He has played with Isaiah Katumwa in the defunct Sky Waves. He has also played for Bantu Band and Kato Lubwama’s Diamond Productions.
But how many of us remember musician Robert Kanoonya? Well, you have all reasons not to know him. He has been away for a long time and returning nine years later, many things have changed.
The good thing is that he returns as a better musician under the trade name Rob Prophet. His grand vision is to become a reggae prophet to fill up the space left by slain Lucky Dube.
And he has begun on a good note. The reggae singer has been signed by Dube’s record label, Gallo, becoming the first Ugandan to be signed by South Africa’s oldest and largest record label.
Prophet’s debut album was released on October 1. According to the contract, the new hope for Uganda’s music industry is required to produce one English album with the record label every three years.
Yet this did not come easy. Gallo’s producer, Richard Siluma, who was Dube’s producer, is not an easy person to impress.
“He started by bullying me,” the singer recalls. “The first time I took my demo, he rubbished me. He asked me, ‘what makes you so special from other artistes? I have tried to promote many people but because they smoke and drink, they never become successful’.”
But after listening to Prophet’s single Blackmail, the renowned producer was more than convinced he had landed another talented musician.
“I played exactly as Lucky Dube,” Prophet says, before adding: “It [Blackmail] was put on Dube’s instruments and [Siluma] listened to it for three days. He then told me, ‘you are the man. You sound like you have been in music for a long time’.”
Siluma then began training Prophet to prepare him for his first recording. Unfortunately, because of the busy schedule at the record company, he had to find another studio to record from and only have Gallo do the final touches. In 2007, Prophet walked into Ghetto Ruff Records, the home to South Africa’s Kwaito music and recorded his first album, Holiday of love with.
The ten English tracks to be marketed internationally tread into reggae roots and highlight the life of the ghetto sufferer and the rural poor with lyrical themes on poverty, racism and other social issues.
However, Prophet’s first project leaves room for the singer’s vocal growth. It leaves a lot to be desired in the way the singer pronounces words and tries to hit the right notes. The production, however, parades great reggae beats served on soothing instruments.
Prophet also worked on another album that targets the local market. The nine-track Ganda album titled Jennipher introduces smooth reggae beats.
Prophet started singing at the age of 5 at the Roman Catholic School in Kamuli, a school that helped children who were victims of the Luweero war.
It is here that he learnt English and playing musical instruments. After form one, Prophet moved to Kampala High School where he did his form six before graduating into music. He joined Sky Waves that had other musicians such as Isaiah Katumwa and they used to perform at Park View.
Later on, he joined Kato Lubwama’s Diamonds Productions before moving to Bantu Band. He released two albums during that time but things never worked out for him.
“Whenever I took my albums to record buyers, they would doubt whether I did the songs myself. They were not buying my English albums. They thought I was [plagiarising],” he says.
Prophet grew up trying to look like his idol Lucky Dube. He recalls at one time coming across a magazine that had Lucky Dube’s address.
“I wrote to him several times but never got a reply,” he says.
And when he did Terrible Trouble that used to play on Radio Simba, he instead earned enemies.
“People thought I was claiming Lucky Dube’s song,” he recalls. “My elder brother said he would not support me musically.”
His brother had an IT company in South Africa and therefore chose to take Prophet for a three-year IT course in Botswana.
“He told me there was no single professional musician who had a steady job.”
But Prophet was still focused on becoming a musician. And after starting his own IT company in Botswana, he resumed pursuing his goal to become a musician. He contacted Gallo, which has now signed him up.
“If you want to be a successful musician, you have to choose a genre. And when you choose a genre, you must know which producer to work with. Gallo is the best studio to work with if you want to succeed in reggae.”