oseph Mayanja is one of the most respected artistes in Africa

Ugandan superstar Joseph Mayanja popularly known as Dr Jose Chameleone is one of the most respected African artistes. His journey to fame however started by being smuggled into Kenya by a friend and being put up by well-wishers for almost two years till his music career took off. Chameleone shared with Cate Mukei about his music journey, family and controversies.

You have a great relationship with Kenya and you once threatened to relocate here due to bad press back home. What is so special about Nairobi?
When I first came to Nairobi to seek studio opportunities, I didn’t even have a bank account. I put up with friends till I recorded the song Mama Mia which propelled me to the limelight. I also made many friends whom we have kept in touch to date.

What are some of the struggles that you went through as a foreigner in Kenya?
I was actually smuggled into the country in a cargo bus. The bus did not even have seats and so I sat on a stool in the bus corridor. I was arrested the first night I arrived because I did not have a passport and could not speak Swahili. The fact that I did not have a place to stay was also a challenge since the person I was hoping would accommodate me was out of town. Luckily, he recommended me to someone else who accommodated me for a while.

How did you break through?
My breakthrough was when I got signed up by Ogopa DJs, then they were the biggest in East Africa. I recorded my first single, Bageya, in 2000 featuring my good friend Redsan and followed it up with Mama Mia, which was also a big hit in 2001. My album, Bageya, opened doors for me and I became a household name in East Africa. That’s how I got to where I am.

Did parents support your music career?
You know how our parents felt those days about music...of course, it was not considered a good career but they fully support it now.

Is that why you are supportive of your son Abba who has also followed in your footsteps?
I will never dictate my children’s path in life. I want them to follow their dreams. My only job is to mentor them to achieve their ambitions.

You recently lost your brother. Tell us more.
The justice system in Africa is very slow. But I have forgiven the killers.

Is it true that you are part of the Illuminati cult?
I have said it before that money has become an excuse that losers use to blame hardworking people. I am a staunch Catholic who is a victim of idlers who want to want to make excuses for their laziness.

In 2012 a man died from burn injuries sustained in your house. What happened?
The man was an intruder who threatened my family and accidentally set himself on fie with petrol in a jerrycan he was carrying.

Uganda has been on the spotlight on absurd laws regarding women’s dress codes. What your opinion on this?
That law on miniskirts has not been passed yet. The media has made it a habit to blow things out of proportion. However, everyone should be allowed to express themselves as long as it does not affect the people around them.

Fellow artiste Jemimah Kaansime is facing a possible jail term for 10 years in Uganda for her ‘pornographic’ video to her hit song, Ensolo Yange. What’s your opinion on this?
Choices have consequences. Be ready to harvest what you sow.