17 January 2013

Uganda: Daxx Kartel, the King of Luga-Latino

Daxx Kartel ascends the stage in a most unusual way.

He is either in a wheelbarrow or a baby carriage, which has earned him reproach and praise for he says this is creativity--something that has eluded some local artistes.

Kartel, real name Sulaiman S. Ssebunya, joined the music world with Tulikumukutu last year, a hit that has endeared him to fans. He has also been nominated in the Best Stage Performer category in next month's Hipipo Music awards.

He has managed to stand out because of his special genre of sorts called Luga-Latino, a combination of Luganda and Spanish.

Kartel explains that he learnt Spanish from his Puerto Rican half- sisters with whom he used to exchange music files. On stage, he captures the audience when he talks like a drunkard but he neither smokes nor drinks alcohol.

"I developed this from my grandfather who was a drunkard and would utter strange words. I took these words to be artistic with [the] ability to create meaning if used musically," Kartel explains.

Despite his passion for music, Kartel prioritized education and will graduate next month from Kampala University with a degree in Mass Communication. "Music expires, but knowledge is forever," he notes.

With two videos Tulikumukutu and Beat Ewunya Nnyo already out, Kartel is soon releasing a seven-track album called Coloured Voodoo/Coloured Magic. Other songs on the album include: Vaayo, Spectacular, Waitress, Numbera One, and Muko, all in Luga-Latino style.

"After that album, I will work on my second which will be called Malpractice. I don't want to be a one-hit wonder."

His X-factor

Barely a year in music, Kartel seems to have mastered the art. He has a Kartel Saturday night at Rise and Shine bar in Ggaba, where he hopes to establish himself and develop a firm fan base. His X-factor, in addition to music, is dance and drama, which gives him an edge over other musicians.

"Those three attributes work hand in hand, but very few Ugandan artistes have them all. That is my weapon because I can sing, dance and entertain people."

His producer, Alex Lugwana, is equally proud of Kartel's talent.

"Kartel is a special artiste with good strategy. He knows his audience. He does his things in a local way but when they can sell internationally." Kartel portrays local settings in both songs and videos.

"It makes no sense to an American to see a Ugandan video shot with Porsche cars. But it makes sense to them when they see boda bodas, wheelbarrows and ghettos in our videos," Lugwana adds.

Big dreams

The Tulikumukutu star is a big dreamer. Though he is quickly rising up the charts, Kartel says he will not sing forever. "I want to create a legacy and pave way for other young people; I won't die on the stage."

He thus plans to sign endorsement deals with big companies so that when he retires, he will still have a cash inflow. Gifted Kartel is a songwriter, choreographer and music director, who has previously written songs for Young Mulo (Tebakusobola) and Tuff B.


To Kartel, most Ugandan artistes are popular but are not celebrities.

"To be a celebrity is a combination of talent, language, personality and ability to influence change but our so-called celebrities lack such attributes."

Biggest challenge

Making music is a combination of production, promotion and publicity but of the three Ps, promotion has been Kartel's biggest problem.

"It's a competitive industry and so [materialistic] which is why many talented people with good music have failed to make it to the limelight."

Big bang

Together with producer Lugwana, Kartel is now trying to build an umbrella of young talent known as Wizard Order that they hope to expand.

"Everything today is being run by the youth and I promise you that there is going to be a revolution very soon," Lugwana says.

Dream: To become an international artiste who can organise his own concert singly.

Favourite music: Kadongokamu and band music

Best artistes: Herman Basudde and Lucky Dube

Allegiance to: Mother Florence Nanfuka and Alex Lugwana

Best accomplishment: Being nominated after less than two years in the industry.

Biggest fear: To be called a down-going artiste.

Craziest thing done: Going on stage with a baby's bottle.

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