3 Ugandan music stars nominated for MAMAs

2016-10-16 12:01
Sheebah. ( Screengrab: Instagram/@ sheebahricherthisyear)

Johannesburg - I am Ugandan. Dare I say that while most Ugandans know lots of South African and Nigerian music but most South Africans know almost nothing about our music.

The truth is, when a Ugandan musician has a concert in South Africa, it is largely attended by the Ugandan community here. However, this year alone, South African act Mafikizolo has played in Uganda twice.

Not that we don’t have good music – far from it. Some of our biggest acts have been nominated for the coveted 2016 MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMAs): Eddy Kenzo, Sheebah Karungi and Bebe Cool. Ring a bell, anyone?

1. Sheebah

Sheebah is the “bad girl” of the Ugandan music scene, and one of the most sought-after dance hall acts in the country.

Contrary to the trend, she uses her birth name as her stage name. (Though the biblical significance of the name Sheba is naughty in its own right.) She embraces the naughty, and has openly made it clear that she is no role model, but just a girl out to entertain.

Starting out about a decade ago in an all-girl group called Obsessions (which included former Ugandan Big Brother contestant Sharon O), the 27-year-old only got her solo break about four years ago when the tantalising video of her hit song Ice Cream finally got her noticed.

She has since released more than 20 songs, including Kisasi Kimu, which got her nominated in the Best Video category at the MAMAs this year. Make no mistake, South Africa, Sheebah is a fighter, and the contenders in her category had better watch out.

“Those who fear thorns cannot pick roses,” wrote Sheebah on Instagram when encouraging folks to vote for her.

2. Bebe Cool

His ego can be likened to that of Kanye West. Call him the man Ugandans love to hate. He is the fella who dares to tell all to go to hell, then turns around and helps a needy child. Yes, that is Bebe Cool. And he and his Gagamel crew fill stadiums. He even has a song about what a big deal he is, so now we call him Big Size.

After more than two decades in music, his ability to reinvent himself and stay relevant is a thing to be applauded. Bebe Cool will go from a folk-influenced tune like his latest hit Kabulengane to a reggae track. It should not come as a surprise that the man born as Moses Ssali made it to this year’s Listener’s Choice shortlist at the Mamas.


A photo posted by Bebe Cool,CEO gagamel int. (@bebecool_ug) on

3. Eddy Kenzo

In Uganda, we call Eddy Kenzo “BET Award”. He takes his statue with him wherever he goes, making sure we never forget he won the 2015 Viewer’s Choice Best New International Artist award at the BETs. It’s ironic, too, because Kenzo had long been the poster boy for Ugandan musicians. That the fella whose grasp of English is limited went on to win an international award would be a shock Ugandans would not recover from.

Jokes aside, he deserved the nod. His song Sitya Loss, with a video that made the dancers Ghetto Kids famous, has garnered 7 million YouTube views. His fans range from the “fancy” English-speaking folk to the less literate. He puts up a dance spectacle on stage, so it came as no surprise that Kenzo was nominated for Best Live Act at this year’s MAMAs.

selfie ?? #mamavote #EddyKenzo #Bestliveact

A photo posted by Eddy Kenzo 0fficial (@eddykenzo) on