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Tarrus Riley: The show, the aftermath…and Bebe Cool!

It will take knocking some high bars out before we have a rollercoaster of a show like last Friday’s climax of the Swangz Avenue-Bell Jamz all-star tour at Lugogo cricket oval.

Days on, it is still the talk on social media; organizers could still be doing some number crunching in the wake of the sellout. As for the groundsmen at the oval, they may still be combing the grass for more pieces of broken glass.

It was a well-organised show where the VIP section was for once truly VIP, security tight [no worries about pulling out your phone], a fine sound system and then: Bebe Cool. I will return to this later.

Bebe Cool (in green) at the concert 

Firstly, the euphoria and craze around this show made it a must-attend and by 7pm, it was nearing a full house. Maddoxx Sematimba did his best to impress but, fans seem to like the older Maddoxx; they did not warm up to his newer songs but the cheers grew louder the further back he took us.

Fittingly, he summed up his performance with Namagembe, the hit that made him ‘mainstream’.

I did not see it coming, but Maddox’s vintage performance upstaged the newbies; Vinka ‘talked’ her way through the songs but covered up her vocal flaws with some good dance moves. The live version of Winnie Nwagi’s Musawo was so below par you would be excused to think they were two different songs.

Clearly, pulling off a live performance remains a challenge for Ugandan musicians used to the “DJ, track two...” lipsyncing.

Fresh-faced Pasha Aroma, the winner of the month-long search for Swangz’ next star, was a bright light. She reminded me a lot about a young Jackie Chandiru.

Of course, everyone was waiting for Tarrus Riley but then Bebe Cool stole the headlines in a way that was, quite frankly, predictable under the circumstances.

Tarrus Riley on stage

Bebe Cool’s longstanding feud with the embattled Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine) is well-documented and the latter’s recent brutal arrest stoked more fires before the show.

The timing could not have been any worse for Bebe Cool. Sporadic chants of “People power! Our power” could already be heard during each interval and one of the organisers who preferred anonymity even considered cancelling Bebe Cool’s segment ahead of time, going by the charged atmosphere, but feared it could backfire and attract ‘state interest’.

So, it came as no surprise when a section of fans started hurling whatever they could lay their hands on at the stage, the moment Bebe Cool came on. Beer bottles, urine bombs…one even threw a cheap phone that crashed onto the platform.

Police stepped in to bundle Bebe Cool off the stage, much to his chagrin. Then, as though that incident was the fuel to fire up the crowd, Tarrus Riley arrived on stage amid wild applause.

Song after song the crowd sang along, step after step they moved along. He must have been surprised at how big he is in Uganda. But the moment the show was done, it was all back to ‘that incident’ forming talking points with mixed feelings.

Tarrus Riley autographs a flag 

It could be a turning point in Bebe Cool’s career; in the wake of the fracas, he released a statement saying he is cancelling all upcoming shows for his safety and that of his family.

And like that, Benon Mugumbya and his team at Swangz Avenue showed Uganda how to celebrate a 10-year anniversary.

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd