What a year 2018 was! So many ups and downs like is the case for any other calendar year anyway. The landslide victory of a musician in a by-election that was held in June 2017 is something that is hard to ignore especially because that particular incident’s impact spilled over into 2018. Since Robert Kyagulanyi better known by his stage name Bobi Wine was declared MP of Kyaddondo East, he’s made waves in and out of the country for good and bad reasons depending on which side of the fence you are standing. It is no surprise that he regularly featured in the news in 2018.
At the end of 2017 he released “Freedom” in protest against a constitutional amendment that proposed the removal of the presidential age limit of 75, making President Yoweri Museveni, who has been president since 1986 and will be above 75 when the next elections in 2021 are held, eligible to contest. Uganda Communications Commission banned the song from getting any airplay on both TV and radio stations. The artist turned MP known for pushing the envelope when it comes to political and social issues was in August 2018 arrested and detained by security forces for possible charges of unlawful possession of firearms and incitement of violence charges that were later withdrawn.
For all his low-lights in 2018 especially his alleged torture after his arrest, the self-styled “Ghetto President” has something to smile about. At the end of the year, he was named 2018 Africanews Personality of the Year beating Rwandan president Paul Kagame and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Ebola respondents in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The award is primarily an audience-led process in choosing the most influential news maker over the course of the news year. A few days before this though, something extremely huge happened for the Bobi Wine brand.
On 27 December, 2018, at Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica, it was announced that Bobi Wine would be on the line-up for the 26th edition of one of Jamaica’s biggest and longest running festivals; Rebel Salute, that will be held on 18th and 19th January. Rebel Salute that has been held annually since 1994 is a festival that is known for its musicultural vibration. It celebrates rootsy and conscious music and for the last 25 editions it has not strayed away from that. It’s held in mid January around the promoter’s (Tony Rebel) birthday on January 15th. The event has evolved from an annual one night birthday party to a globally recognised cultural event that now happens over two days and promotes reggae consciousness and livity (a Rastafarian concept of living righteously).
Rebel Salute organiser, the legendary Tony Rebel who many Ugandans know for his classic ‘If Jah’, put out a 14 second video to announce that Bobi Wine will be on the line-up on social media. He will share the same stage with Dawn Penn of the “No, No, No (You Don’t Love Me)” fame, The Wailers, Wailing Souls, Luciano, Third World’s Cat Coore, Wayne Wonder, Mighty Diamonds, Ken Boothe, Half Pint, Bounty Killer, Yellowman, new teenage sensation Koffee, Jah Cure, Horace Andy, Bushman, Jesse Royal, Dre Island, Echo Minott, Agent Sasco, Queen Ifrica…I could go on and on. The list really long. Yes, Rebel Salute is such a vibe.
This is a huge thing for the musician, who will be the first Ugandan to grace one of the biggest, if not the biggest, music events in Jamaica; REBEL SALUTE. It is a sign that his work over the last couple of years has caught the eyes and ears of many. It is quite monumental for Uganda as well seeing as the Ugandan flag will fly HIGHat an event that attracts the largest number of tourists than any other music festival in Jamaica. In 2013, the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) did a survey at Rebel Salute, which came up with the result that over 38 per cent of the population was people who flew in for the festival.
Quick fun fact: The dancehall performers at Rebel Salute use their birth names instead of their stage names and according to Tony Rebel, this gives them the opportunity to show their “good side”. So basically,Jamaica will watch Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu perform at Rebel Salute. Moses Ssali, over to you.
So I am just there chilling, trying not to fall for Fools’ Day pranks then a friend sent me this.
I cannot find the right words to describe my reaction after reading the tweet. Later that month, someone reminded me of one of my very many false prophecies. If only I got paid for every false prophecy I’ve made, I’d have been retired and would be chilling at my dad’s farmhouse.
Very few of us were so psyched up about the concert. I remember trying to convince my bosses to have NBS TV as the official TV partner for the show. It was a tough job. In the end they were convinced but I could tell they got into it halfheartedly. Well, when we got the logo on, I didn’t care much what they thought.
Many of my friends were not as enthusiastic as I was but hey, I was not surprised about it. This is Uganda and reggae is not the most popular genre in these parts.
Fast forward to the night of June 17th. Fast forward to Chronixx and Zincfence Redemption on stage also known as ignore almost everything that happened before he came on stage especially A Pass’ performance. I could go on and on and on about my experience but I’ll leave my friends to share their experiences and reviews that night.
This is the first of two blog posts about the Ugandan leg of the Soul Circle tour. Enjoy.
My thoughts on the Chronixx show. I had a wonderful experience personally. I loved the fact that he performed for 2 solid hours giving the reveler their money’s worth. 2 hours without having to take any break. He couldn’t have given any extra for people who had been waiting for about 5 hours not paying attention to the curtain raisers waiting for just him. The deejay who played before Nasser had the best set in my opinion. The venue – Ndere troupe center was a good choice for a live music concert. I can’t complain about security. – Jude Mugabi
Days before the event, I tried to interest some few friends to attend Chronixx’s concert but most of them declined claiming they didn’t know the artist. I was surprised to see one of the guys who accepted the invite singing word for word to some of the songs when Chronixx hit the stage. And dancing, too. It seems, from my observation, Chronixx’s music precedes his own brand name. That was a beautiful thing to see. – Samwyri
Chronixx was my first concert. It was my first reggae concert too. It will not be the last. I didn’t know what to expect because I don’t go to concerts. I don’t like the kavuyo, the pushing and shoving, having drunks pour alcohol on you or getting mugged by punks. Oddly, there was none of that. It was lots of fist bumping, heads bobbing and hugging. You didn’t even have to know the songs. It was in the vibe, the rhythm, the beat, the way everyone around you threw their hands in the air, lifted their heads and got lost in the moment. Some moments was one of those people. Other moments I was watching them. – Benjy
I would describe Chronnix’s as one undeniably persuasive performance, with a very special devotion to his message from himself and those that genuinely understood his music. Special! – Ekachellan
I loved every minute of the concert. it was very organised and there was no commotion at the gate unlike most concerts in Uganda. Stage was proper with good sound. Performances were awesome with Cindy being my favorite local performance. And then chronixx started doing his thing and we all just just went wild. Shouted so much, lost my voice. Great concert. We want another one, just like the other one. – Raymond THE Kerororist
Although some aspects like the opening acts and the sound quality were wanting，of was a great show. Chronixx not only proved that he’s a great performer， but a legend in the making. He’s exactly what reggae music had been waiting for… both lyrically and spiritually. – Kye
It was the first of it’s kind, a reggae experience in Uganda. The much anticipated Chronixx Soul Circle Tour featuring Zinc Redemption Band. The atmosphere was more than welcoming and the crowd, excited. Chronixx’s performance was everything and more. It was spiritual, engaging, humbling and full of consciousness with songs like Access Granted, Somewhere, Champion Capture Land, Here Comes Trouble to which the crowd sang and swayed to every lyric. Forget the hype, it is a concert thet will be remembered.
“My music is about love and knowledge of self” Chronixx – Mashoo (flyGeek25 on twitter)
Reggae is my favorite genre of music I particularly like old school reggae basically because it is organic and when I first listened to Chronnixx he was one of the few new school artists whose music has a lot of message and it has that old school touch that I’ve grown to love. When I first got news of Chronixx’s performance in Kampala I was too excited and him travelling with his band made me a little over too excited. When he finally stepped on stage and the band started playing I ascended into a trance of happiness because I was singing along to every song during the whole performance I hadn’t felt that happy in a very long time. The days following the show I kept on reliving a few moments of the show.So I think 18/6/2016 from 00.30hrs to 03.15hrs is the most fun I’ve had out this year – Josh Muyomba
In the beginning there was rhythm and that rhythm was reggae. Through a combination of drums, bass guitar and the horns, reggae was born. Drum and bass are the heartbeat and backbone Jamaica’s most popular music since the late 60s. This music evolved out of ska and rocksteady. Ska was Jamaica’s first truly indigenous pop form. The Wailers’ first major hit Simmer Down and Morgan Heritage’s Everything is Still Everything are the best examples I can give you of what ska is. For rocksteady, check out Christopher Ellis’ Better Than Love and Tarrus Riley’s entire Love Situation album. Not exactly the best references for rocksteady but those should help.
You must be asking yourself where I am really going with this. Well over the next few weeks, I will help break down the different sub-genres of reggae. I have met very many people who get quite confused. What is lovers rock? What is roots reggae? What is dub reggae? What makes them different? Why do I not consider dancehall to be a sub-genre of reggae when everyone else does? No, I am not a reggae expert but maybe one day I will be.
According to Chronixx, who by the way is touring the world and Uganda is one of his stops, reggae music is a music that was born out of a spiritual awakening in Jamaica. It has that spiritual element within it. It is part of us trying to be innovative and be creative and have reverence in the spirit that gave us this music. Chronixx is considered to be the figurehead of the ‘reggae revival’. I have written about this movement before. For spiritual upliftment, roots & culture is what you should be listening to. Want to connect with the spiritual side of Rastafari and the honouring of God, then roots music is what you should be listening to. It is the reggae that deals with everyday life. It talks to the downtown jamas more than it does to the uptown jamas. When Bob Marley sang, “No sun will shine in my day today…”in Concrete Jungle only the ghetto youths could relate cuz it never shines for them. It doesn’t sometimes for the people uptown but it never does for those downtown.
The relationship between rastafarianism and reggae is mutual. Reggae was built and still survives on rastafarian teachings. Rastas are the guardians of reggae’s most popular tradition and they introduced African drumming to Jamaica’s popular music over 60 Years ago. The Nyabinghi, one of the mansions of rastafarianism, are known for a style of ritual drumming performed as a communal meditative practice in the Rastafarian lifestyle. Like many facets of Rastafarianism, it evolved from the drum ceremonies that enslaved Africans of various tribes brought with them to Jamaica.
Roots & Culture is not just a sub-genre, it is a way of life. One love, inity, ital living(livity), peace, equal rights, justice, smoking the herb and everything conscious. In the 70s, the rootsy, conscious, spiritual Rastafarian vibe was so huge. It was the era that gave us The Wailers, Culture, Mystic Revelation, The Abyssinians, Don Carlos, Black Uhuru, Israel Vibration, Junior Murvin(bless his soul), Roots Radics, Mighty Diamonds, The Congos, Steel Pulse, Alpha Blondy, Cultura Profetica from Puerto Rica, The Gladiators, Matumbi, Max Romeo, Jah Shaka and Toots Hibbert all legends in their own right. The 70s rootsy sound is so distinct. It was ruined by the 80s underground sound known as dancehall. Some artistes stuck to it regardless, playing reggae as it ought to be played and that must have influenced the new crop of roots reggae musicians who have chosen consciousness over slackness, consciousness over sexual content, spirituality over worldly pleasures, righteousness over immorality. Roots reggae is not just music you dance to, it’s music for spiritual work to make one wholesome and understand a thing or two and that is what the whole of reggae is all about.
The fear of missing out (fomo) has made many people, myself inclusive, do things they would never have done. I have been to parties and events because of the fear that I’d miss out on something great then gone on to regret attending. After every such event, I have sworn to my mother’s Kamba gods never to fall prey to the acronym. Kamba gods are known to be so “powerful” but they have forsaken me almost every time fomo knocked on the door. There’s two kinds of fomo though. That that your friends, old school mates or the internet creates and then that that has nothing to do with the compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction. Ever been to an event that has not been hyped and had an experience of a lifetime? I know I have. One of those happened on this day 3 years ago.
At the time I was doing the graveyard shift. On the night of 30th April, a friend in South Africa shared artwork of a concert that was going to happen in Jinja. The headline act was the legendary reggae band Inner Circle. They were to perform at an event that had been organised by a couple of jamas whose main intention was to bring some more colour and smiles to Jinja. The show dubbed “Reggae on the Nile” was the climax of a week long event in Jinja called Paint the City Bright that saw folks in Jinja participate in the first ever African Ice Swimming Championships. The Ice Bucket Challenge happened before the internet owned it basically. As has been the case every time I head over to Jinja for the weekend, I arrived on Friday night. My brother was my host and he took me to a bar that was just across the venue for the concert. Inner Circle were doing the sound check from just across the road and I could hear it loud and clear. There was no way I was going to miss the show after hearing that.
On the day of the concert, I was at the venue by 6 pm. At the entrance, I met a couple of jamas who’d made the trip from Kampala. Real reggae ambassadors. Elder Kiwanuka (R.I.P), his wife Mama Nakato (R.I.P), Ras Brown, Ras Ssemakula, Ras Peace and JD were part of that contingent. The entrance fee was just UGX 20,000. Let that sink in. This is Inner Circle. Formed in the 60s by the brothers Ian and Roger Lewis together with Stephen “Cat” Coore (who moved on in later years to join Third World), the band is one of the oldest reggae bands. While they’re more popular in these parts for the songs Sweat, Bad Boys(both from their 1992 album Bad to the Bone) and Games People Play, they’d gained major success in the 70s when Jacob Miller (R.I.P) was the band’s lead singer. Listened to Tenement Yard? In reggae circles, that might be their biggest song. Let me not bore you with all this history.
The curtain raisers were the Swedish band Nine Miles who kicked the show off covering songs by Bob Marley & The Wailers. Bob must have been smiling in his grave while they performed. It got part of the crowd jamming. Just part of the crowd. One of those on their feet was Elder Kiwanuka. They called Evon on stage and their performance was worth the fee we had paid in my opinion.
After Nine Miles came a couple of artistes from the region that included General Mega Dee and Rachael Magoola, who got the crowd up with her late 90s hit song Obangaina. The MC on the night was Mosh – has he not been around for forever? – who in my opinion could have done a better job. He has failed to move on from the 90s style of emceeing. If my memory serves me right, ‘General’ Mega Dee’s performance was cut short because the ‘Bad Boys of Reggae’ had arrived and were ready to perform. Bigwig things.
While I was aware of who I had come to watch perform, when Ian and Roger Lewis walked on stage, I was star struck. These two had played for almost every reggae artiste I knew. They’d played for Bob Marley, Jacob Miller, and everyone else I can mention. When Roger strummed the bass guitar to start the performance, I almost lost it.
Concert organisers need to take all the advice they can get. The event didn’t need a VIP section and when the band called everyone closer , us jamas in kayola broke through the barricades to show those in VIP how to skank at a reggae concert.. Most of the songs they performed were not popular with the crowd but the vibe was real. Then as custom dictates at reggae concerts, they called on everyone to pull out their lighters and light up the herb.BOOM!!! In a few there were clouds of smoke. I guess they were prepping the crowd for their song, Games People Play. The crowd went wild when the song played. They paid tribute to Jacob Miller, performed Tenement Yard and We A Rockers, a song from the 70s Jamaican fim Rockers in which Jacob Miller starred, and obviously got the crowd in ‘baby making’ mood with their hit song Sweat (A La La La La Long) as the show was coming to a climax. Every instrumentalist on stage then had a solo session before the band said their goodbyes. But the crowd had not had enough even though we all agreed that we’d had more than our money’s worth. We started to chant “WE WANT MORE” over and over even after the stage lights had been turned off and a couple of minutes later the band overwhelmed by the support hit the stage again and performed 4 or 5 songs. The show ended close to 1 am and no one was complaining.
On June 17th, Chronixx, who Inner Circle felt reminded them of their long departed friend Jacob Miller was chosen by the band to help remake the band’s biggest song Tenement Yard, will be performing live with his Zincfence Redemption band at the Ndere Cultural Centre. Live reggae concerts rarely disappoint. Be there.
FUN FACT: Pharrell Williams’ 2014 hit single Happy was arranged and recorded at Circle House Studios in Miami, Florida owned by Inner Circle.
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. (Gen 1:29)
…thou shalt eat the herb of the field. (Genesis 3:18)
…eat every herb of the land. (Exodus 10:12)
Better is a dinner of herb where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith. (Proverbs 15:17)
He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man. (Psalm 104:14)
Cannabis, Kush, weed, pot, indica, herb, ganja, grass, green, Mary Jane, hemp, marijuana, collie weed, sensi, i-shence, enjaga, esadda just some of the names used to refer to a particular plant or products from it. Many (if not all) cultures and several people use it differently. In China, its fibre (hemp) was not only used as decoration, it was also used to make clothes, ropes, fishing nets and paper. The Summerians of the Near East were the first to use cannabis for religious purposes due to man’s inability to engage in introspection. There’s an Indian god named Siva, described as The Lord of ‘Bhang,’ the drink made of cannabis leaves, milk, sugar and spices. Poultry farmers I have met speak of cannabis seeds being very good for the birds’ immune system.
However, we are not going to delve into marijuana’s merits and demerits or whether it should be legal or not. It is not one that is intended to make you use or discourage you from using and should you choose to use, how you should. What we are going to do here is look at the inextricable link between the herb and reggae music.
See, reggae and rastafarianism are commonly associated. Reggae music is an important means of transporting vital messages of Rastafarianism and one of those is use of the holy herb known to rastas as known to us as “MARYAM”. It is to rastaswhat the holy communion is to the catholic. For a rastaman, marijuana is sacred and holy and used as a sacrement. They do not in any way use it for recreational purposes. The high a rastaman gets after using maryam, as they call it,is purely for i-ditation (rasta for meditation). The undisputed ‘King of Reggae’ Bob Marley once said, “When you smoke herb, it reveals you to yourself.” This basically means that herb shows you who you really are, it amplifies you, your self and your feelings. In short, for rastafarians the herb is the key to new understanding of the self, the universe, and Jah. It is the vehicle to cosmic consciousness; it introduces one to levels of reality not ordinarily perceived by the non-Rastafarians, and it develops a certain sense of fusion with all living beings.
For the over 40 years reggae has been around, its musicians have glorified marijuana and have called for it’s legalisation in places where it is illegal. Uganda is one of those places. One of the biggest songs on reggae themed nights here or whenever a DJ plays reggae in between other genres is a ganja anthem; Marlon Asher’s Ganja Farmer. The song is so popular even 10 years after its release. Maybe it’s cuz of it’s very catchy hook, but hey, doesn’t make it less a ganja anthem. My favourite ganja anthem and probably the most bold of them all because of when it was released and the musician did not in any way mince his words. Released in 1975 by an artist who had had many run-ins with the police for possession and use of cannabis, Legalize It is what so many people consider the ultimate ganja anthem. Peter Tosh did not only mention marijuana’s benefits like what it can do for you if you have glaucoma, cancer or asthma (Jah 9, a female reggae artist, is asthmatic and has never got an attack since she started using ganja through steamers) and professionals who are users, he called for its legalisation. Last year, Jamaica took a huge step in that direction when it decriminalised marijuana. Not yet legal but hey…
From Bob Marley’s Kaya to Jacob Miller’s Herb is the Healing, Rita Marley’s One Draw to Musical Youth’s Pass the Dutchie, Morgan Heritage’s Plant Up Di Herb to Chronixx’s Perfect Tree, Chino’s Boom Draw to Jah 9’s Taken Up, Dennis Brown’s Ganja Smoke to Jesse Royal’s Finally, Julian Marley’s Boom Draw to Collie Budds’ Come Around, Gyptian’s Sensi to Tarrus Riley’s Herbs Promotion, Richie Spice’s Di Plane Land to Sizzla’s Free up di Herb, Michael Palmer’s Don’t Smoke the Seed to Billy Boyo’s One Spliff a Day, Eek-A-Mouse’s Sensee Party to Peter Tosh’s Bush Doctor, Jah 9’s The Marijuana to Richie Spice’s Marijuana Pon di Corner, Sugar Minott’s Herbsman Hustling to Johnny Osbourne’s Mushroom, Morgan Heritage’s Give We a License to Josey Wales’ It a Fi Burn, Culture’s Collie Weed Song to Chris Martin’s Pass Me a Blunt. The list is endless. It is tradition at almost all reggae concerts for there to be a ganja smoking session so organisers and law enforcement officers are told in time.
Legend has it that marijuana plants were found growing on King Solomon’s grave. This, to some, is a mystery. However it’s significance is that marijuana grew on the grave of the wisest man on earth so…do not mind me. Marijuana has been demonised but reggae has stuck to it. Hip hop artists on the other hand “smoke trees and pop bottles” because they think it is cool.
Here’s a new word for you;
Boom Draw: (noun) a handful of really good cannabis.
As I sign out allow me to wish a blessed earthstrong to a Marley I have so much respect for, second son of Bob Marley, Stephen Marley was born today. Coincidence? I think not.
As the elections near, I thought I’d share lyrics from a reggae song that calls for peace. Contrary to what mainstream media has made you believe, reggae is all about love, peace and inity(rasta for unity). * cue Bob Marley’s One Love*. Yes, #IChoosePeace for very many reasons the biggest of which is I am a father of a three year old girl who starts school at the end of this month. She is so excited about it, her mum on her behest called me this morning because Sammy wanted to thank me. It was an emotional moment.
Can we please make sure that the children do not experience any kind of violence? Whatever the result, let us be selfless. Tuvudde wala ba guy.
These are lyrics of Beres Hammond’s Reggae Calling. Reggae artists were called upon to pay tribute to him and guess who chose to cover this one? The ‘Queen of Reggae’ Marcia Griffiths. Speaks volumes, right?
What’s wrong with the world now,
It needs a love injection.
I’m a calling out America, Calling out to Africa, I’m a calling out to Russia, And darling sweet Jamaica, War has no winner. I’m a calling on the presidents, Calling all prime ministers, I’m a calling out to Russia, And darling sweet Jamaica, War has no winner.
And when you love, What joy you feel within, And when you hurt someone, What do you gain? Our children die for what they don’t even know. Your kids hate mine ’cause we made it so. Tell me what in the world are we waiting for to stop love from walking out of that door?
I’m a calling out America, Calling out to Africa, I’m a calling out to Russia, And darling sweet Jamaica, War has no winner.
Fighting for power, You’re fighting for land. I’m so confused, I just can’t understand. You lose your family and I lose my best friend. Hurt will be heard ’cause they all start pain. Tell me what in the world are we waiting for to stop love from walking out of that door?
I’m a calling out America, Calling out to Africa, I’m a calling out to Russia, And darling sweet Jamaica, War has no winner. Calling on the presidents, Calling all prime ministers, I’m a calling out to Russia, And darling sweet Jamaica, War has no winner.
I long to live long, To breathe some fresh air, I long to walk the streets, Without any fear. Our children die for what, They don’t even know. Your kids hate mine ’cause we made it so. Tell me what in the world are we waiting for to stop love from walking out of that door?
I’m a calling out America, Calling out to Africa, I’m a calling out to Russia, And darling sweet Jamaica, War has no winner
I am calling out to everyone cuz war has no winner.
Around the world people are celebrating love so I came up with a playlist of 45 songs lovers can play today. The kind of music that will put you in the mood for bad manners. With lovers rock, you can’t go wrong. I would know. I could not exhaust the entire lovers rock playlist though. Happy Valentine’s day.