How Sitya Loss grew Eddy Kenzo’s legend

Artiste Edrissa Musuuza, alias Eddy Kenzo. Whereas his two initial songs did not pick any steam, Sitya Loss didn’t come up against only local artistes. PHOTO/FILE/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • As Eddy Kenzo readies himself for the February 5 Grammy Awards, Monitor sketches the making of the Ugandan artiste.

When Eddy Kenzo released Sitya Loss at the start of 2014, he was an improvement on an unknown quantity. His debut single, Yanimba—done alongside Bobi Wine’s brother Mikie Wine—had brought him some success. He had also basked in the glory of the soundtrack to the 2011 General Election—Stamina.

Stamina had initially received a lacklustre reception from the audience. Yet when Abdul Karim, alias Producer Didi, tweaked a few things and changed the tempo of the song, it gained a cult hero following. Neither Stamina nor Yanimba was the beginning of Eddy Kenzo. The man who has made history by becoming Uganda’s first Grammy nominee, started out as a footballer, training with SC Villa in his formative years.

Starting out
In the early 2000s, TV personality Straka Mwezi, alias Straka Baibe, organised a singing competition. She wanted to unearth talent for her band. Eddy Kenzo was one of the finalists. On Monday morning, the man who was born and bred in Masaka as Edrissa Musuuza could wake up a Grammy Award winner, thanks to his

Gimme Love song
At the start of 2014, the fact that Eddy Kenzo had barely managed to stay relevant was not entirely his fault. The music industry had been partitioned between Moses Sali, alias Bebe Cool; Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, and Joseph Mayajna, alias Chameleone. Goodlyfe or Mowzey Radio [Moses Nakintije Ssekibogo] and Weasel [Douglas Mayanja] claimed the crumbs that remained.

Whereas Eddy Kenzo’s two initial songs did not pick any steam, Sitya Loss didn’t come up against only local artistes. It was workshopped to capture the minds of music fans when Nigerian artistes had started mapping the continent as their playground.

Nigerian question
Bebe Cool had started a conversation by calling out local DJs for not playing local music as much as they played music from Nigeria.

“DJs are not giving Ugandan music a second listen. They are too quick to judge,” DJ Aludah told a local newspaper back then.

But there was Ugandan music playing at the time—Sheebah Karungi had just released Ice Cream and later Twesana; Irene Ntale, as well as Radio and Weasel, were also receiving good airplay.

At the time, the music scene was divided. Some local radios were selective with the kind of local music they played. For instance, even when it’s almost impossible to pick Ugandan Rhythm and Blues songs, Hot 100 FM then insisted on playing only Hip Hop and RnB. Touch FM claimed to play Rock and Roll and Urban African music. Most of the time the station played Maurice Kirya, a bit of Naava Grey and everything from Nigeria.

Sitya Loss
When Sitya Loss landed, there were many radio stations that were not playing the song. Then a video featuring Alex Ssempijja (RIP), Fred Tumwesigye, Isaac Tumusiime, Bashir Lubega and Patricia Nabakooza was uploaded online. The young boys and girl seemed to challenge themselves in dance, using the song.

The story starts with a boy who finds the other dancing to the song. Believing he is a better dancer, the boy abandons whatever he is doing to teach the other better moves. In a snap, passersby join the dance.
Shot on phone, it is a single take video without edits or transitions.

It was initially uploaded on YouTube in January 2014 when Sitya Loss was bubbling under.
While speaking to the media earlier, Dauda Kavuma said they made the video and later showed it to Eddy Kenzo. They mooted the idea of Eddy Kenzo appearing in the actual video. The artiste immediately bought in.

His reading was perfect, not least because there was something infectious about the dance moves of the children that made many people who watched the video want to try the moves.

Viral video
Soon, videos from Uganda and other parts of the world of people trying out the dance started landing. It was, however, the Ghetto Kids video that raked the most views. By June 2014, the video had been watched a whooping three million times. For a Ugandan video or even a phone made video, that was bonkers.

How Sitya Loss—the Ghetto Kids version—started picking up steam online is a story very few know. What is clear is that it went viral. Before we knew it, there were petitions to have the children appear on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Eddy Kenzo joined the petition with a heartfelt Facebook post. He wrote thus: “Over the last couple of months, Uganda has been publicised in the foreign press because of their Anti-Gay Bill. But watching these kids dance clearly brings out another side of Ugandans being very happy talented people.”

He added: “Ellen, we ask you to host these talented kids on your show so that Americans can get a chance to see how we the Africans groove.”

The goal of the petition was to garner 1,000 signatures, a number they surpassed easily.
Ellen did not host the Ghetto Kids, but other people were watching. Bookings for both the children and Eddy Kenzo started coming through.

Continental song 
The song started playing on platforms many Ugandan artistes had craved for years—MTV Base, Trace TV and Channel O.

But above all, the Francophone Africa loved it so much. By 2015, Eddy Kenzo had performed in Benin, Guinea, and Senegal. Eddy Kenzo had more bookings outside Uganda than his own native country. Why? He opined that his countrymen were more interested in putting others down and always trying to divide them. His legend elsewhere has continued to grow that bit more.

BET awards

In 2015, the MTV Africa Music Awards returned after a two-year hiatus. Along with the BET Awards’ African category—so dominated by Nigerians—the accolades have prestige written all over them. They have also challenged Ugandan artistes to do better.

The nomination of Radio and Weasel in the BET Awards in 2013, for instance, made Ugandans so ambitious that the quality of video and sound had drastically changed.
Bebe Cool had started working on his Go Mama album and had released a single Love You Everyday off it.

Belief was that the song would land a nomination or two either in the BET or MTV MAMAs.
The BET Awards were announced first and there wasn’t a single Ugandan with a nomination. In fact, only one East African artiste—Sauti Sol—had been nominated.

Then came MTV, Bebe Cool had been nominated for Best Music Video for Love You Everyday. A few days later, BET announced they had created a Viewers Choice New Artiste category, open to artistes from the rest of the world. It would be voted for by the public through social media.

They had nominated, high-flying South African rapper, Casper Nyovest, Mzvee, Mic Lowry, Novelist and Ugandans, George the Poet and Eddy Kenzo.

It was more than a year since Eddy Kenzo had released Sitya Loss, but most urban media houses were picking up the song for the first time because of the BET nomination. Many more picked it up after the eventual win.

All Ugandans had to do to make Kenzo a BET recipient was type #IPickEddy. 
And the rest is history.


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