Menton Summer: Star who had potential to beat Jamaicans

Menton Summer

What you need to know:

  • For those who knew him, their mental image conjures a fine-looking young man sporting neatly knitted dreadlocks, a departure from the stereotypical Rastafarians of that era, writes Patrick K. Ssentongo.

Menton Summer played a pivotal role in reshaping how the nation perceived artists, particularly those who didn’t fit the mould of the then-famous Kadongo Kamu genre. Furthermore, during that period, people were generally hesitant to associate themselves with dreadlocked artists, especially those who sang in a style reminiscent of Jamaicans.

While a few artists of the time merged local languages with Jamaican patois and donned dreadlocks, Menton Summer’s hits, such as Sirikawo Baby, Kaneemu, and Leka Tuzilye, set him apart.

These songs made the fusion of dancehall and reggae immensely popular among the youth of the time, and he emerged as the leading figure in this movement.

Menton Summer was born Peter Nkwanga to former rebel Captain George Nkwanga, who served as the military commander of the Federal Democratic Movement of Uganda (FEDEMU), one of the four main anti-Obote guerrilla groups in the early 1980s. With such a background, his musical and Rastafarian roots were not apparent until his untimely passing.

Before Jamaican reggae dancehall artiste Buju Banton set foot in Uganda, there was an incarnation of him in Menton Summer. His performances were so reminiscent of Buju Banton that, if not forewarned, one could easily mistake Summer for the Jamaican superstar, especially when he chose to sing Banton’s 1994 hit single, Champion.

According to his close friend Jenkins Mukasa, Summer’s greatest wish was to share the stage with Buju Banton. However, fate had other plans, Summer passed away just four months before Banton’s monumental show in Uganda in September 1997.

He died in a car crash at Nakalama, along Tirinyi Road, shortly after a performance in Mbale. He was rushing to perform at Ekitoobero, another event organised by CBS radio, where he also worked.

He kick-started what has become the blueprint of Ugandan pop music over the years. 

In the years after his death, Jamaican music remained deeply ingrained in the core of Ugandan pop music, with artists like Bebe Cool, Bobi Wine, Peter Miles and Menshan, and Vampino, among others.

To give you a better understanding of Menton Summer’s musical style in the reggae dancehall genre, Edward Sendikaddiwa, a music critic, likens him to Singer Buchaman. Although Buchaman is no longer as active musically, his craft is similar to what Menton did—except that he would flow longer with original lyrics.

The making

In the early 90s and throughout the mid-90s, Congolese music held a dominant position in Uganda’s music scene, alongside Kadongo Kamu. However, a new generation of young urban entertainers, including Menton Summer, Rasta Rob MC, Shanks Vivie Dee, Emperor Orlando, and Ragga Dee, among others, emerged. The rebellious tone and lyrics of Jamaican music captivated these artists as well as their enthusiastic audience.

Their fortunes took a significant turn when music promoter Reggae Winston, now known as Tshaka Mayanja, recognised the growing resurgence of the reggae genre in Kampala. He seized the opportunity and began bringing Jamaican artists to Uganda. He brought Aswad, Chaka Demus & Pliers, Spanner Banner, Third World, and Papa San, among others, to perform in 1995, 1996, and 1997.

This instantly made Jamaican music the favourite among Ugandan youths. This development prompted the urban singers of the time, including Menton Summer, to flock to various studios, with Peter Sematimba’s Dungeon Studios being a popular choice.

Here, they laid down their Luganda vibes over Jamaican riddims. Summer emerged as a leading figure in the movement to localise Jamaican music, and many critics believed he had the potential to challenge Jamaicans on their own turf.

Teaming up with Orlandoh

Summer collaborated with the now-veteran artiste Emperor Orlandoh, with whom he later formed a musical duo. According to Orlandoh, real name, John Ssozi, their partnership played a pivotal role in popularising dancehall music in Uganda.

Even though both artists were already established in the industry, their fateful meeting that solidified their duet occurred in 1996 when Elvis Sekyanzi, the proprietor of Club Silk, hired Orlandoh as an MC at the nightspot. Orlandoh recalls, “It was there that I met Menton Summer, who was already working as an MC.

“We became friends due to our shared passion for music. Our live performances at nightclubs were immensely popular among clubgoers. Orlandoh goes on to explain that they later joined forces with Rasta Rob MC, forming a famous trio that performed at concerts and parties around town.

Their trio gained recognition, particularly because of their association with Deluxe Disco, where they would eventually work. Sendikaddiwa notes that during that era, discos were a significant cultural phenomenon, but what set them apart was their unique combination of talented MCs and DJs.

He points out that, unlike today, where an MC simply speaks on the microphone, in those days, an MC also had to be a skilled singer to draw large crowds.

“At Deluxe Disco, that’s precisely what Menton Summer and Orlandoh did. They blended their words on the mic with vocals, while Rasta Rob MC handled the DJing,” says Sendikaddiwa.

Menton and Orlandoh later collaborated on one of the era’s biggest hits, Sirikawo Baby, which was recorded at Timothy Kizito’s Kasiwukira Studios and became a blockbuster. This song, however, led to a fierce rivalry between the duo and actors turned radio presenters, Abbey Mukiibi and the late Paul Kato Lubwama.

The reason for this rivalry was that Mukiibi and Lubwama had initially recorded an advertisement for the fast-growing cosmetic brand Sirika Baby, which had inspired Summer and Orlandoh to create the song. Unfortunately, Sirikawo Baby became so popular that it raised contention between the two parties.

Following the success of Sirikawo Baby, Menton Summer and Orlandoh teamed up again to create another hit, the Kaneemu Remix, which also became a favourite among fans. It was so well received that they chose it as the title track for Summer’s album.

The Kaneemu Remix album featured songs such as Take It Easy, Bias Dem Bias, Champion Buju, Cinderella, and People Cool.

Tonny Ssabaala, a fan of the duo, fondly reminisces that whenever he saw the names Menton Summer and Emperor Orlandoh on a banner, it would get him and his friends excited.

“The fact is, we didn’t have the money to follow them around, despite their inspirational performances. So, we would gather as a group and break through the gates to get in for free. The boys from Naguru and Nakawa Quarters saw it as an opportunity to practice their boxing and taekwondo skills they had learned at Lugogo, while those of us from Ntinda would patiently wait for them to do the ‘dirty job’ and then slip in behind them,” he recalls.


As his fame flourished, opportunities to become a radio presenter came knocking. His radio home was CBS FM during its prime. There, he hosted two shows, a weekly drive show called Township Tunes and Saturday Club Mix, every Saturday night.

He also frequently appeared as a guest on other shows. His Saturday show was CBS FM Radio’s response to Alex Ndawula’s Hot Mix on Capital FM, which was attempting to capture the market at the time.

Before his untimely death, Summer had also ventured into acting. According to Sam Bagenda, a key figure in the Ebonies group, Summer was one of the actors they brought on board for their variety musical show that aired episodically on television.