After chasing him for about two weeks, Quick Talk finally catches Ziza Bafana for a chat. The interview is meant to be held at his house in Bunga-Soya only to be told he is at his office in Buziga-Munyonyo. But well… The interview is done entirely in Luganda.
Hi boss! You look bigger on TV, kumbe you are this skinny?
[Laughs] Yeah, buladi. But tell them I have old and strong bones… You know…?
Naye guy, you have been quiet for long; what’s up?
Really? I record music everyday; I have 10 albums with 30 songs each.
Charlie! I’ve been quiet because I’m trying to rebrand myself. I want to become a brand like Chameleone (Joseph Mayanja); Chameleone is a different brand and musician.
Good to hear you say so.
I have been on holiday; I gave [the competitors] time to produce music like mine but they have failed. I was strategizing; I wanted to come with music that makes money. Artistes should accept that there is change… good music needs time. There are different genres of music; I am trying to find my genre [gets out his phone to show Quick Talk his genre but abandons that midway.]
You use a lot of energy on stage; do you first drink alcohol or use weed?
[Looking serious] No! You can’t sing or compose when you are on weed or drunk; the lyrics and the vibe will not come out. I’m just like that. [Okaaaay…]
Now that you are back, what do you have?
I have a new song and video called Nyazaala. A movie is also coming soon.. all this is meant to promote Uganda; selling our culture. I also have an album with 25 songs, targeting the world market but also for my local fans.
It’s about time we brand ourselves. Look at Maddox; he has few songs but they stand out. Even Chameleone, Fik Fameika, [and] Eddy Kenzo are good artistes and have their brands.
My advice to Kenzo, who is my friend, is that he should treat Rema [Namakula] well. He should put more energy on Rema. She is good and talented. [Good advice; Quick Talk hopes Kenzo takes it in good faith].
So, when you are not singing…
Yes. I grow tomatoes, watermelon… I also rear chickens, rabbits, cows and a few goats. I have one-and-a-half acres here in Bunga. [Quick Talk wishes Ziza Bafana good luck]
So, who is the real Ziza Bafana?
I’m a Muganda from Masaka, born in 1988. I come from a family of five where I’m the second-last born. My mother is Noelle Nansikombi and my father is...[thinks]… Richard Seruwooza. My original name is Richard Kasendwa.
Why did you have to first think about your father’s name?
No! I have a father and stepfather… let’s leave it at that.
Any other singing member of the family?
No. I’m the only one. From childhood I knew I could sing. Music was not something strange to me. The late Paul Kafeero, [and] Chameleone, were household names. [Jumps up suddenly and the interview continues in his car… Quick Talk worries because Bafana is drinking a Uganda Waragi/Krest cocktail and smoking as he drives.] I’m special, because I mix zouk, dancehall, ragga, afrobeat and jang tam; that’s why I stand out.
When do you start mainstream music?
[Bafana’s answers are not very coherent] I started as a mechanic in Bwaise... Chameleone had a hit song called Mama Mia around 1999. I then went back to the village and got saved in 2009…
Huh? Saved? Up to now you are saved?
Yeah! I get problems when I don’t pray. I have never forgotten to pray. I read the Bible and share the word of God daily.
Again, when do you start singing?
Oh, sorry, I digressed. In Masaka I went to Good News church led by Pastor Beatrice Wasa. Her church had all musical instruments. She brought me to Kampala to learn how to play drums at Pr Jackson Senyonga’s (Christian Life Church) and it was Shaba [now a drummer in Afrigo band] that taught me.
I went back and became a minister in church, until some competition called Sing For Change was organized; Producer Washington was a judge. I won and got an offer to record a song at Dream Studio [owned by Eddie Yawe] and I recorded my first song, Ayamba.
I became a studio boy and learnt to play the guitar. I also used to write songs for Buchaman.
Ayamba was gospel. When did you go secular?
There is a guy called Kimbugu who gave me a full studio to start. I remember Cindy and David Lutalo did a song from there. In fact Lutalo knows my struggles. Eddy Kenzo also had a hand in my success. He used to take me on his tours.
When did your breakthrough come?
My first song with Lutalo and Kenzo was called Mugumu, but I also used to do my songs in the jam sessions. I had a name.
Breakthrough! [Quick Talk is becoming impatient with the back- and-forth nature of the interview.]
I think it was Tebakulimba that I did with Moses Yiya. I think my songs Mpitaba and Gyayo Ntekeyo...I have many songs, but I believe these had great influence. [Quick Talk was waiting for the mention of Pomini.]
Do you have a favourite?
All of them are favourites. I have not produced my favourite yet; I sing it at home…I’m singing what other people are singing and what people want.
Does anyone inspire you locally?
None! They sing what I can sing but I can sing what they can’t…
Bob Marley, Lucky Dube, Elly Wamala, Kafeero and Maddox. [Quick Talk takes it that Bafana has local inspiration too, after all…]
At 30, are you married?
I have a wife… Mama Aiden.
Wow... Celebrities rarely admit they are married.
Yeah! That’s them…
Wamma, shame the devil... what’s her name?
Is Aiden an only child?
[Happily] I have John Turner, Belton and Aiden… although Baganda don’t count their children. [Quick Talk dares to ask if all three are by Mama Aiden and royally ticks Bafana off.]
Ok. What do you have for your fans this year?
We have a ready album with 25 tracks. This will be a giveback to our people who have supported our music.
I’m also starting a re-branding campaign in Uganda and globally. I will be taking this to Kenya soon. I want to be the real king of ragga.
And what is in the future?
We have started building a studio [shows Quick Talk pictures on the phone – the building is near completion.] We are also going to do live studio for live streaming…watch the space.
The making of Ziza Bafana
- Born in 1988 in Bukomansimbi district.
- He first came to the city when his school, Bulenge primary school in Masaka, sent him to Kampala to buy them a ball.
- Attended Bright Community Academy in Kyebando, before joining St Stephen Secondary School for his O-level. His formal education stopped there.
- A tattoo on his arm reads: Psalms 23.
Describes himself in a 2015 interview with The Observer as “the person who chased Jamaican music from Uganda”.
So deep was he into Christianity that in 2008, he worked with veteran gospel artiste Kirwana Africa.
“I was active in many churches such as Prayer Palace, Kansanga Miracle Centre, Living Water and Christian Life church. I even used to burn down shrines,” he said in the 2015 interview, while asking his manager to mix his Uganda Waragi and Red Bull.
His stage name is inspired by the Bible and football; Ziza was the son of the biblical Shiphi, while Bafana came from the South African national team, Bafana Bafana.
Interview ends two hours after meeting the guy who loves Jamaican patois.