Music Stars In Uganda Who Rose To Prominence Without Help Of Talent

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POWER COUPLE: Zari Hassan & Diamond Platinumz

Many superstars in Uganda command such cosmic clout within the social circles because of the talent they are known to possess. Talent hits a target no one else can hit. However, there has also remained this question of whether only talent can get one to the pinnacle of life’s fairest things!

Apparently No; for in as much as innumerable numbers of world stars have climbed the ladder of success because of an inherent gift, whether it’s in art, science or sport, a few others have done pretty well relishing the grandeur that comes with stardom even though they were not exactly as talented as you’d suppose.

This is not to say however, that they paid no price at all; it just so happens that someone [somehow] manages to get up to the apex of success really unconventionally and you cannot deny that they really got there.

In this feature, I attempt to name a list of the Top 10 Ugandan superstars that have always dazzled our social domains and even had the media in utter thrill over nothing but a fake flair.

  1. Bad Black
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Bad Black

Last time Bad Black made buzz in the media, she was apparently turning her back on her crooked ways, to make a decent life out of music. She hit the studio and the next time we knew, she was publicizing some off-key song of hers, Mandigadi. Matter of fact, Bad Black is more of a socialite than a singer. She may buy music producers, directors, even writers but there’s simply no iota of music in her DNA; not swag, not vocals, not even stamina.

  1. Sheila Don Zela
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Don Zela

Until recently, Don Zela had only been known as a Dubai-based promoter of Ugandan music, a businesswoman, socialite and later, Big Eye’s “sugar-mummy”. Meanwhile when the two broke up, apparently, it fell hard on Don Zela and has since cultivated hatred and “beef” against the former boyfriend with whom she even had a child.

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Next thing we knew she was in studio and working on a song. When it finally came out, it was nothing music but a squabble. She hired the best of producers and video promoters and something like music finally came out on her second project. It does not change the fact that she does not bring much to the table, musically speaking.

  1. Victor Kamenyo
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Victor Kamenyo

To this day, nothing is known [musically speaking] on Victor Kamenyo except as a sly identity swindler. As a musician, he has done nothing but everything that only a creepy, lazy and uncreative snitch would do.

First, he shamelessly clasped himself onto Gravity Omutujju’s interpretation of Hip Hop (which is itself lame anyway), plagiarized his [Gravity’s] lyrics and other than be grateful, Victor Kamenyo instead cultivated a “beef” against his role-model.

 What could anyone possibly say about Victor Kamenyo?! He exhibits no iota of talent.

  1. Young Zee
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Young Zee

Despite having the capacity to work with the top-notch men of technical know-how like Benon and an entire dream team of people with audio and video making profiles, the youngster has remained a musical flop.

And I wish I didn’t have to sound so mean. He is merely a kid and I’d want to give him a benefit of doubt. The question is; is it even necessary?

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Of course daddy will not be faulted for not doing his part. One track and a second one should be able to tell a story of who has talent [despite whatever challenges might be – whether inexperience, finance, or other.] Young Zee manifests no progress and does not even want to stop mimicking Lil Wayne.

Gosh, young man if you ever make it big in music some day, you’d have proved a point [to doubters like me], but I still will not change my mind.

  1. Diamond Oscar
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Diamond Oscar

It is sad but, if truth be told, Diamond Oscar’s relevance ended the moment he walked out on his mentors, the Good Life. Thereafter no one else could drag and sponsor a terribly wanting talent such as his.

I don’t have to be right on this one but honestly, I don’t recall one song that was not a collaboration that he worked on and became a hit, let alone a massive hit. Recently, he got picked up by Team No Sleep label but still he is yet to make good out of that.

  1. Helen Lukoma
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Helen Lukoma

It turns out Helen is very beautiful, she’s a lovely personality, model, actress, businesswoman but her calling is perhaps not music. Her voice is moreover not that bad. It just so happens that Helen lacks the X factor.

Having started in the girl group, the Obsessions, Helen Lukoma soon quit with Brenda to start their own duo, HB Toxic before it likewise crumbled to naught very sooner than anyone’s bet.

Helen went ahead and tried out acting and she was exceptionally smart. As a fashion businesswoman she is likewise good. I think music is just not for her. Her lyrics suck, her swag bores and in music, I think, she will always be a curtain raiser, never the main event. But what the big deal; she’s successful everywhere else.

  1. Big Eye
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Prof. Big Eye

Having been mentored by Eddy Kenzo, Big eye went ahead and started his own music group, Big Music, and it has done tremendously well. This has however not stopped the widespread perception that he is more an adventurer in music than a singer.

This is basically apparent with his artless lyrics that he always presents off the beat of the tracks. However, like the smart chap that he is, Big Eye has managed to build for himself a fan base because of his brilliance in promotion and the dance that he sells under the semblance of song.

  1. Zari Hassan aka The Boss Lady
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Boss Lady: Zari Hassan

She is without doubt one of Uganda’s most respected artists. In the earlier 2000s Zari is known to have done a crucial role of almost single-handedly representing Uganda’s music industry on the world stage. She even managed to scoop a number of international accolades, including the Channel O Award which she won fluttering Uganda’s flag high. Not enough musicians in Uganda [at that time] could ever afford to make such seamless, Channel O-worthy music videos as The Boss Lady.

However, it was never because Zari was a singer that she ever came to be one of Uganda or even East Africa’s most celebrated artists.

In fact, by the time she won the Channel O award, Zari was barely known in Uganda since she lived and was based in South Africa where she was married to one, Ivan Ssemwanga with whom she had three kids.

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Yet when Zari became more and more famous in Uganda’s social sphere, it was because of the immensity of glitz that surrounded her – and of course – she made no attempt ever to give another impression – She is simply an exhibitor. In any case, Zari is unexaggeratedly a well-heeled lady.

With a bunch of upscale city properties to her name, she inadvertently has earned the right to run her own show. The posh cars she rides in being just an accessory like the all-expensive work she adorns herself with.

Besides, Zari is also famous for being a social media icon where a whole avalanche of activity on and about herself gets chronicled – including business, relationships and family. All this drama has made her one of the most followed celebrities in East Africa. Moreover, all this is in track with the renowned White Party, an annual white-dress-code event which most recently was franchised in Tanzania – having been bred in Uganda.

After barely 10 years in the music industry, Zari, a mother of four with another one on the way has already retired from being a singer – that she never was – to concentrate where she finds more peace and pomp – TV Reality Shows, kids, business, social media and being Diamond Platinumz wife – of course.

  1. Vampino
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Vampino

He is the elder brother of one of the country’s most talented vocalists, Maurice Kirya. He is the best friend of musical genius and producer, Benon Mugumya aka Benon.

Vampino is indeed the co-founder of Swangz Avenue Music Label which manages artists like Irene Ntale, Winnie Nwagi, to name a few.

He first found his music breakthrough on their first Afropop raga track, One Day, which he launched with his partner in crime, Benon. It became a massive hit and that was it. . .

While Benon, a better singer chose to concentrate on studio work as a music producer, Vampino decided to brand himself as a “bad boy” – a dancehall raga star. Music reviewers have looked at this as a wise move since it is the only genre that could ably accommodate his gruff and croaky voice.

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Over the years however, it has become increasingly apparent that Vampino is a good man who is a good brother to an incredibly good vocalist – him, not being necessarily as gifted. He just cannot sing. Except it has not stopped him from being successful with his patched up musicals.

With sheer shrewdness he has managed to master himself more as a dance master than a singing or rapping artist. It ably and cutely hoards a multitude of his music deficiencies and that okay.

Otherwise I have not listened to one of his where he did not go flat when he needed to be sharp and vice-versa. And I’ll not try to fault him on any lyrics because most of Uganda’s lyrics are sick anyway – and I mean that literally.

This is not to say Vampino is no pillar in Uganda’s contemporary music industry, it simply tells a tale how of someone with talent and is lazy will be nothing compared to one without talent but works really hard.

To this moment Vampino is both locally and internationally a celebrated dancehall musician, music director and choreographer.

  1. Bobi Wine
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Bobi Wine

I wonder, in this country, who does not like Robert Kyagulanyi? I am one of the view that Kyagulanyi has been one of the biggest assets that has sponsored Bobi Wine to survive in the music industry all these years. Moreover he has not just survived, he has thrived and soared. He is now the envy of all young men in this country who hope to make something out of life.

I choose to praise Robert Kyagulanyi instead of Bobi Wine because time and again, we have seen musicians get lost in a pseudo shadow of themselves as a means to survive. And here Maddox Ssematimba comes to mind; being one of the best music talent this country has had, when he hit hard times of his life, he chose to hibernate into some rather [obfuscated] lifestyle – hide himself there.

And Kyagulanyi could easily have crumpled into a gangster rough personality of a typical raga star – and for him it would be justifiable – he would be trying to shroud his numerous shortfalls and flaws that come with being raised up with so much negativity around you. He grew up in the hub of the worst ghetto activities in Kampala. Why would Bobi Wine turn out different?  Why would he not drown himself in drugs and retire to the fact that he is a ghetto kid anyway?

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But how he turned around his unfortunate childhood into a beautiful story – to the extent he is one of the country’s role models for kids and young men. And it is all to the credit of what I suppose to be the real person of Kyagulanyi; a cool, down-to-earth, moderate and perspicacious guy.

Today he is reputed to be one of most affluent artists in Uganda, and definitely such influential despite being irredeemably untalented. And he won’t even try to debate you on that. For all these years he has known his former cronies, Bebe Cool and Jose Chameleon to be more talented yet he was not going to throw in the towel and give them free pass.

From day one, he mastered himself to be of a genre that would not as much demand exceptional vocal gymnastics as R N B, for instance. He chose Ugandan interpretation of Jamaican Dancehall following in the footsteps of earlier Ugandan raga stars, Emperor Orlando, Rasta Rob, Shanks Vivi Dee, to name a few.

Bobi Wine has smartly managed to brand his art in such a way that if you don’t like him as a person [of which he is very likable], you’ll love his music for the Dance beat or his rather comical lyrics and in other cases, activist in nature. You’ll never like him for any excellence of vocal maneuvers but he will have you covered anyway. And maybe it comes with natural brilliance of which he is or his ghetto experience/ expediency or his Bachelor’s Degree in MDD.

Above all he is hardworking and versatile man. And whichever way Bobi Wine managed to be so diligent, it has kept himself relevant in Uganda’s entertainment industry despite being untalented as a singer.

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