The Spell supposedly cast on Bugisus Musicians

"A work of real merit finds favour at last" so runs an old adage.
There are places in Uganda however where artists/musicians, find little to no favour at all, however good their craft or music is. Longevity does not do them any favours as well.
“I have been working hard all these years to perfect my craft, but I have faced long odds. Making believers and fans out of people here in Bugisu is really tough. To be appreciated here, one has to patiently wait like they wait for raindrops in a harsh drought,” says 35 year old Mbale Musician Betty Nafuna Salima(R.I.P).

Music fans in Bugisu have long become a by word for undermining local talent.
"Mbale music fans are like broken reeds," States Samuel Doto Bonzo, a local music critic and audio producer.
Even if an artist is as real as the air people breathe in, they will get suffocated by the lack of support.
Venerable artists like The late Phillip Massa, Rashid Musoke, Idi Masaba, Tom Namanda {R.I.P}, Juliet Mugirya, Tom Weboya, Tshila and San Crazy receive very few to no laurels at all, during performances or during radio interviews.
Local music fans here are unreliable and not receptive at all, says Wakhetenge Peter, an Auditor and Local music aficionado.

Thinking of starting a music career in Bugisu, you had better give it every bit of your second thought. I have seen music careers in Bugisu take nose dives. I have observed many Bagisu musicians worthy of a name looking destitute, broke and out of sorts. It is as if musicians here are under some spell, States Fred Wazemba, another of Mbale’s Premier Audio producers/artists.
“The prize of failure can be huge. It is only in Mbale where local musicians are criminally unappreciated and held in the lowest of regards. Fans in Mbale are indelicate. Somebody invests his money, making good music but you trash him with no benefit of doubt. It is not out of the ordinary to witness local musicians been booed off stage. The contempt music fans here have for local artists is just unprecedented and so pathetic,” Wazemba notes.
Favour from local fans is what every established musician in Mbale has been waiting on for ages but have not got. “Look at Idi Masaba, Betty Nafuna Salima and San Crazy, three of Mbale’s best musicians. They are testament to that harsh reality. Masaba, Salima and Crazy sing a genre of local music that appeals and resonates with the lowest common denominators in Bugisu, but they hardly draw big crowds at shows they organize,” states Doto Bonzo.

As it seems, the apathy and lack of appreciation is handed down from the past. It is going to take a lot of time bidding before our local artists are fully appreciated for their work like the artists in Buganda, Bonzo states.
“It just seems like the disdain towards local artists is set in stone. It is something that has been going on for a long time. Breaking that jinx is going to be hard. Besides grappling with the local fan scorn, artists too have to grapple with the lack of radio air play,” explains Bonzo

Notwithstanding that, however, Bugisu principally Mbale, is brimming with thoroughbred musical talent. Pick of the bunch artists like Idi Masaba, Betty Salima Nafuna, San Crazy, Juliet Mugirya, Elukana Wanzala, K-mas, Tom Weboya, B.B Jimmy are all household names in their own right, despite the lack of support.
The harsh reality though is that they have very little to show for their efforts.
Idi Masaba whose claim to fame has mostly been Imbalu folk songs, has bore the harshest brunt of the local fan aversion.
“You can literally wipe a smile off your face meeting Idi Masaba in the street. He is supposed to be our Jose chameleon but yuck. I mean here is a guy whose music resonates with so many people in Bugisu but he is all disheveled and untidy. If he was a success, he would not be in such an ebb state,” Wazemba says
“Idi Masaba is by far, the best musician to emerge out of Bugisu. Go for shows he organizes and the ones, visiting Kampala artiste’s organize however to see how criminally unappreciated he is,” says Nsubuga Joseph, a Radio host on Signal F.M in Mbale.

In recent memory, Idi Masaba’s star tends to go in the ascendant during the Imbalu year. That is, by reason that his imbalu songs resonate well with people. It is also during Imbalu season that his songs get some fair share of rotation on some radio stations, Nsubuga adds

The blame storms have brewed for long but in my opinion, Mbale’s radio stations are the most culpable in denying local artists a chance to shine, Wazemba says
“Most radio hosts are half hearted in their support. They hardly give Lumasaba music any rotation. The focus is always on Luganda music. They have the music in their music libraries but for some reason, they do not play it. If they do play it, it is just for a few minutes,” Wazemba stresses

Idi Masaba says he wants to leave a musical legacy. A legacy he says is one that speaks to the fact that when one sings in the Lugisu local dialect, they can impact and strike a chord with many, even if it does not necessarily translate into financial gain.
“The most important thing is my music speaking to people’s souls. I create and sing Music that is timeless and therapeutic. Music that can one can draw inspiration from,” Masaba says

With a repertoire of timeless lugisu songs in the vault, Idi Masaba will surely win laurels one day.

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Friday, 03 February 2023
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