It has been such an interesting debate ever since singer Jose Chameleone was chosen as tourism ambassador for the 2014 Busoga Tourism Initiative (BTI).
Critics have been up in arms accusing BTI’s patron who is also speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, of having “no heart for Busoga”. The debate went viral on social media and local radio stations in Busoga – with several people questioning the choice.
“A Muganda to sing about Busoga in Luganda we have better talents. Although they don’t equal him [Chameleone], they can promote tourism in our region,” reads one of the posts.
Critics named some of Busoga’s musicians, General Mega Dee, Maro and Geobless, whom they said would have been better choices than Chameleone. They went on to say that Kadaga’s choice was a clear manifestation that “Basoga don’t believe in themselves”.
This debate reminds me of a similar debate we had recently. It was one of those newsroom debates where my colleagues tasked me to name some of Busoga’s most successful musicians – with a national appeal. Of course, I was quick to name people like the late Don Canta (Livingstone Ibanda), who was one of Afrigo band’s best male vocalists.
My list also had Rachael Magoola, Judith Babirye, Maurice Kirya, and Vampino. But as I continued to name instrumentalists like Magic Hornz’s Cornelius Isabirye (also with Percussion Discussion Africa) who plays the trumpet and flute, and bassist Michael Kalinaki, also with Magic Hornz and Percussion Discussion Africa, I was asked: “How many of them are proud to be heard singing in Lusoga?”
It was such a tough punch. Busoga has such rich music -with a wealth of musicians such as Malagala, Mata and Siraji, who are so popular in the sub-region, but their music cannot cross the Nile.
Yet musicians like Sammy Kasule have fished out songs in Busoga and popularized them. Kasule confesses that he learnt the all-time classic Ekitoobero from Busoga’s Rosia Nyogo.
Also, Busoga’s Bigwala music recently joined Unesco’s list of intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent safeguarding. Bigwala music is a cultural practice performed during royal celebrations such as coronations and funerals and, in recent decades, on social occasions.
Bigwala describes a set of five or more monotone gourd trumpets blown in hocket to produce a melody, accompanied by a specific dance. And when we talk about Busoga’s dance, it is something that gets everyone speaking why it is done by men and why they have ‘soft’ waists.
So, there is no doubt that Busoga’s music is rich, but is there that popular face (that appeals nationally) that we can attach to this music?
That brings me to the Chameleone debate what is wrong with using a popular musician to market you? Chameleone is not a Musoga yes, but a celebrity in Uganda and beyond. This is what any marketer worth the name would be aspiring to achieve – to have a popular personality to market his brand.
When Stacy Aamito was recently crowned Africa’s Top Model, South Africa came out quickly to give her an offer as their tourism ambassador. There are so many models in South Africa from which the country could have chosen, but they went for Aamito because of her popularity. If it wasn’t for Aamito to turn down the offer, knowing it might work against her country, she would be globetrotting marketing South Africa.
The benefits of partnering with Chameleone are enormous, especially in popularizing Busoga as a tourism destination. Promoting the annual Kagulu rock climbing scheduled for May 9 to 10, 2014 is his first assignment. The intention here is to draw more people to the project and, like it or not, Chameleone is a crowd puller.
Chameleone pledged to use his musical talents to rally support for the event, including calling upon fellow musicians and fans to attend the event. His challenge is being knowledgeable about the product he is marketing. However, tribe here doesn’t merit because it is not only Basoga that will visit these tourism sites.
I hope Chameleone commits to do his work so that this doesn’t turn out to be another celebrity stunt where he profited from shaking hands with the speaker.
Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) in 2010 appointed Moses Kipsiro and singer Susan Kerunen as the country’s goodwill tourism ambassadors, but not much has come out of this partnership. Let’s hope that choosing Chameleone will add value to Busoga’s tourism push. And it is just a one-year partnership next year, BTI will be selecting another ambassador.
The writer is a journalist with The Observer.
Source : The Observer