Ugandan Musicians: Meet Bobi Wine, PAM Award Artist of the Year
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First published: November 17, 2006
Bobi Wine was recently voted as the Artist of the Year during the Pearl of Africa Music Awards (PAM Awards) 2006. A few years ago no one could imagine that Bobi Wine, famed for smoking bang and fighting people, would become a famous and accomplished musician in Uganda. But now Bobi, or His Excellence as he is commonly referred to, is undoubtedly one of the best artists in Uganda.
Unlike other musicians who enter music almost by accident, Bobi Wine started early at the age of eight when he became the head of the class choir in Primary 3, and later head of the school choir at the age of twelve while in Primary 6.
He confesses that he had never known what good life is until recently when his music started selling as he was raised from a poor family because his father had many children. "Even having enough food at home was a problem. That is why these days when I get money, I eat enough food," says Bobi.
The 26-year-old musician is the President of the Fire Base Crew, a team of young musicians who say they are dedicated to fight for and improve the lives of the ghetto people around the world.
Bobi wine is almost equal to controversy. Controversial in views, music and deeds. Ultimate Media's John Isingoma met the celebrated artist in one of the ghetto houses in Kamwokya...
A painting of Bobi Wine in Kamwokya describing him as
the Grand Father of the Firebase Crew and 100% Bad News.
John: Who is Bobi Wine?
Bobi: laughs... Bobi is the man, the bad man; in fact he is the 'baddest', toughest, roughest, President of the Fire Base Crew from Kamwokya.
Bobi Wine is interviewed by John.
How and when did you become the President of Fire Base Crew?
I became the President of Fire Base Crew from the time it was started around 1999 until now. I was not elected because ours is not about campaigns and elections like in politics. For me it is a calling. That is why despite the fact that we now have some money and fame, we still stay in the ghetto and eat ki commando.
Yeah man! I mean ghetto food made and prepared from Kamwokya, the base for the Fire Base Crew... not that nice food from Sheraton hotel... I don't belong there, I'm ghetto product.
Tell us about your heritage... parents, place of birth, tribe and clan.
My childhood name is Kyagulanyi Sentamu Robert. I am a son of J.W Sentamu Bulaya from Gomba Kanoni and the clan is Mbogo clan. Of course am a Muganda and I love my kingdom and king Ronald Mutebi, that is the reason I have a tattoo of the kingdom on my hand.
Bobi Wine shows off his tattoo of the Buganda kingdom emblem.
What was your childhood like?
I grew up a struggling boy with limited resources. I was a naughty boy in my small size. I fought several times. I escaped from home to attend dances and to go singing. I loved music and I always looked for an opportunity to sing or dance. My love for music showed itself during primary school because from the tender age of eight I was already head of my primary three-class choir, then I headed the school choir in my primary six.
How did your childhood shape the Bobi of today?
Growing up with limited resources, I learnt how to survive on my own while I was still a young man and this has helped me in my music career which has not been easy. I have faced opposition, backstabbing and all other vices but I have remained standing.
Who writes your songs Bobi. What inspires them?
I write my own songs because I have studied and I'm a professional. I am a graduate from Makerere University with a degree in Music, Dance and Drama. I get my songs from my daily life experiences with people and situations. For example my song ghetto... I got it one day while I had taken my car to be washed in Katwe and from no where a grader came and started destroying people's houses. When I asked people why houses were being downed, I was told that the government was to build better houses because the Queen of England was coming. I said that is stupid man... why do we value foreigners more than our ghetto citizens. That was the origin of the song.
Firebase Crew members.
What is your best song so far?
My best song up to now is Kagoma. This is because I sang that song when I was still myself... original, not the influenced Bobi of today. You see now there are certain words, and therefore songs, I no longer sing because of my image and status in the public. But in Kagoma, that is me the man singing what I liked that time.
How about countrywide and globally: what is your best song and album.
Man... I have many songs that I like from Jamaica by guys like Bujju Banton, Bob Marley and so many other musicians from Ja.
What would you say are your achievements in life so far?
Man... I am proud for having come almost from nothing to who I am today. I am married to a beautiful woman, I have fought for the rights of the ghetto people, I have won the Artist of the Year award. That's something for me.
Speaking of Pearl of Africa Music Awards, what else apart from the Artist of the Year award did you win?
I won the best Afrobeat Single Award for my song Omwana W'abandi (BADA).
What do you comment about the whole organization of the PAM Awards.
PAM Awards is a good initiative but what is bad news is that those guys ( the organizers) want to make everyone a winner and happy. What is wrong with telling someone that this year was not good and therefore no award for them? I believe I deserved at least six accolades in all the categories I had been nominated. Maybe I will win the rest next year.
Your song BADA won you the best afrobeat single award. What does the word BADA mean? You had put prize money for someone who knows what BADA means. Is it still on?
I will not say what BADA means because the game is still on. Someone tell me what BADA means and you win yourself 4 million Uganda shillings.
The same song BADA brought back that olden dance commonly known as 'Kalipuso'. How did you think of that dance which has taken Kampala by storm?
You see, we are artists and our business is not like science of the Newton type, as it was, is now and forever will be. For us we think and have to be creative.
Parliament early this year passed the copyright law which artists have been clamoring for with interesting provisions like stations paying for artists' music. What is your comment?
Me... I did not join music to become rich because with or without music I would have been rich anyway. I would at least rob you and I get money (jokingly), I am not there to fail, man.
You said you are married... tell me about you wife and family
My wife is 'Barbie', Barbara Itungo, I love her and she loves me. I met her when both of us had a part in a certain play when we were at the University. My part required me to play as the President and Barbie as the First Lady. Her beauty convinced me that she was the lady I want for a wife.
However, to be frank I had never thought I would marry someone like her because although we had many things in common, we equally had many differences. We were both humble and big hearted. But then there were our differences, which were real sharp. She was Rwandan... I was Ugandan... a Muganda who is conservative. She was from a rich home from Nsambya... I was a poor man from Kamyokya. Then she was a junior pastor and for me I was a Rasta man. But we managed to fall in love and have kept on up to now... and we have a baby boy.
Tell me about your son. Would you like him to become a musician like his dad?
My son is called Kampala Solomon Walakira and about his future, I would not like to influence him in anyway. God knows what he will become. But if I were given the opportunity to choose for him, definitely... music would come number one.
Bobi Wine's car.
Your song "Ghetto" attacks politicians for neglecting the poor. What is your view of politics?
Politics is useless because those guys are just robbers. They pretend that they are elected to serve the people yet they join politics as a business at the expense of the ghetto people who continue to suffer, yet they are the voters.
Have you ever tested for HIV?
Bobi: No no no... I can never take an HIV test. For what? And if I find am positive... What will it change? Me... I am a married man and I stick to my wife.
What advice do you have for the youth with regards to HIV ?
I tell them to be careful and always use a condom. They should leave live sex to us who are married. Live sex is no longer the in-thing; it's only for procreation full stop.
Do you support abstinence?
I don't support abstinence at all. I want people to enjoy themselves while being mindful of HIV/AIDS by using condoms. Life without sex is stupid. Imagine you are a parent and your 18-year-old child is not making any moves at girls or boys are not approaching her. What would you feel? Me... I would kick his or her ass!
Bobi Wine is interviewed by John.
What is your last word and advice to you fans?
To my fans and all the people... I say work hard. There is nothing impossible in life.
UGPulse would like to add that while we thank Bobi Wine for his interview, and realise that he is entitled to his own views, we at UGPulse would like to stress the importance of getting tested for HIV. HIV is no longer a death sentence, unless you chose not to get tested and therefore fail to treat it.
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First published: November 17, 2006
John Isingoma is a member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. A social scientist by training, Isingoma is the Executive Secretary at Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd and after years training and practice in the media has become a dedicated writer and researcher.