Every local artiste’s dream is to have a musical collaboration with an internationally acclaimed artiste, but for 15-year-old Jonathan Ssenabulya aka Ring Rapper Ratata, that dream came earlier than expected after he worked with Grammy award winner and USA-based Jamaican star Sean Paul.
In May last year, Ring Rapper did a cover of Sean Paul’s 2002 hit Like Glue, which he uploaded on his social media pages, tagging Sean Paul in it. It was not long before he received an email from the Jamaican dancehall star’s record label, Atlantic Records, expressing interest to work with him.
“I just did a cover of one of his old songs in a freestyle way and uploaded it; people loved and shared it widely. In just two weeks, we received an email from Atlantic Records that they would like to work with me and after further discussions, I was given the opportunity to feature on one of his upcoming songs,” Ring Rapper Ratata says.
The email read: “Dear Mr Ring Rapper Ratata, we are here to congratulate you on the Like Glue cover project. Indeed you are very talented. We have grand plans to work and support you. Please forward that video on the email below.”
Sean Paul’s manager later sent a demo of the song Ring Rapper was to feature on and some money (which Ring Rapper’s manager Ibra Buwembo declined to disclose) to help in the recording process here in Uganda.
“After, we sent back our recorded part to them for final touches and incorporation of Sean Paul’s parts,” Buwembo says.
Ring Rapper’s parts of the song were recorded from Jah Live studios by audio producer Butar Magical and the lyrics co-written by Dokta Brain. So far, a 25-second teaser of the song has been released, with Atlantic Records expected to officially release the full song soon.
In the song, which has been titled Freezer, Ring Rapper sings in English and Patois; they also fixed some Luganda words for Sean Paul in his lyrics.
“We are yet to know the official date for the release of the song, but we expect it to be soon. What I am most excited about is the shooting of the video, which is going to take place in South Africa and Jamaica and I will be travelling there to meet Sean Paul!” Ring Rapper excitedly says.
Celebrated dancer Ibra Buwembo is Ring Rapper Ratata’s manager. He says this project is a big step towards his already existing plans of promoting the young rapper outside Uganda.
“I am going to use this opportunity of having a song with an internationally-claimed artiste to tap into international music markets and make sure that Ring Rapper’s music gets to be heard and understood by audiences beyond Uganda,” Buwembo says.
MUSIC AND SCHOOL
Ring Rapper Ratata is a Senior Four student at Namungoona High School where he has been studying since his Senior One thanks to a bursary he received from the school because of his music talent.
However, music was not his first love; football was. Throughout his primary school, Ring Rapper was a young football star, a talent that initially got him a half bursary to join Namungoona High School after Primary Seven. But in senior two, everything changed.
“I got a half bursary to join Namungoona High School as a footballer, but while in senior two, I released a dance song with Ibra Buwembo called Kalambo Dance and that is when the school gave me a full bursary up to senior six,” Ring Rapper says.
Balancing books and music is a tough task; he has found himself having no choice but to master the art of juggling and being in a candidate class this year, he studies extra hours and uses holidays to catch up with studio time.
“During holidays, I give extra time to my music, especially studio, to record songs and during school time, I prioritise my studies and even study extra hours. However, if I have shows to perform during school days, I go perform and luckily most of them happen at night. But even if I get some during the day, the school allows me to go out and perform because they know I am an artiste,” Ring Rapper says.
Buwembo says even though his main role as manager is to foster the success of his artiste, right now his focus is to make sure that the young rapper takes his education seriously and performs well at school too.
Born in Kawaala but raised in Namugoona, both Kampala suburbs, Ring Rapper stays with his mother Lydia Nabukeera. The fourth-born of five children picked interest in music while in his P.5, following his elder brothers’ interest in dancehall music.
“My brothers had a crew of four where they used to sing Jamaican music and I also felt like I could do it. One day, my sister told them to take me to studio and I also try doing a song and we went. I recorded my first song Akendo and two others. We then started going to sing in nightclubs and people would be impressed by a young talented boy like me and even give me some money.”
It was in nightclubs that someone appreciated his talent, approached his brothers and told them he could connect the young rapper to someone who could push his talent to the next level, and that is how he met Ibra Buwembo, his current manager.
All this while, his mother did not question his son’s interest in music, nor was she ever against him going to nightclubs at such a tender age. Ring Rapper says she just looked on as he and his brothers chased after their passion.
“My mother has never been against me doing music. I did not even ask for permission from her to start singing or even to go to nightclubs to sing. She just left us to do our thing.”
It was during that time when the then seven-year-old Patrick Ssenyonjo aka Fresh Kid burst onto the music scene and became the talk of town. Following Fresh Kid’s emergence onto the entertainment scene, several other talented youngsters also cropped up and started getting recognized. Among these was Ring Rapper Ratata.
Though many people took it as a competition amongst these youngsters on who was the best, Ring Rapper says he has never had any competition with Fresh kid and actually they are great friends.
“I chat with him almost every day. Just because we came during the same time, people tried to pit us against each other and created unnecessary competition, but we are friends. I actually thank him a lot because it was because of him that all of us got the attention,” Ring Rapper says.
With a few songs under his belt and starting to get recognized, Ring Rapper was invited to his first-ever media interview
at a local radio station. The station was also organizing a concert at Lido beach and invited Ring Rapper to be one of the performers. He describes his first time on a big stage as nerve-wracking.
“The people were so many. I had never performed for such a huge crowd; I was used to performing for small crowds in clubs. I got on to the stage, looked at the heads of the people and felt intimidated. But I managed to pull myself together and performed my songs and also did some freestyle. Luckily the people enjoyed my performance and I got off stage happy. I now don’t get so nervous when I have to perform for huge crowds.”
While we await the release of the Sean Paul collaboration, Ring Rapper last week released another collabo with gospel sensation Levixone, with other projects also in the pipeline including one with Eddy Kenzo and a full album to be released later.