29 January 2013

Uganda: Jamal Bounces Back With Abakyala Balabye

The first time I met Jamal Wasswa was in the early 2000s; he was talking to artistes Rocky Giant and Sweet Kid.

It was rumoured in the club that he too was an artiste but even with those dreadlocks and company, he didn't look the part. I would later see this dreadlocked guy singing the hook to Rocky Giant's Mulembe Gwa Balaasi but still I didn't pay him any attention. But by 2008 Jamal was getting a hold of his turf, doing versatile genres of reggae, RnB, African contemporary and pop, forcing us to listen.

"I don't want to attach a specific genre to my music, I am versatile and my voice is key. As long as people can hear it and identify me, I am okay," he says.

Jamal has released hits such as Akagambo, Oba Wuwo, Soka Osabe and the one that catapulted him to fame, Abakyala Bazira. He is aware he has a strong fan base among women although he notes that even men love his songs. Last year, Jamal released Omusomesa, a song that got and still gets respectable airplay; the video topped local charts.

As the song continues to gain momentum, Jamal has followed it up with another women advocacy song, Abakyala Balabye. The song talks about different issues women face in life. In an afro pop melody, Jamal addresses sexual harassment and disrespect of women.

"People have gone through these things; I have seen some happen," he says.

Jamal has performed at reggae festivals in Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, USA and more. This could explain the huge number of whites that flock Jamal's shows in Uganda. Jamal's music sounds so sweet that even when you can't come to terms with his dreadlocks, you will appreciate his sensational vocals.

This year, he hopes to follow up Abakyala Balabye with a couple of songs and eventually a concert.

"I hope to do more music and a live concert; I want something different from the Abakyala Bazira concert in 2010 and I hope to bring in many of the artistes I perform with abroad," he says.

Jamal is not too enthusiastic about collabos.

"Collaborations should be for a reason, right now I can only sing with a person taking me places," he says. Jamal has previously collaborated with Joel Sebunjo, a world music artiste, and Singer Jah, a German reggae act.

Besides music, Jamal is passionate about football; he plays with Kisugu United and trains everyday with the team. The soft-spoken artiste explained to me that Kisugu United is still in the regional league.

"If Kisugu United makes it to the league, I won't become a professional footballer," He adds with a smile.

Seeing him dribbling in the midfield in the number seven shirt, you may not believe it's the same guy who belts out lyrics like "Love firimu ya masasi..."

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