In Summary
  • Interview. Benon Mugumbya is one of the biggest music producers in Uganda. He was also part of the people who contributed to the rise of Mowzey Radio and Weasel as well as shaping the Ugandan music industry. Isaac Ssejjombwe talked to the Swangz Avenue founder about the future of Goodlyf and the Ugandan music industry.

How best would you describe the late Mowzey Radio?
He was one of the most talented artistes I have ever worked with. Very passionate, his whole music experience in studio was different. Something I had never seen. He had his own imagination. A great guy he was.

What do you think was his contribution to the music industry?
A lot. Not just in terms of Radio the singer or the half duo of Goodlyf. He worked with a lot of artistes. I don’t think there is any artiste that has collaborated with different artistes as many times as he has. Another thing that people might not know is that most of the collaborations he did with people, 99 per cent, he was the brain behind them. He would be the one to call. He loved music and working with people. The more you do that, the more it expands your fan base.

What projects did you work on together?
The very first time I worked with Mowzey was way back when I was still at Goodenuff studios. Me and Pato are the ones who produced Sweet Lady which was his second or third song. That was way before he had joined Leone Island and then when I had gotten my equipment in 2008, he, alongside Weasel were some of the first artistes I recorded for when my studio was still in the bedroom. We did a song called Dagala. From there, I recorded Bread and Butter, we did Zuena, Single and Searching, Where you are, Mr Dj, Locomotive, among others.

And what about his last album we heard he recorded with Swangz Avenue?
Mowzey told me about the album when we were in Nairobi, Kenya, so they handed over the project to us at Swangz Avenue to fine tune it because the songs were done by Elly Akhis. I called up Michael Ouma who I work with most of the time. So we changed the arrangement of some of the songs and played some live instrumentation on them.

What becomes of that ‘Kilimanjaro’ album?
It will definitely come out only that now even though we had arrangements with him on how to release it, out of respect, we have to engage the Goodlyf management and his family. But it has to come out because it has very beautiful music, very life changing music that can touch the heart. Knowing Mowzey, it’s not that he did it to just keep it so we will push it out and we will try and make sure that it can make some returns to the family.

What do you have to say about his personality? Being a person who knew and contributed to his career somehow?
He was one of those guys you could easily misunderstand because he spoke his mind there and then. If he didn’t like something about you, he would tell you straight up but would be okay the next day. He won’t hold a grudge against you. He was very straight forward, very vocal and very confrontational. I mean among all my artiste friends, he is the only one who confronted me straight up way back.

Benon Mugumbya. PHOTOS BY MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

What do you think is next up for Goodlyf now that Mowzey is gone?
Mowzey is gone but Weasel is still here. A lot of people have been quick to disregard him but remember Weasel and Chameleone in our era were among the first musicians to sell their albums to Kasiwukira and back then, that would be considered as ‘arriving in the industry’. So let’s not forget that he has done that on his own as Weasel. So it’s just a matter of time, let’s just wait and see. Besides that, he’s very talented, no one was writing for him and is very versatile as well.

How certain are you about this?
I’ve worked with him on a number of projects. I remember one of our first songs we did with him was Feelings alongside Ticktah, Vampos, Kidfox, Sizzaman and Weasel, he almost killed everyone with his verse. Let me just say that it’s up to them to see how it works.

Being one of the biggest producers in the country and having worked with Goodlyfe, would you recommend Goodlyf to get Mowzey’s replacement?
I’m sure you’ve seen Radio and Weasel’s performance and you’ve seen the chemistry they had. Now getting a replacement would be a setback. It can’t work that way. It would make it look like they are looking for another Mowzey. I am 100 per cent sure he can make it on his own and doesn’t need to get somebody else.

What do you have to say about the recent celebrity deaths in Uganda?
I don’t think there is much to say because people die every day. The only difference is that these are celebrities. A lot of people fall sick and die; die of accidents and so on. That’s a way of life. It’s just a shame that tabloids, social media and bloggers blow these things up not knowing that all these stories they create hurt the immediate people of the victim.

Benon’s Take on Key issues

On artistes’ way of life? Abuse of drugs and drinking
Well. Of course as artistes we have to be mindful of what we do, how we conduct ourselves just like anyone else. We are a product of what we do. We are responsible for our actions and behaviours.

View on the music industry after the loss of one of the greatest artistes of this generation
Of course it’s a very big gap to fill. Music is not going to be the same anymore because we lost someone who was just not affecting people he worked with but a lot of different artistes. He loved music and working for other people. I remember in one of our conversations, he referred to their studio in Makindye as a referral hospital. He was very hardworking.

On stories that Mowzey Radio had got saved
The conversations we had about God were not the cliché kind of conversations. For someone like him to be saying the things he said, he must have had an encounter and the only thing he was struggling with was the transition of going to church. Not that he didn’t want to go but he didn’t want the church to make it about him yet he wanted to be there for God. He one time asked me how my church is and how he wanted to come and check it out.