KAMPALA. Leading members of the music fraternity have been under attack for their Tubonga Naawe composition in which they pledged allegiance and even urged their fans to vote for incumbent President Museveni come next year’s elections.
Social media has been awash with all sorts of criticism against the artistes that were involved in putting the song together. The points of criticism differ; some say the artistes who are brands in themselves should have put their societal responsibilities above personal political beliefs and therefore should not have participated. But others feel the singers misused a good opportunity and “begged” instead of asking the President to address the implementation of the Copyright Law.
Other people blamed the artistes for choosing a candidate they say has stayed in power for long and has not done enough to improve important sectors like health and education.
Some pundits also criticised the quality of the song itself and wrote it off as a poor production.
The artistes speak out
According to singer Bebe Cool, who is an unapologetic supporter of President Museveni, the idea of the song came from several musicians, while others were told about it and liked the idea. “We approached Kiwanuka Kiryowa [a lawyer with Kiwanuka & Karugire Advocates, legal representatives of NRM] to source for funds, we wouldn’t call the President to ask for money yet we were doing an appreciation song for him. We went to about eight different business people and they funded the making of both the audio and video of the song, plus some little facilitation for the artistes,” Bebe Cool said.
Veteran actor Andrew Benon Kibuuka, also the president of the Federation of Performing Artistes in Uganda (FPAU), was in full defence of his fellow artistes; “I don’t find any problem in artistes dining with the President let alone composing for him a song. Besides what’s wrong with accepting a Presidential donation? So many people have met the President and he has even offered much more,” Mr Kibuuka said.
Jose Chameleone, another key figure on the project was quick to downplay the criticism saying as artistes, they needed to initiate a relationship with the President and they found making a song the best way to achieve their intended goal. “That goal was achieved, let those I annoyed in pursuit of a better future for an industry I have worked so hard for, forgive me,” he said.
Although she is not known to be controversial, singer Juliana Kanyomozi did not survive the public wrath for being part of this project. In a Facebook post, she stated that she will not be bullied into giving up her rights as a Ugandans; “There’s no need to use abusive, disrespectful, judgemental and insensitive language towards each other simply because of our different beliefs… You also have the choice to support me in this musical journey or not to,” Juliana said.
However, musicians Maurice Kirya, Eddy Kenzo and Bobi Wine didn’t sail in the same boat with many of their colleagues. Kenzo wondered why of all times President Museveni was meeting entertainers now. “Is everything ok back home?” Kenzo, currently in USA, wondered.
As for singer Bobi Wine, while his peers were posting pictures of themselves with Mr Museveni, he posted an earlier photo of him with Opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye.
Veteran singer and Afrigo Band founding member Moses Matovu was appreciative of the Shs400m donation from the President. However, the man behind Uganda’s oldest band, said the musicians failed to address the bigger issues affecting the industry before the President. “The industry’s biggest challenge is failure to implement the Copyright Law so that our intellectual properties are protected; but that was not even touched during the meeting,” he said, comparing the musicians meet with the President to someone who begs for money for rent and food instead of asking for a job to be able to cater for many other needs in life.
Mr Matovu, who distanced himself from commenting about the implications of musicians supporting a particular candidate, and insisted on discussing issues that will build the arts, said while the Copyright Law is in place, it is a weak law with almost no enforcement strategy. “Even investors can’t invest in the music industry when they know we the players and their interests are not protected; and that is a big loss for both us as musicians and the government who miss out on taxes,” Mr Matovu said.
However, during a telephone interview, Bebe Cool described the artistes that disagreed with the move as “very weak, young, uninformed and people craving attention.”
“The president gave us two hours off his busy schedule and we maximised that time very well. They are talking about copyright, but the President signed it a long time ago. We just needed an environment of dialogue, to be able to arrange for meetings with the President and line ministries, and we got that,” Bebe Cool said.
What other stakeholders say
Mr Don Wanyama, Special Media Assistant in the office of the NRM chairperson, argued that musicians have the right to choose what songs to compose and what message to embed in their songs. Mr Wanyama gave examples of artistes such as Bobi Wine, Ronald Mayinja and the late Harriet Kisakye who have recorded songs that were either critical of government or praised certain Opposition politicians, but were never castigated for their creativity.
“Tubonga Nawe was about thanking a President and government that has done a lot in terms of creating an enabling environment for creative arts to thrive. It just wasn’t about musicians. We saw comedians, fashionistas, also showcasing and thanking the President.”
Mr Kibuuka made it clear that the money will be kept in the artistes Sacco which he said was created over three years ago “I’ve heard people say the money will split musicians; no it will not! The musicians will easily access easy and low interest loans from the Sacco which has been there for years,” he said.
Other artistes that have sung for presidents
This is not the first time that popular artistes have joined praise singers for sitting presidents across different parts of the world. During US president Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, musicians, actors and comedians like Snoop Dog, Beyonce, JayZ, Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, Oprah Winfrey and many more moneyed Hollywood people – all publicly rallied support for the first ever American black president.
While in some cases like Senegal, musician Youssou N’Dour, took it a notch higher and challenged Abdoulaye Wade for president. Singer Wycleff Jean tried to do the same in Haiti a few years ago.
In 1984, Congolese singer Luambo Luanzo, aka Franco, composed a song titled Candidat na Biso Mobutu, for a sole candidate Mobutu Sese Seko Koko.