BEBE COOL- UGANDAN REGGAE ARTIST
By Paul Ndiho, Washington DC
November 30, 2010
Top Ugandan reggae artist Moses Ssali, better known as “Bebe Cool,” is literally getting back on his feet after life-threatening encounters that included a shooting and a car accident. He was recently in the U.S., where he was receiving treatment.
Bebe Cool is big in Uganda and East Africa, where his mix of reggae and bongo flava, have made him one of the region’s biggest stars. He recently claimed the coveted 2010 Pearl of Africa Music “Artist of the Year” award, which catapulted his music to the top of the Ugandan music charts. But awards have been the least of Bebe Cool’s concerns after several brushes with death. He almost died a few months ago, after being shot four times in the legs.
“I was shot four times with an AK 47, then two months later I was involved in the worst car accident with my wife, and then two months later I was involved in a bomb blast while I was performing at a concert during the World cup finals and all the people just around me and behind me died but me and my wife survived. These are not things that I would have expected to be part of my life today.”
Bebe Cool says his recovery has been slow, but credits his doctors in the United States.
“My legs are stable, and my bones are right back in shape. My muscles are gaining some energy. Overall, my legs can support all my weight, but I can’t run, and I can’t jump.”
The close-calls have left the Ugandan artist very reflective about his faith, and even more driven to succeed in life and music.
“Today as I speak so many singers are working world wide and I’m proud to be one of those guys who started it. So the main thing that has really made me who I am is the belief in me. No one can stop me, not even the five bullets when I was shot, and not even the bomb blast that I was involved in. I don’t think that anybody can stop me, maybe apart from God.”
Bebe Cool started performing in Nairobi, Kenya in the late 1990s when he was very young. He says he was inspired by reggae icons Bunju Bunton and Wyclef Jean.
But the Ugandan artist has drawn controversy too. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni gave what critics say is taxpayer money for Bebe’s treatment in the U.S. The reggae artist plans to campaign for President Museveni’s re-election. One of the opposition candidates hoping to unseat Mr. Museveni is Bebe Cool’s own father, Bidandi Ssali. The musician is unapologetic about his political allegiance.
“When it come to who I’m going to work with in Uganda today… it’s obvious and I don’t want to lie to you that the people will see me as good person if I don’t support the president. He was instrumental in giving me my life back but how do you appreciate somebody who has done you a good thing? Do you want me to stand on stage and tell that people that the president must go? Of course not.”
Bebe Cool says young upcoming artists should stay focused.
“You cannot start a journey when you don’t know where you want to end. Look out and say that I want to be big in Africa and then work towards being big in Africa. You will find it very easy if you have a goal then the question will be very simple. Where do I go to become an African artist? Ugandan reggae artist Bebe Cool says young artists should also work to create friendships in music, an industry he says can be very tempting.