It is just three days until we mark exactly a year since Mowzey Radio was pronounced dead. Very many stories, some true and most not, have superseded his legacy but did you know the simple man that he was?
Ugandan rapper Benezeri Wanjala Chibita gave his account about the other side of the fallen music icon that never really made it to the front page. Follow the story below;
“A Conversation with Moze Radio” by Benezeri Wanjala Chibita
During my time working in Gulu, I had a number of conversations with people, some of them total strangers. In one such encounter, I was privileged to speak to a lady that interacted with Moze Radio, the musical legend, at close quarters months before he died. She was the manager of the hotel where Radio and Weasel and their management were staying when they came to perform in Gulu in late 2017.
The show had been organized by Okello-Okello, an icon in his own right, and a friend of Radio’s. Some might recognize his name from his expansive ROOTS cultural center. Even more will remember him for hosting Ndere Troupe nights, first at Nile Hotel (Now Serena) and later at Ndere Center in Ntinda.
Smiling Panda was a club in Gulu, a billion-shilling investment by some of the Chinese contractors that were working on the roads. Some people suggested that it was a thank you gift to the people of Acholi, for presenting them the opportunity to display their civil engineering workmanship. It was a spectacular place with so much promise. It is rather unfortunate that it did not live to its billing, and was eventually put up for sale. The operations costs were choking the gift bearers. However, in the first year of its inception, Smiling Panda gained fame for hosting musicians and attracting thousands of fans. Bobi Wine, Bebe Cool, Chameleone and Sheebah had all been there. In each instance, dozens of fans could be seen lining up to pay, even hours after the event had already began. The promoters were reaping big after having incurred UGX 1 million on the venue, which had its own sound, stage, lights and seats. After paying the musicians, the rest was almost always their profit to take home.
It made sense then that Smiling Panda would be chosen as the venue for the performance of this beloved duo. They were scheduled to reside at Kakanyero Hotel, in the center of the town. However Radio, Weasel and their manager sneaked out quietly and Okello-Okello drove them to a smaller, hidden hotel in Bardege, 15 minutes out of town. Radio later revealed that he always got swamped by excited fans that wanted to take pictures with him, and yet many times he was fatigued from a long journey and needed to rest.
When they got to this hotel, the manager took them to their respective rooms. In my estimation, the manager was about 35 years old. She was a chubby, bubbly lady with a sincere smile. As she prepared to retire, Radio appeared, dressed down in slippers and shorts. He requested her to stay behind and provide him company at the bar section. He added that he had difficulty sleeping and that he was craving a genuine conversation with someone. She obliged. After all, this was the Moze Radio.
She started by revealing that she was a singer too, although she had now specialized in performing. No more recording. At Radio’s request she sang a few choruses, and he was impressed. Radio offered her a place in his band, to sing with him when he performed. She said she would be honored to do that when she travelled to Kampala.
Radio then told her that a musician can’t depend only on music to survive in Uganda. He told her that music couldn’t fund his lifestyle and that he did it for the passion. He told her that he made most of his money from investments like real estate and farming. He said the life of a musician is such that one can’t buy food from a cheap restaurant, even when there is no money. Therefore he had had to become an aggressive business man to fund his lifestyle and allow him to creatively operate in the music realm. Music and an image of success needed to go hand in hand.
He went on to reveal that he owed his financial success to Mrs. Mayanja, Weasel’s mother. When they had first begun performing together, they would blow their earnings. Weasel’s mother asked them once where the money that they were earning was going. They couldn’t explain. She then asked them to surrender the money to her for safekeeping. They adhered to her wishes and began giving her the money they earned whenever they performed.
What they would never have realized is that Weasel’s mother was investing in property, for her son and his musical partner. She would identify affordable land and buy it and then put the title in their names. One of the pieces of land she bought is the one on which their former home in Makindye, Neverland, sits. Radio said that they also attribute the completion of that double-storied house, and the state-of-the-art studio therein, to her. He said that many years after they had began saving with her, she would take them around on weekends and point, “That land is yours, that too. The other one in the valley is also yours.” They were amazed by how much land they owned.
The manager requested Radio to take some pictures with her and Radio obliged. She said they even exchanged contacts and remained in touch for weeks. She said he struck her as a genuinely kind person. A simple man, who had been forced to live in the shadow of what the world perceived him to be. He spoke to her like he had known her for years and listened to her when she spoke. He didn’t even attempt to ever make any passes at her. The friendship that had been created was unconditional. He had assumed the role of a big brother, advising her and sharing his experiences.
Radio embarked on many agricultural projects on these pieces of land, and was able to sell some when he needed. This way, he would earn extra income that would let him take care of his family. Radio spoke about his children and how much he loved them. He told the manager he had six, and that he loved each of them the same. He told her what he thought each of them would become.
Two months later, on February 1st 2018, he was killed in mysterious circumstances. The continent mourned the death of the creator of the most beautiful songs. Songs he consistently supplied for free, like manna from heaven. She mourned a new friend, her modest idol.
This true life story, proofread by a very talented editor Tesi, was originally written for a yet to be launched online magazine, that Benezeri and some friends are starting.
We shall keep you posted when it drops.