Last week one of Uganda’s most talented artist’s Mowzey Radio aka Moses Ssekibogo after fighting for his life in a hospital bed for a week, his situation the result of a barroom brawl.
It was tragic on many fronts and not only because he was a talent who still had much to offer, but also because he died young. He was 33 at the time of his death.
But it is also an indicator of how far we have to go as a country, as an economy.
A comparable star in a more developed economy would never had been manhandled the way Mowzey was. Not because the bouncers there are well behaved – far from it. Or because the glitterati don’t get into scuffles – it is the fodder of the tabloids. But because in a more developed economy a star like Mowzey would either not be in that bar or no one would be allowed to touch him.
And it would not be because Mowzey was a poser, but because the commercial interests that have an interest in his wellbeing and that he continues to do what he does best, would ensure nothing averse befell the young talent.
Let’s take American rapper and producer Jay Z. He and he is wife Beyonce, are dollar billionaires as a couple.
The major part of their net worth comes from the collaborations they have with corporate America. Jay Z has lucrative contracts with sportswear company Reebok, Budweiser not to mention equity interests in a host of companies in the entertainment, real estate, beverages, sports management worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
“I am not a businessman. I am a business, man!” Jay Z once said...
As it is in Uganda now, through no fault of the artists, corporate Uganda’s interest in them peaks at their sponsored shows and beyond that they really don’t care what happens to them.
So imagine these young men and women running around the city, even the country, from one gig to the next pulling down as much as five million shillings and appearance at one time. With money in their pockets they indulge their hormone driven desires to the extent that their money can go. The bigger the star the harder he or she plays.
And it is not that Jay Z is well behaved. In fact his background makes our artists look like choir boys. Jay Z by his own admission sold cocaine as a kid, shot his older brother and was even shot three times before his twentieth birthday. Mowzey was graduate of Makerere University.
Jay Z’s turnaround is not because he saw the light. But because he had contractual obligations to more entities than himself. When you put pen to paper in a multimillion dollar contract to be a brand manager of this or that company, you can rest assured their clauses to what behaviour’s constitute a breach of contract. At that point too he becomes an asset to the company he endorses and they will ensure to protect that asset so that they can extract maximum value from it.
Every so often an artist in those economies falls off the tracks. But it is news because it does not happen often.
It may sound cruel and cold, but isn’t that what we as employees sign onto when we take a job?
The situation has evolved over decades. Before they became billboards for or even better, went into equity partnerships with corporate America, entertainers used to crash and burn in their youth – Eazy E, Elvis Presley and Frankie Lymon spring to mind.
And when you study the history of US entertainment it is often times the mangers of these talents who made the intellectual shift to realise the business was not only fun and games, and that if they were to make more money and have their music go international it could not be business as usual.
"Mowzey’s death can be the line that marks a departure from the past towards a more professional set up not only in music but in drama and sport as well...
That our entertainers will be seen as more than just talented youth but assets who have a value to more than just themselves. Given the short career span entertainers have it is even more important that their value is maximised and their earning potential is stretched to a time well beyond when their careers have dimmed.
Local artists in the last decade edged out Congolese and South African music and took control of our night scene. To ascend to the next level they need to get more organised, more professional or as unthinkable as it sounds, foreign artists can very well come back.
"It is a scandal even criminal that Mowzey Radio goes out the way he has. Hopefully he is bringing as much joy where he is now as he did on earth. RIP. ...