DEAR BEBE COOL: Tshaka Mayanja writes educative letter to ba wa Zuena

Talking about BATTLES from someone no less than The Speaker of our Parliament vindicates what I said in 2005; Ugandan Music is in trouble.

Recently, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament Thomas Tayebwa proposed a music battle between Moses Ssali aka Bebe Cool and Joseph Mayanja, aka Chameleone in a Twitter (X) post. Bebe Cool welcomed the idea and in a lengthy Facebook post asked government to fund music projects in the country.

Not pleased with the proposal by Bebe Cool, Tshaka Mayanja of the Jazz Safari fame has responded in a Facebook educating Bebe Cool aka ba wa Zuena what it will take for the Ugandan music to prosper; and it is not handouts from government as Bebe Cool craves.

Below is Tshaka’s unedited response.

Greetings brother Bebe Cool, blessed love.

I have read and digested your post.

Here’s my honest and humble opinion; By default, Artistes, certainly real ones, are not bedfellows with governments and establishments.

More often than not, Artistes are “left field”, for lack of a better term. We are meant to be the mirror of society, but by demanding this kind of support from the State, Artistes will become mouthpieces of the State, due to patronage.

I am a Musician, have been for decades; what I’ve done, achieved for/from Music is a moot point. I serve Music for Music’s sake, not to get patronage. Most importantly, so many people who aren’t Musicians are in worse shape that Artistes. Let’s maintain our expectations and not be too self centered or too entitled.

Very many among us have done so much for Music in this country without ever getting a penny from the State. Our job is to write, produce and release good Music, groom Musicians etc, in the hope that the public will support us by buying the Music, attending our concerts. We are no different from fish mongers or farmers who toil then take their harvest to the markets.

Copyright: My shirt is my shirt, if someone robs it from me, that’s a crime. Do I need to form or join an association of people whose property has been stolen to report my case to the Police?

Why and how is this different from the copyright laws? They already exist, the State MUST enforce them, it’s their duty. Why push people in making cliques and unnecessary divisions in the fraternity instead of doing what’s right? I assure you, the State KNOWS. If it doesn’t, then we’re in more trouble than we thought.

On the issue of Governments supporting Artistes in other countries, where the heck did you hear that?

Let’s talk about the great capitals of Music; Kingston Jamaica, London England, Johannesburg South Africa, Havana Cuba, Bamako Mali, New York USA, Dakar Senegal, Rio de Janeiro Brazil, Puerto Rico…. Should I go on?

Which of the great Artistes from these places do you know, got government funding to soar Musically? Do you know why many of the Artistes from these countries end up in exile??

Did the State help Bob Marley to set up Tuff Gong International? Did the State help Freddie McGregor set up Big Ship, or Shaggy Big yard, or Fattis Exterminator and so many other Jamaican Icons who have set up studios and production houses that have groomed hundreds of Jamaican Artistes?

No, the government of Uganda MUST NOT give Musicians hand outs; give us the tools to do our work. We are not disabled.

Waive taxes on Musical instruments, build and support Music Schools/education NOT Recording Studios (these must be built by Artistes themselves or business people; simply give us waivers for a period of time, to build them).

Let the State build proper Art Theatres, give grants to those who want to study Music, Performing Arts. Knowledge lasts longer than handouts which will be squandered on non Musical trinkets.

I’ve read here where you said your camps Gargamel and Leone Island lack funds to help youths, I take it this help is for Music. Wano mu Buganda, ekyo tukiyita KUDUULA.

Have we not seen you brothers and sisters for years enjoying your proceeds from Music by taking holidays overseas, buying expensive cars and living large? Where exactly do you hope the funds to “help your youth” will come from? Hasn’t Music been so good to you? Let’s be fair. What more, how much more do you want? Ddala muli bubi nnyo okusinga abalala? I’m speechless.

Talking about BATTLES from someone no less than The Speaker of our Parliament vindicates what I said in 2005; Ugandan Music is in trouble.

Why should there be Music BATTLES? Who in their right mind can say that “a battle, which had very little to do with the Music on stage, awakened Uganda’s Music industry”? Musically speaking, it is MUSIC after all; what EXACTLY was awakened? Let’s take stock.

Have you not witnessed what has happened in LA, New York, Kingston, Johannesburg, Cape Town? Why call them battles in the first place? You can call these marketing terms all you like, but this is not what Music should be about. Music is a unifier not a divider.

And while all these stunts are making money for certain “Artistes” and Promoters who are laughing all the way to the bank, their fans take these battles so seriously and end up in fist fights and all sorts of abuse.

I don’t begrudge people making money how they choose to, horses for courses, but I assure you, Music will suffer (short term gains for long term pain).

Have we forgotten the scripted bruising battles and fights between Leone Island, Firebase and Gargamel that left carnage among so many youths from these camps?

Moses Ssali aka Bebe Cool aka ba wa Zuena

Yes brothers, you’ve all matured now into respectable members of society invited to sit at high tables, well done; but have you ever sat down to think about the carnage and damage these camps left behind, by using something as sacred as Music as a stepping stone?

The gloss, glitter and glamor you introduced to the Music society in Uganda is both a gift and a curse, a poison chalice.

We must all take stock of what needs to be done, without relying on the State. For millennia, Artistes, Musicians have managed to be revered and respected based on their craft, not their bank balances or State patronage.

Artistes can still support MEANINGFUL State programs on merit, programs that help the entire society, no matter what side of the meaningless political divides exist. In a nutshell, don’t ask what the State can do for us, the State should ask Artistes what we should do for the country, for society as a whole.

We are Artistes; we entertain, we teach. Artistes all over the world go through the same hardships we go through to break through. I assure you, the vast majority make it through their craft, hard work and luck, NOT government funding. This is a very slippery slope you brothers are playing with.

Let me leave you with these lyrics by Robert Nestar Marley;

Never make a politician, grant you a favour,

They will always want to control you forever.

So if a fire, make it burn,

And if a blood make ya run

Rasta deh ‘pon top, can’t you see?

So you can’t predict the flop.


As a Musician, as an Artiste, my plea will always be to those who love Music, those who enjoy Music, to support Musicians; not as charity, but in exchange for getting good concerts, albums etc.

Support the Musicians you love whenever you can, by attending their concerts, buying their Music. Do not let them fall in the humiliating trap of State patronage coz I assure you, their creativity will suffer and their demise will be hastened.

Musicians, let’s strive to make good Music and unite the people. Let it not be said that we divided the society.

Blessed love all the time

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