Radio’s frequency has changed but the melodies linger
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February eventually got here and those who felt squeezed by January (some have called it Njaanuary or Januworry) could breathe a sigh of relief. January is considered to be a torturous month for many thanks to the fact that the previous salary never makes it this far. Being the month when school going children need their fees paid, life can really be tough in this first month.
In Rwanda, every first of February is Heroes’ Day. It is on this day that we celebrate the gallant sons and daughters whose dedication has made Rwanda a country deserving of respect. In Kenya the political drama entered a new season with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga swearing in as “the people’s president” at an event that his key allies dodged. Then the government shut down the main TV stations; NTV Kenya, Citizen TV and KTN.
While all the above was happening, Ugandans woke up to the sad news of the death of one of their popular musicians Moses Ssekibogo better known by his moniker, Mowzey Radio, a member of the music duo we all knew as “Radio and Weasel” or simply Goodlyfe. Radio succumbed to injuries to the head after a bar brawl in Entebbe. He had been in a coma since the incident until he was pronounced dead on Thursday morning.
And just like that, a voice that was part of so many party songs the region danced to was snuffed out. The radio is now off. Someone aptly put it in a tweet and said “Radios don’t die, they change frequency.” The frequency has changed to another world but as a region we shall continue to enjoy the melodies he delivered so skilfully. Mowzey Radio and his partner Weasel (a brother to musician Jose Chameleon) made a name for themselves in the last decade churning out lots of great party music by themselves and with so many other artists.
Interestingly my first encounter with Radio was in Rwanda around 2006 when Jose Chameleon was performing at Petit Stade, Remera and Radio was a backup vocalist under Leone Island ground. The following year he left the group with Chameleon’s brother Weasel and the two went on to become so successful that Kigali gave them what was then a wall of fame treatment, by having a commuter taxi (Matatu) branded as Goodlyfe.
Those who remember those days will tell you that such Matatus were a big thing especially for the residents of Nyamirambo. At that time the only other artistes who enjoyed such adoration and space on the Matatus were Juliana Kanyamozi and Ragga D. As if to cement his place in the hearts of Rwandans, he did a song titled ‘Rwanda uriNziza,’ with other Rwandan artistes as part of a promotion by Tigo Rwanda where he sings about how beautiful the country is. He also sang with Tom Close and DJ Pius.
His music career like many at that time kicked off with an East African hue. The first songs had Swahili titles like Nakudata, Nakutamani, Nyumbani with sprinklings of Swahili lyrics so as to appeal to the region’s auditory conscience. The song Nyambura was titled after a common Kikuyu name and yet the lyrics were in Luganda.
His career went beyond doing songs with Kenyan musicians like Amani or Tanzanians like Vanessa Mdee. He also did songs with Nigeria’s Wizkid and South Africa’s PJ Powers. In a career that spanned a decade Radio and his colleague won so many awards and hearts. Condolence messages flooded in from all corners of the globe with media houses in Uganda covering the story in all angles imagined.
A young talented musician lost in such a gruesome manner provides us with a moment to reflect a lot of things. The conduct of our musicians and how they handle fame, the professionalism or lack of it by those who call themselves bouncers. We need to think about the readiness of our health facilities to handle medical emergencies.
The entertainment industry in East Africa has grown into something massive and the death of Mowzey radio provides a moment for us to reflect on how to streamline and make it better for all the stakeholders. Our musicians should think of professional management teams to help them manage their careers, finances and fame. More importantly, the media should also think about how they cover the lives of these people and how it affects them and those who look up to them.
Radio is gone but his melodies will continue to flow all over East Africa and beyond.
The views expressed in this article are of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of The New Times.