Like a lot of Ghetto Palms columns, this one actually started back in 2007 when I was putting in legwork for the FADER Africa Issue. I originally got put up on Ugandan singjay Bobi Wine by South Africa promoter/producer/kingpin Nic Regisford when my dude Anaele sat me down with him at some dimly lit LES spot (could have been Spur Tree—it’s all kind of a blur now) to get his input on what at that point was just supposed to be a summer music feature rounding up the biggest emcees in African rap. A little YouTube ethnomusicology later and I was neck-deep in the homegrown version of dancehall reggae that Bobi steady churns out with contemporaries like Zigi Dee—dancehall drum patterns overlaid with conscious lyrics in English and Luganda and injected with so many layers of hypermelodic afropop that it becomes something totally different. Ultimately, getting a FADER correspondent to Uganda wasn’t in the cards for that issue but when I heard that globetrotting FADER intern and gal about town Cassi Amanda Gibson was passing through Kampala I knew it was time for Afrohall Part 2. Cassi’s exclusive video interview is below, along with her notes and impressions on the meeting.
It’s not easy to define Ugandan music in Bobi Wine’s terms, but he can definitely theorize about why it’s at where it’s at today. Much of the music coming out of East Africa is inspired by dancehall, and even though Wine downplays it, his music scene displays a huge western influence. Jamaica is definitely jocked by East Africans, but in spite of the debt owed to Kingston, it seems like Bobi Wine sees himself—along with the Firebase Crew—as the face of Ugandan music.
This attitude is actually not totally unfounded. As one of the most-known artists in the city of Kampala, Wine speaks on politics and challenges the current status quo of the country to the point that he is referred to as “Mr. President” by the locals. When he says that “by at least 2010 I hope every ghetto youth in Uganda will have an ATM card,” I know he’s actually talking about the wider progress and economic stimulation of his country.
—Cassi Amanda Gibson
One last note: if you follow dancehall you doubtless know that the new LP Pon Di Gaza dropped on iTunes this week, from Vybz Kartel—who, between “Ramping Shop” and “Pon Di Floor,” has pretty much got the dancehall crossover effect on lock right now. So if you are a fan of either of those tunes, do Jamaica a look and exchange some US currency for a handful of the other biggest forwards in the world. Man cannot live by Major Lazer checks alone.