By Ahmad Muto
ONCE upon a time, everything Jose Chameleone touched turned to gold. Today, when he sets his hand on anything, it turns cold.
Days ago, singer Jose Chameleon still frantic following his lord mayoral race loss decided to form the Uganda Musicians Federation or rather suggestively named the Superstar’s Association. Typical of his multi-coloured personality, every time one project fails, he does not seek to understand why but embarks on his next flop.
By passing the Ragga Dee led National Culture Forum and Cindy’s Uganda Musicians Association, he argued that all the groups claiming to be representing the artistes have their own goals, particularly targeting financial gains.
This provoked a debate among his critics claiming he either has a very short attention span or not the type with any other skill besides arranging and voicing lyrics. His other achievements besides music to save his life, Chameleone would have to say his last prayer.
His scorecard obscures the brand that has attempted to break with convention, especially with art to join entrepreneurship that failed on many fronts, all ending unceremoniously.
In 2012, Chameleone gathered big names in music and business at Guvnor to launch his branded mobile phone brand dubbed Chameleone Mobile. Unlike other consumer technology product launches that happen in Hotels and company premises, he broke with convention and launched his phone in a discotheque as if a listener’s party or premiering a music video. Important to note is it carried all the pomp of a new product entering the market with telecom marketers on hand to welcome the new product. He stepped on stage like Elon Musk unveiling is flagship Tesla Electric Vehicle, Jay Z wooing investors to seek Tidal music shares or Tim Cook at the annual Apple event uveiling the latest iPhone, iPad, MacBook and iMac.
Among the first people he wooed into getting their hands on the sh60,000 phone were Bobi Wine and Charlie Lubega who inserted their sim cards. The phone that came in several ‘chameleone’ colours and got their first shop at Chameleone’s brother, Humphrey Mayanja’s shop at Ivory Plaza, Kampala. But that was the last time the phone ever made news.
By 2015, he had abandoned the project and accepted a deal to become the idroid Royal V7 brand ambassador. As you read this even that got consigned to the archives.
In 2018, Jose Chameleone turned his high-octane personality towards nightlife and ventured into Bar business with his flagship hangout spot, DNA Lounge along Acacia Avenue. One of the Directors at the Bar named Maxi Steurbaut at the time argued that they had planned opening up the spot two years earlier. They promised, like every other hangout in town to revolutionize Kampala nightlife with massive theme nights and artiste performances, top notch DJs and MCs only to close down faster than his joining and exiting the Democratic Party.
It was only in business for three months. Shutdown indefinitely by city authorities but a typical Chameleone claimed it was temporarily closed to enable some clearances and re-open. That never happened. Ironically, the bar closed an hour to his late brother, AK47’s tribute gig. And, Boom, that was the funeral of DNA Lounge.
Meanwhile, at the launch of the bar was when Chameleone revealed he was working on setting up a Radio and Television station dubbed ‘Leone TV and radio’. They were set to be launched in March 2019. The ambitious Chameleone it turns out was biting more than he could chew.
In November 2020, at the height of his campaign for the seat of Lord Mayor, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), Chameleone announced he was setting up Leone TV, his flagship television station targeting the youth. Through his Instagram page, he noted that his 20 years in the industry had now bore a television station. He also disclosed that he is following Tanzanian singer, Diamond Platnumz blueprint of Wasafi TV and Radio because, they are both in the same business and giants in East Africa.
However, one thing seemed shady, after sharing the news, he disabled his Instagram comments section not to have the public share their opinion with him. As if he knew there was going to be more doubts expressed than congratulatory messages. To this day, the project is yet to see the light of day.
And as you are still on that, it should be remembered that joining the Kampala mayoral race was a much complex exercise for him to navigate than getting to sit on a stool in that bus corridor heading to Kenya to start his music career. After Tubonga nawe, he became NRM in and out. One of the few times he and Bebe Cool agreed. However, as Bobi Wine’s popularity soured, he realised as he was busy working for daily bread, Bobi Wine wanted the whole bakery and many thought he was a good baker. Chameleone quickly ran to join People Power, they didn’t let him go beyond the veranda. He then joined the Democratic Party where they first handed him a hoe to become their mobiliser. He realised Bobi Wine was bigger than the party and all its members combined. He went back, this time Bobi had NUP and they denied him the ticket for the mayoral race. Long story short, man lost.
Before his body is even cold from the loss, he has decided to lure artistes to his new camp, the Uganda Musicians Federation that is also being called the Superstar Musicians’ Association. It is an offshoot of the Uganda Musicians Association as much as he has denied. His and the other artistes’ body language suggest UMA is a cash cow for a few artistes that have deliberately chosen to keep others in the dark. And also, it has been argued it is an association exploiting upcoming artistes – who form a bigger proportion of its membership – to attract money and public sympathy. The reason he chose to bring only superstars under him.
At this point, Chameleone’s long relationship with flops should not be news. You likely have reservations about this camp he is assembling together like a rag-tag group of narcissists targeting a huge loot before disbanding. From his brothers Pallaso and Weasel to King Saha, David Lutalo, Khalifa Aganaga, those are all people he and his label Leone Island have a good relationship with. Call it Leone Island 2.0 only that this is Covid-19 induced.