The first time we were introduced to singing duo Undercover Brothers was in 2013 when they joined Daisy Ejang, Sitenda and Derrick Kojo to form the Tusker Project Fame season six team from Uganda.
It was not the best way to launch a career, considering the fact that on show, they were not anywhere close to amazing; judge Ian Mbugua always complained about them.
As such, probation became their comfort zone before they were eventually evicted. But it is not surprising anymore; in fact, in the history of the now-defunct TPF, the acts that did not impress much have found ways of making a mark on the music industry – from Naava Grey (season 2) to Maureen Kabasiita (season 3), Rwanda’s Patrica Kihoro or Tanzania’s Nakaaya Sumari, among others, had torrid times on the show but went on to make beautiful music, while the winners sunk into oblivion.
Comprised of friends Timothy Kirya, a vocalist, and Jay K Mulungi a guitarist and vocalist, the Undercover Brothers does a fusion of different genres, mainly the kind of soul popularized by Maurice Kirya.
Since coming back to Uganda from their TPF stint, the duo has done their best to become relevant and prove Mbugua and his TPF cronies wrong, even after signing a record deal that went bad, as well as releasing a few questionable songs.
According to Mulungi, the deal with Rooster Music, a Kenyan label, did not yield much since they fell out on many artistic grounds and, of course, unfulfilled promises.
“Originally our deal said we were going to release an album before the end of 2014 – that didn’t happen,” Mulungi says, adding that even a promise to shoot for them at least five quality videos was ignored when the label only gave them one that fell short of their expectations.
After cancelling their contract, the duo started the journey of finding a sound – a world- music-aligned one. This has seen them be part of almost all cultural events in the country including Pearl Rhythm Festival where they were part of the stage coach; Laba Art Festival, Bayimba, Nyege Nyege, and Milege World Music Festival as well as showcasing at the street music performances at the World Music day celebrations in 2014 and 2015.
In 2014, they also released their debut compilation, At Dawn with a concert dubbed, Unveiling Undercover Brothers; they note that the show was meant to be a statement to people that thought they too would vanish like many former TPF contestants.
However, tired of being boxed as world music artistes, this year, the duo is rebranding. This year, the group wants to go more mainstream; unlike the past when they were comfortable singing to people at festivals, this time they want their voices and faces on both radio and TV.
“In a business sense, music is supposed to be making money and we have not done that as Undercover Brothers,” says Kirya.
The past few years, Mulungi notes, “we’ve been put in a box of artistes like Sandy Soul, Maurice Kirya, Milege band and the rest”.
“We want to be out there competing with Radio and Weasel, Bebe Cool, Chameleone, Sauti Sol and P-Square, among others.”
The duo is working on an album, Hit List, a 12-track album that will feature music they have been performing at different events since 2014.
These are songs including Superman, Ani, Diamond and Nkwagala Kilalu, among others. Their latest release, Nsikattira, a neo-soul single, is doing relatively well on different radio stations. The video is in the works.
The album is a cocktail of genres including neo-soul, RnB, reggae, soft rock and Indie pop.
“We want to use good art to make people dance as well as make money.”