, or at least not aiding him as he fell.  This bit of insight does lend credence to the Michael/Archangel war scenery but that goes into another discussion.

All you ever did was wreck me
Yeah, you, you wreck me
I never meant to start a war

Really this could not be any clearer.  Lucifer states point blank that he “never meant to start a war”.  This may actually be somewhat true as his one main goal was, “I will be like the most high”.

I just wanted you to let me in
The trinity is directly spoken to here as he would indeed have to be “let in” to be “like the most high” who is in reality part of the trinity.  This is why he uses the phrase of let me in.

And instead of using force
Direct war with the other angels and taking one third of all angels with him definitely counts as “using force”.  He seems to be reconsidering this course of action, or at least he wants the other angels to think this.

I guess I should’ve let you win
So this seems like a concession and it would be prudent thinking on his part if it were indeed true.  There seems to be a somewhat resigned attitude in this statement that he should have “given” up before.  This line of logic begs the question that if he “gave up” earlier would his judgment have been different?  Was there a time when this battle wasn’t an all-out war but a debate between him and God where he could have simply agreed God was right thereby letting God win then? 

A lot of interesting points get brought out here but one thing remains the same.  He may state a lot of known and unknown esoteric information but it’s tainted by having the aim to cause more angels to fall, weaken man’s resolve toward God, and ultimately make God look like the bad guy.  One of the reasons Lucifer is so very prevalent in the music industry is because he is literally the highest created musician.  This obviously doesn’t mean that music is evil, but it does mean that it is his strongest skill and utilized quite regularly.

The rest of these verses have already been translated and repeat for messaging.  Read this breakdown then re-watch the video to understand just how deep the messaging goes and that many songs, especially the most popular ones have ETC (ethereal tangential connectivity) involved.

I never meant to start a war
I just wanted you to let me in
I guess I should’ve let you win
Don’t you ever say I just walked away
I will always want you

I came in like a wrecking ball
I never hit so hard in love
All I wanted was to break your walls
All you ever did was wreck me

I came in like a wrecking ball
Yeah, I just closed my eyes and swung
Left me crashing in a blazing fall
All you ever did was wreck me
Yeah, you, you wreck me
Yeah, you, you wreck me

What Does Miley Cyrus Say?
Cyrus, 20, told MTV News that she wants people to look beyond the "obvious" when it comes to the "Wrecking Ball" video, explaining, "I think the video is much more, if people get past the point that I'm naked and you actually look at me you can tell that I actually look more broken than even the song sounds. The song is a pop ballad. It's one of these songs that everyone is going to relate to, everyone has felt that feeling at one point."

She added, "If people can take go into their imagination a little bit and see kind of what the video really means and the way it's so vulnerable and actually if you look in my eyes I look more sad than my voice sounds on the record it was a lot harder to do the video then it was to record the songs. It was much more of an emotional experience."

"Wrecking Ball" is the second single to be released from Cyrus' "Bangerz" album, due Oct. 8. The 13-track set, which includes Cryus' summer hit "We Can't Stop," also comes in a deluxe edition with three bonus songs. Cyrus collaborated with Pharrell, Future and on the new material. Britney Spears, Nelly and Big Sean are among the stars making appearances on the set. |

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Road Trip With Axa

You could call me pessimistic.  Or backward. Or unappreciative. Or all the three. But finding an air conditioned bus on an African road was the last thing I ever imagined.

It was one of those days when you get on a journey and all you wish for is to fall into some deep, long slumber, and only wake up to the sight of your destination’s signpost. Or any feature that signals the end of your horror treat. This trip came at a time when I would have killed to skip any journey of sorts, road or air. The previous week had been a rather long one.

This, of course, wasn’t in my beloved Uganda. We are still millions of years away from attaining such a feat (OK. That’s a bit exaggerated, but you get the picture). We need better roads more. We need those potholes gotten rid of, before we can start dreaming of comfortable road trips, self-driven or public.

Whoever is going to invest in such an expensive venture, both in initial purchase and maintenance, would have to be sure of roads before staking their hard earned capital.

A client call the previous week had requested for my technical input at a product pitch meeting in some far-flung township, somewhere in the heart of Lilongwe, the country’s capital. I happened to be staying in Blantyre. So you can imagine my immediate reaction, given my psychological state at the time. This wasn't welcome news, certainly.

I asked around for the best transport means I could use, and someone recommended Axa Coaches. I contemplated hiring a private car. My initial perception about public road transport was the usual stale, fuel-infused reek that leaves your head in a spin, before you even get to your seat.

Oh, and probably that half empty mineral water bottle just underneath the seat in front of you. Or a tanned banana peel forsaken below the seat ahead. Probably left as evidence that the bus had a stop-over at Namawojjolo or Lukaya on its previous trip. I dread bus trips.

Now, I have seen, and heard of buses that offer serviettes to passengers that have snacks on the way. Elgon Flyer, plying the eastern region to Mbale used to do this. It was the same for Gaagaa, plying the northern route, then. I hope they still do. I certainly hadn’t seen one that offers a free snack and drink. It was on my first bus trip in this new region on a not so short trip to the capital, all of 300+ Kilometers away.

The interior cuts an executive look, with properly lockable luggage cabins, while the seats have sufficient leg room. The tickets bear the passenger’s seat number, names and next of kin contact, just in case of any eventuality. You are asked all these details at the time of booking, which is a good move, in my view.

All seat-belts are still intact, clean and functional. A travel hostess makes rounds, ensuring everyone on board has their seat-belts fastened just before departure. She says the journey’s prayer, and does so many other things thereafter. Like serving the journey’s snack, and subsequent announcements during the trip. The bus has two doors. One for boarding, where tickets are verified at the same time, and the alighting door that is usually closed during boarding.

There is a loo as well. Situated somewhere on the left side, and just next to the alighting door. I checked it out. It’s quite fairly passable, though it did not have tissue. That made it more of a short call sojourn than a full scale place of convenience. Which is still a plus, all the same. I have not seen it in a Ugandan bus. This is stuff many a traveller would only expect to find on a flight. Not your ordinary dust-coated monstrous automobile.

The upper section is fitted with fully operational AC, so one doesn’t have to open the windows to enjoy a cool breeze. This ensures the leather seats retain their executive feel. And tidiness. And everything else good about them. The window curtains are neat and fully retractable, while the aisle bears a polished red carpet, creating a semblance of comfort, contentment and any other adjectives you could fix in between to describe a good feeling.

Inside the Axa: Spacious. Comfortable. Cool. That enclosure to the left (Looking like a fridge) is the loo.

Another good point was the punctuality. With so many possible unexpected obstacles on the road, it’s not easy to have accurate estimates for departure and arrival times. Their scheduled time read 07:00 Hrs. By 07:10 Hrs we had hit the road, and arrived in Lilongwe in just over 4Hrs 15 Min. Just as the estimate suggested.

The fare might have been on the higher side for the ordinary folk (the equivalent of UGX 60,000 or approximately $25), but it’s certainly worth it. I would recommend it for anyone that happens to be in this part of the world and they intend to do a long trip to/from the capital. Or any entrepreneur that wishes to borrow a leaf from Axa. It’s a good idea. It would certainly give customers value for money. The closest experience to a self-drive one will get. If your ride is comfortable already, that is. If it's not, park it home, and use Axa. You will like it.

-          Dan B. Atuhaire