Rafik Jamal Wasswa aka Jamal is arguably one of the most celebrated Ugandan musicians. Last week he was in Rwanda and performed at Bruce Melodie’s album launch on Women’s Day. Jamal has a loyal fun base among females mainly because he sings about issues so close to women. The singer shared his musical journey and what shapes his private life in an interview with The New Times’ Sarah Kwihangana. Excerpts…..
What brings you to Rwanda?
I came to support my fellow artiste Bruce Melodie at his album launch. I did a collabo with him and I believe that Melodie is a talented young man. But he needs the support from Rwandans to make it big in the music industry.
Was it your first time to perform in Rwanda?
Yes and I was extremely honoured. I was surprised to learn that my music is popular here. I was thrilled when people sung along while I was on the stage and it was such an amazing moment.
Most of your songs are about women, what is that special connection you have with them?
Back home women are not given much respect. So I use my music to fight abuse against women and my joy is to see a society that embraces gender equality.
What is the inspiration behind your songs?
I am inspired by the day to day life and the environment I live in. I do reality music not fiction.
Do you consider yourself a ladies’ man?
That’s what most people call me, but to me my passion is about advocating for gender equality.
Are you in a relationship?
Yes, I am seeing someone.
A romantic dinner or wild night out, what’s your take?
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a romantic dinner or wild night out as long as I am with the special person in my life.
What led you into doing music?
I think the reason for me is because it’s my calling. Music is what I have always dreamt of doing. I never thought of doing anything else other than music. It’s a gift that God has given me. It wasn’t like I sat down one day and said I want to be a pilot or something like that. It’s been music all the way.
I started off my music career with karaoke back in 2000 at Sabrina's pub before coming to Rwanda in 2006. In Rwanda, I hosted karaoke at Nyiira and went back to Uganda.
Today, I am a professional musician and have released several songs including Obawuwo, Abakyala abazira, and Anaavawa, which are famous in the region.
What is that one thing you do that people don’t know about you?
Most people don’t know that I am a good footballer.
What is your favourite dish?
I love traditional food, but my favourite dish is rice and beans.
If one flipped a coin and you turned into a woman, what changes would you make?
I would fight against gender inequalities and discrimination. I would show people that the world has changed and women can compete on the same level as their male counterparts.
What is your message to Rwandan artistes and your fans here?
My message to Rwandan artistes is to stay focused and work hard. Make opportunities for yourself, specialise in something utterly unique, and always try to connect with your fans.
To my fans in Rwanda, thank you very much for the love and continued support. I really appreciate. Love you...God bless you all.
Do you have plans of working with more Rwandan artistes?
I can’t point at any artiste at the moment but yes I am open to do a song with any musician that comes to me. I would also love to come back and perform in Rwanda someday.