The Rationale of “Beef” In Uganda’s Music Industry

The legendary Raga, Reggae and dancehall icon, the king-sized Bebe Cool is at it again – at war, that is. According to reports, he habours such a smoldering hate for some of his colleagues in the industry, and secure sources predict that an overt war is really imminent. This time Bebe Cool has a bone to pick with the one and only ever East African BET Award Winner, the illustrious sitya-loss superstar, Eddy Kenzo.

It has been some months since the last happening of any serious collision between artistes but like they say, old habits die hard; it’s here again and it’s like another clash of the titans.

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The exact cause of the fight, this time, is hard to put your hands on but it’s all wrapped in the fact that these are two “giants” – They mark their territories well and just can’t stay together – at least not amicably.

It’s a rich rivalry drawing momentum from the clout each man has attained in family, wealth and influence. Apart from the Muslim faith they share, everything else is something is to fight about. This is what, in Uganda, is called beef.

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BET Award Winner: Eddy Kenzo

It has been asserted by pundits that “beef” can be healthy for the music industry. Really?

Well, maybe it does us well on perspective, first, if we append a definition to this thing that is certainly not alluding to cow’s meat.

  • Beef is a euphemism that makes reference to a grumbling between two contrary parties. For this case, artistes.

One would wonder; why wouldn’t there be any sort of discord [disagreement] while there are different people thinking independently, at full liberty? I mean, why would it be a matter of apprehension for the public – if it were a mere falling out of a few individuals who happened to be singers?

So the question perhaps is not why there is beef as opposed to why there should be “irrational beef”!

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Music Icon: Bebe Cool

Beef, in context of the music is clearly fanatical – hateful, disgraceful, and long term. It had not had much precedent in Uganda until this modern age of ruthless competition and media exhilaration.

You would wish this was a mere [bad] rivalry; natural and ignorable. But it’s not. Beef in Ugandan music is a full exhibition of one’s demeanor at the expense of the other. At its peak, lives are at stake – just not long ago, one, Rabadaba, a raga/ dancehall artiste got Good Lyfe aide stabbed in the stomach and a year later succumbed to demise – all in the name of beef and its cost.

Yet when you listen in closely to the precursors of these fights, you can’t help but be dismayed by the futility and sheer pettiness of the causes of contention.

Above board, most of these tiffs are no more than publicity stunts: yet they grow into perpetual nightmarish consequences before they quiet down.

The one of Bebe Cool against Chameleon and Bobi Wine was an issue of friends turned foes. You could say, completely uncalled for. Just no one was ever a major threat to the other’s niche – loyal fans and market, that is. In fact they have always done well. The too much beef rather springs from the need to keep up relevance in an industry that expands everyday and thrives almost at the speed of light. Pulling a stunt by talking down a contender keeps one in the “news” – much better than being a “disciplined one” who’s of no consequence any more.

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Reminiscing the good old times: Dr. Jose Chameleon and Bebe Cool

Relatedly, the beef also has a strong root in insecurity. In an era as this one, not being on the lips of the media is pretty risky. There’s so much at stake – the industry is now inundated by lots of good voices and innovations. There are recording studios virtually everywhere – not to mention the versatility of the 21st century technology, willing investors, and a very avid market. It would be at the expense of Bebe cool, Chameleon or even Bobi Wine, for example, not to chatter on their supremacy over anyone else in the industry which may not be necessarily accurate but worth its purpose – to book a slot for whoever is prone to be pushed off the cliff of the giants.

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Beef has been perceived by many up and coming artistes as a necessary evil. Why not to accuse, for example, a celebrated artiste, of having swindled a song of a little known artiste, as a means to debut a new face into the world of music. This is literally not unprecedented.

Shrewd Eighton and Rain decided to cultivate a following just by being nasty towards the ones they aspired to be like, singing taunting lyrics and manipulating real Good Lyfe haters into their fan base.

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Being humans, very rational is jealousy and “envy” as leading causes of beef as well. However I’d rather serious artistes refrained from it. There’s often a media hike, lifting the GNL Zamba kind of beef against Navio but sometimes it hurts as one may rise without the necessary genes of a star, only to rapidly come crumbling down to the mud. Just like Eighton & Rain.

I think artistes should allow hardships and hard work to test them, frame them, to come out finally as a real super star. Who cares for a fluker?

Optimists have reasoned it thus: “beef is good for competition”. For some reason people think the “vice” keeps the industry alive. It was to the dismay of a few that the Good Lyfe and Gagamel crew finally made up.

The argument is that what will be the inspiration of these now pals to work hard and bring out good music if not to give foe a good run for their money!

To a greater extent this is disagreeable, though not because that [view point] is squarely inaccurate. In this day and age, if you are not rocking, as it were, Diamond Platinunz next door is, and he’s getting the big International Collaborations.

While the home boys relax, Sauti Soul would be getting the nominations at all the Award functions. And the Jamaicans will loyally always show up too, excite us for a few hours and bag all our millions at the expense of the “not-fighting friends”. Besides, newer local talent will seize the vacuum and make the Top Ten Chart.

Whatever the case may be, I refuse to find this overenthusiastic beef justifiable. I perceive everyone as complementary to other. No one should have to make a monopoly of the industry which is a pure demonstration of conceit; egocentric and unpatriotic. Everybody should have a shot at where their talents and luck can carry them to.

The remedy for unreasonable beef lies in rejuvenating and rebranding one’s product. This surely takes a good management team, more forceful promotion campaigns, looking for good collaborations, creativity and obviously hard work and poise.

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