Chris Evans Kaweesi is a face and voice you will put to a number of local love songs. Watching him effortlessly do his thing, with a boyish smile and accompanying actions to relay the emotion in the lyrics of his songs, one would think he is a natural.
Yes, he is but behind that smile is a long story of toil as this 27-year-old sought his place on Uganda’s stage. His story is proof that stardom has an invisible price to pay. His price hardened him and left a few scars that if he ever has to inspire the next person, then it will be more than just words.
He is the singer behind songs like Mulungi, Rihanna, Ndikuwaki, Nebelera eno, among others.
In 2001, before you ever got to know this performer, he was toiling away fetching water, helping out at construction sites, baby-sitting, clearing thickets all in the name of raising money to get an education and thereon attain his dream as singer.
Loss of parents
Kaweesi did not have a chance to meet his mother. She passed on before he was able to talk and walk. Christopher Kakooza, his father passed on shortly before he sat for his Primary Leaving Exams (PLE).
As he carried bricks from one end of the site to another, he hummed to songs of legendary local singer Elly Wamala ‘Ever Green’. After Senior Six he started saving to record music.
“From fetching water for people, I saved a lot of money. I would fetch a jerry can which was one of the most rewarding blue collar jobs I did. I would charge Shs150 per jerry can. Then I would help out at construction sites which was very tiring work,” Kaweesi recounts.
It is from his savings off his meagre earning that he paid for studio time at Mozart Studio. He had been referred there by his sister Gertrude Mirembe who was already singing.
For his younger life Kaweesi says that his father, did all he could to support his family. His father was a builder. Hard times set in when his father passed on.
Labouring for life
“We did not have regular meals and as the situation got worse, clan members gathered and asked those who were financially able to help take us on for support in school as well as for our well-being. I was taken on by one of the village elders who got me a place at Masooli Secondary School. There, I had to offer labour to cover my school dues.
“The fees was Shs100, 000 but looking back the amount of labour I offered was way much more worth than the amount,” the singer recalls. Part of the labour included making and baking bricks in big numbers, building, splitting firewood for the school kitchen as well as cleaning and general maintenance. This was both during the active school academic programmes and during holidays. School became second home.
However, Kaweesi was a bright student. When he finally sat for his Senior Four, he passed with flying colours. He had scored 14 points in eight subjects in a third world school. His paternal uncle, Engineer Samuel Mwesigwa was surprised at his nephew’s results.
“He had initially bowed out of extending any help to us as orphans because we were many and he did not want to be seen as partisan if he took one or two of us and leaving the rest. Besides, he was not that financially sound at the time when the clan sat to distribute us to new guardians,” the 27-year-old explains.
Mwesigwa saw something unique about his nephew and decided to sponsor his A-Level education at a better school, St Mary’s Boarding Secondary School, Kitende. The school fees was high that when family members heard Kaweesi was going to study there, they argued that this was money that could be split amongst his siblings. They accused his uncle of being extravagant.
Mwesigwa defended his investment in Kaweesi’s education, saying it was important for him to get a good education because if he studied well then he could later on help out his siblings.
At that level, Kaweesi read Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics (PCB/M). From that day on, he prayed for his uncle because he never expected to step foot in such a prestigious school.
When the A-level exams were released, he had scored 17 points and thereon admitted to two universities; Makerere University where he was offered a government scholarship to pursue a degree in agricultural sciences and at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) to pursue medicine on private sponsorship.
His family advised him to study medicine as they felt it more lucrative in future. But Kaweesi’s mind was being slowly taken up with a dream to sing. His sister, Mirembe, had spotted a rare singing talent in him and he also envisioned a good future in music.
Kaweesi did not pick up his admission form from MUST. His calculation was that if he went to MUST, this would mean the end of his dream as a singer since Mbarara was not as vibrant as Kampala where he would get an easier breakthrough as an artiste.
“I opted for a Bachelor’s in agricultural Science at Makerere University. I convinced my uncle arguing that it was sponsored and there was need for him to use his resources to support my siblings,” he recollects.
At the back of his mind though, was a plan to cut his teeth as an artiste. At Makerere he was given a place in Mitchel Hall of residence.
“I asked for the hall fees which I used to give to radio presenters so that they would play my music. The hall would pay me Shs395, 000 per semester. I went to stay with my grandmother and her husband, whom I openly told about my passion to sing. She accepted and in return she asked me to coach her children,” he recounts.
Along the way, there were lessons to learn as he spent some of his money on crooks. Before long, he met Geoffrey Kayemba, his current manager. Kayemba heard his song Rihanna on Suubi FM and connected with him through Mozart Studio where the song had been produced. Rihanna became a hit but with the joy came gloom as family members were unimpressed with Kaweesi singing.
“My family sat and disowned me. I went on to do another song, Ndikusasulaki which became a bigger hit. I held a concert which turned out to be big. My uncle secretly attended and was surprised at the mammoth crowd I attracted. I was shocked too. At the music show my uncle forgave me. He realised that my talent was rewarding,” he adds.
Other responsibilities and plans
He is part of the artistes that have been selected to redo fallen artiste Elly Wamala’s songs which he says is a good opportunity to pay tribute to an artiste he admires and looks up to.
From his music, he continues to support his siblings through school. “I plan to set up a place which will become my musical home where people can come and enjoy my performances alongside other upcoming artistes,” he adds, spelling out one of his future plans. He advises fellow young people to respect people, work hard and be focused on their dreams.
QUICK FACTS ABOUT KAWEESI
Chris Evans Kaweesi never saw his mother but grew up with the father who passed on before he sat for Primary Leaving Examinations.
He did menial jobs to pay his school fees from Senior One up to Senior Four.
At 27, the artiste is involved in agriculture when he is not busy with music.
His love songs are inspired by his life experiences.
Kaweesi is part of the artistes that have been selected to redo fallen artiste Elly Wamala’s songs.
The stories behind his songs
He had not abandoned his education and came close to attaining a first class degree. He got a job with one of the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Bulo, Mpigi who were offering to pay him a basic salary of Shs400, 000.
“I thought to myself that instead of being paid less money, I could become an agricultural entrepreneur. I began constructing poultry houses and today I have in excess of 3,000 chicken and I’m targeting to grow it to 20,000 birds. I also have land in Nakasongola and grow maize there and I‘m utilising the knowledge I acquired at university,” he explains.
Music from the heart
Kaweesi juggles between farming and singing. He has sang under Kream Production which he says he helped Haruna Mubiru put on its feet. He reveals that most of his songs are from the heart, based on experiences he has gone through.
“I looked at situations I have gone through. Rihanna is a song I did after dating a girl by the same name. I sing from the heart and I guess that is partly why my songs turn to be appreciated,” he observes.
Rihanna is a girl he met at the university but because of his introvert nature, he could not bring himself to approach her and confess his love. So he would do this through a friend who he would give money and gifts to take to her. Nothing serious ever materialised out of his efforts.
It is more or less the same story for Mulungi, his other hit song. He says that he composed the song after labouring to convince a girl into a serious relationship but with little success.
“I even sent her a compact disc with the song after I released it. But she kept giving me a cold shoulder. Generally I have not been successful with love,” he shares.
The story behind Nebelera eno is still a sad love story of a girl he recently dated but was disappointed. The girl instead opted for another man who he says is wealthier than him. He pleaded with the woman to be patient because he was still setting up rentals which would be another source of income for them as a couple.
“I have still not gotten over this particular girl and I cannot date again. My heart still cherishes her, so I would not fool someone when I clearly still feel for her,” the singer known for his love songs, explains.