Bobi Wine in Music and Politics: The ‘Ghetto President’ Now a Global Sensation

[Photo Credit: The Tower Post]

By Omondi Otieno

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Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine is a Ugandan musician, politician and activist. He was born in 1982 in Mpigi District, and grew up in the Kamwooya slums of Kampala. It is in this neighborhood, that he got his famous nickname; ‘Ghetto President’ due to his passionate activism. Bobi has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music, Drama and Dance, from Makerere University, Uganda.

Who was Bobi Wine prior to joining politics?

Bobi Wine tried his luck on several career opportunities before venturing into politics. First, in the late 90s, he was a businessperson who sold music records and bricks.

“Music was seen as a thing for failures. So initially I was involved in different little businesses, selling tapes and records, making bricks, doing this and that,” he said during an interview with Rolling Stone in April 2020.

Download Bobi Wine Music for Free on Mdundo

Early 2000s, Bobi Wine made his debut in music; releasing Akagoma, Funtula, and Sunda featuring Ziggy D. These created a name for him in the Ugandan music industry; where shortly after, he founded the group ‘Ghetto Republic of Uganda’. 

He has so far released over 70 songs, and five albums. Just to mention a few; Tuliyambala Engule, Kyarenga, Freedom, Ayagala Mulaasi, and Tuliyambala Engule.

Bobi was also an actor who featured in a handful of Ugandan film productions. These were; Cleopatra Koheirwe, Yogera, Situka and Divizionz.

What Kind of Music Does Bobi Wine Make?

His sound and style of delivery, cuts across genres such as Reggae, Dancehall and Afro beat.

Like the greats, Lucky Dube, Kalamashaka…Bobi Wine’s music is conscious. He is keen on thought provoking music that constantly, calls for a revolution and calls out the shortcomings of the current dictatorial administration, led by President Yoweri Museveni. His music definitely got him in trouble as he was barred from any public performances in the country.  

He continues to speak out through his music, for instance, his latest release dubbed ‘Tulonde’. This was a rallying call, to all registered Ugandan voters to turn out in large numbers and exercise their democratic right.

Read Also: Bobi Wine Drops New Song 'Tulonde' Rallying Ugandans to Vote

"This one is dedicated to brother Nubian Li and all the comrades that are in prison for no reason. We were blocked from campaigning but the music will now do the talking. This one is called 'Tulonde' and it serves as a reminder to all the voters in the remaining five days," Bobi Wine says in the song introduction.

Prior to the release of ‘Tulonde’, Bobi Wine features Jamaican reggae icon Buju Banton, in ‘Bullet or Ballot’. In this song, they are insistent that even if it takes a revolution, they will attain freedom by ‘Bullet or Ballot’.

When he is not being an activist, Bobi Wine is also big on public sensitization music like, ‘Corona Virus Alert’. This he released when the novel corona virus was confirmed in Uganda.

How big is Bobi Wine as a musician? Is he big outside Uganda?

Bobi Wine is among the three veteran musicians considered the pillars of Ugandan music industry. The other two are; Jose Chameleone and Bebe Cool.

As a musician, Bobi Wine enjoys massive listenership across Africa. However, his decision to join politics and take on President Museveni’s regime head on, has quickly propelled him into a global sensation.

How important is his status as a musician for his political career?

Through his music, Bobi Wine has been able to continue his activism, enabling him call out the current regime.  His music built him a massive fan base that propelled him to victory in 2016, when he sought to be the Member of Parliament for Kyadondo East.

As an artist, Bobi appeals to a wide demography, but has a huge following of  youth, who easily relate to him and his message. The youth in Uganda form a huge fraction of Uganda’s population, making them the most closely followed group in the recently concluded elections.

Lastly, having been banned from performing, his music continues to create an avenue through which he can address Ugandans, and inspire them to rally behind him.

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