Uganda: Two songs banned for ‘defamation’

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Uganda:
Two songs banned for ‘defamation’

Two songs by musician Mathias Walukagga – a prominent ‘kadongo kamu’ artist in Uganda’s capital Kampala – was banned from being played or distributed as from 3 November 2009 on the pretext that they were meant to demean and belittle a prominent business man in Kampala, Ssalongo Kasawuli, who is the owner of Samona Cosmetic Products. According to this report from Freemuse’s correspondent, the root of the dispute is a personal rivalry between the two men which literally turned into a ‘song war’

Mathias Walukagga  

By Lingson Adam, Freemuse’s correspondent

The two songs, entitled ‘Bwino W’omutembeeyi’ (The secrets of the hawker ‘spilled’) and ‘Tuleppukke’ (Well, let’s deal with each other) have been denied play, performance and/or distribution following issuance of an indefinite court order by Mengo Chief Magistrate Phillip Odoki in Kampala.

In addition to the ban, Mathias Walukagga was sued, and as a result was remanded at Luzira prison, Kampala, in November 2009.

Sued for defamation and attempted blackmailing
On Monday 9 November, Mathias Walukagga appeared before magistrate Immaculate Busingye at Makindye court for defamation and attempted blackmailing.

The plaintiff Ssalongo Kasawuli claimed that Mathias Walukagga attempted to blackmail him by demanding 60 million Ugandan shillings as compensation for holding back his new song ‘Bwino W’omutembeeyi’ which is alleged to be damaging to Kasawuli’s business.

Further prosecution pointed out that ‘Bwino W’omutembei’ and its forerunning song ‘Tuleppuke’ carry messages which were aimed at defaming Kasawuli and his Samona petroleum body lotion products. The plaintiff argues that the messages were damaging to him personally and his Samona Company and products thereof.

According to a report for the Ugandan newspaper New Vision by Eddie Ssejjoba, there was drama as onlookers jammed the court, while others remained outside cheering Walukagga, who responded with thumbs-up signal as he was escorted to the bus which took him to Luzira Prison.

Walukagga was, however, bailed out three days later following his lawyers filing in application for release. The music companies Abtex Productions and X-Zone International in return threatened to sue Kasawuli, arguing that they bought the right to market the songs from Walukagga and had invested millions in the project.

Behind the scene
Unconfirmed reports in Kampala have it that what has been happening — including the songs’ ban and the songwriter being remanded — is simply an outburst of the over one year long stalemate grudges between Kasawuli and his Samona products on one hand and Walukagga and his music on the other.

The dispute between the two ‘stars’ is said to have stemmed from a woman they both are keen on. Walukagga allegedly had an affair with this woman but they both called it quits after some time. Stories further hold that eventually the complainant, Kasawuli, took over the lady ‘name withheld’ after winning her heart.

It is said that Walukagga (now former lover of the lady) silently complained that he was being threatened by Samona (successor) who thought that the artist was still having an affair with the said woman. This situation is what is portrayed in Walukagga’s song ‘Tuleppuke’.

‘Tuleppuke’
Things came to the open when Walukagga released his high hitting song ‘Tuleppuke’ which literally means ‘Well let’s deal with each other’ in March 2009.

The story behind the lyrics of Tuleppuke is about the conflict between a rich and a poor man where the underlying source of conflict is a woman whom the poor man had a relationship with but they had their own issues which led them to peacefully separate. The rich man later begins to have a relationship with this woman, but again he holds grudges with the poor man because he thinks that the poor man might still be having affair with her. He even threatens to kill him through telephone calls and other means.

The poor man tries to explain that his relationship with the woman ended long ago, but the rich man insists and continues with his threats.

The poor man asserts that irrespective of money, all of them are human beings, being rich doesn’t make anyone super-human. The poor disregards all the death threats claiming that after all, death is human’s destiny; katuleppuke — so let’s deal with each other perpendicularly and see how far we can go.

He thus remains firm and promises that then it was only a beginning of a long battle, probably against a class he does not belong to.

The story behind the lyrics in ‘Tuleppuke’ concludes by offering a piece of free and voluntary advice to the omutembeyi — the ‘hawker’, the rich business man — to stick to the selling of the merchandise instead of biffing up for a woman.

Song to hit back: ‘Majegere’
According to The Uganda Vision, Kasawuli came to the open as soon as ‘Tuleppuke’ was released claiming that the song was an attack on him and his products, and that the words behind the lyrics were dangerous to the prosperity of his cosmetics business. He threatened to sue the musician for defamation. He did not file any case of the kind for quite long time, and reports had it that he had chosen to handle the issue ‘strategically’.

It was alleged that Kasawuli hired and paid for some artists to compose some songs to hit back at Walukagga. One of the musicians, allegedly hired by Kassawuli, was the artist Fred Nkambwe who recorded with Pentagon Videos the song ‘Majegere’ which is perceived to refer to the Kasawuli and Walukagga row.

The story behind the lyrics of ‘Majegere’ portrays the rich business man as a big caterpillar or bulldozer, and puts forward a clear warning that the irresponsible musician can never manage the ‘bulldozer’. The video shows a beautiful woman who has been deserted in misery by her lover, a musician, and then she meets this rich man who takes pity and falls in love with her. Eventually he takes very good care of her, which irritates the former lover who in turn plans to stage a fight, but then receives a stern warning to retreat or else ‘it will break his knees’.

It was reported that as part of his ‘strategic hit back’ to his foe, Kasawuli influenced different radio stations where he is a main advertiser, to blacklist Walukagga’s ‘Tuleppuke’ from air play. It was also reported that Walukagga was banned from performing at specific events and concerts sponsored by Kasawuli’s Samona company.

‘Bwino W’omutembeeyi’
Then an impasse followed and remained between the two for quite some time, until in October 2009 when Walukagga released his ‘Bwino W’omutembeeyi’ which contextually would mean giving data or profile of someone, where literally bwino is a Luganda word for ink and omutembeyi refers to a vendor.

The song’s lyrics takes further the story in ‘Tuleppuke’. This time the poor hits the rich man by referring to his business products ‘jellies’ as of very poor quality. He narrates that all the lotions do is to darken people’s skin and that they would preferably be fine for use as shoes polish, and that when he tried to use these cosmetics they even attracted mosquitoes to bite him.

The coming into air of the ‘Bwino W’omutembeeyi’ is said to have sparked off the latent hostility, leading to court case.

Apart from the earlier allegations to Walukagga, Kasawuli claims that the singer is also being used by Samona’s business opponents to undermine his products before the public, and that Walukagga illegally solicited millions of Ugandan shillings from the city tycoon so that he could conceal the new song.

Dismissed allegations
When interviewed by Freemuse, Walukagga dismissed such allegations:
“I don’t know anything about this, Samona (Kasawuli) is depending on hearsays. He said I’m being used by Movit Company whom they are in the same business but sincerely I don’t have even any phone number for anyone working with Movit,” he told Freemuse’s correspondent in Kampala.

Walukagga refutes all other allegations claiming that he would never target any particular person, and that if one had followed his music career they would be able to see that he has carried out this principle all the way through.

In the interview with Freemuse, Walukagga said:

“My songs have nothing to do with Samona together with his products. In fact, if you listen to all my songs eight years back, you notice they have almost the same trend. I mean: my songs are about people’s daily lives, they are directed towards certain situations and do carry some message for the people.”

“So, because Samona is rich, he mistakenly thought I was singing about him, ” said the musician.

“I make sure my songs have meaning. So they are intended for people to learn from, apart from enjoying them. Songs like ‘Omuzadde tagulwa’ (a parent can never be bought!) is directed to those people who forsake their parents especially when they become rich; ‘Ekimansa naku’ (every one can suffer) is about those who stigmatize the sick, especially those with HIV/AIDS, forgetting that anyone can die at any time.”

Kasawuli was quoted in the Ugandan Observer saying that he could not share a woman with Walukagga. According to the newspaper, the woman being referred to underlie the whole row was “a bar attendant at AY Makindye before she went to work at Kasawuli’s Pacify Hotel in Wakaliga.”

‘Bwiino wekkomera’ – song about life in prison
As his message to his audience and fans concerning Ugandan music generally and his music in particular, Walukagga had this to say: “I want to encourage them that I’m still strong, I will continue to with my music, I’m not threatened because my songs are not intended to harm anyone,” and indeed his two days stay in the remand prison were suffice to bear him clues and insights as to write another song on the ‘Bwiino wekkomera’ (truth about the life in Ugandan prisons) which has started to be played in several radio stations in the country.

His new song talks about miserable life in prisons and that whoever wishes another person to be imprisoned is wishing death to that person.

Court case rescheduled
Walukagga was to appear in court again on 11 December 2009. However, in a telephone interview on 5 January 2010 he told Freemuse that when his lawyers went to the court on the said date they were told that the next hearing was rescheduled to sometime in February 2010.

Moreover Walukagga refuted reports that he had signed an agreement with Kassauli to resolve the despite out of court and work collaboratively in business, only admitting that the two parties had some discussions on the issue but it was yet to be concluded.




Mathias Walukagga on stage



Uganda



Mathias Walukagga: ‘Tuleppuke’ – video on YouTube




Related reading on the internet

New Vision – 9 November 2009
‘Uganda: Musician Walukagga in Prison’


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