Ragga Dee won the Pearl of Africa Music Award for best Ragga artiste of the year. To give an indication of how monotonous the event is becoming, the man himself, while accepting the award, said the organisers should scrape the raga artiste of the year category, or better still rename it, the Ragga Dee Award. Now that is a thought, don’t you think?
So what makes this artiste so good that Uganda’s numerous raga stars just cannot touch him? Is it his great flow of rhythmic words? Maybe it is his stage power, no? There are very many artistes in Kampala who say they do raga but whenever someone thinks of who might take the award, the thought process takes all of one and a half seconds. No prize for guessing who might win in the next edition of the awards.
Back in school, when boys would escape from schools as far flung as Busoga College Mwiri to go to Club Silk, Ragga Dee was a hot MC in the club. He was a legend known for his raga hits and potty mouth. The boys would return to school tired and dirty but contented because they had seen their star in person.
Fast-forward ten years and Raga Dee is still on the scene. He is still carrying the same name and he is maybe bigger than he was initially, physically and as far as his star is concerned. There are those who frown when he is presented as the hottest raga artiste this side of traditional reggae because they feel he sold out. He is not spitting raga rhymes any more.
Ragga grew out of reggae. There is an unmistakable reggae beat in all real ragga tracks. That is where the point of contention lies; what kind of ragga is Ragga Dee putting out? Should we call it a special Ugandan brand? Because surely, if we were asked to bring out our best raga star, we would be lucky if this music were not pushed to another category.
Why do all Ragga Dee’s songs have a rumba beat in the background and one gets the feeling they are going to hear some Kinsasha boy belting out a bolingo when a song starts. And by the way, Ragga Dee also speaks Lingala too so the judges would probably be hard pressed to decide what music they are listening to. Leads one to ponder; shouldn’t we perhaps call him Soukous Dee, as a great, wise man called The Puzzle once said?
Maybe he is stuck in time. There was a time when Zairean artistes were all the rage in Kampala and that must have been the time the bug bit him. He started crafting his music on the Arlus Mabeles and Kanda Bongomans from Congo-side. And it worked because suddenly, Kampala was not yearning for these over dressed, heavily jeweled, singers with dark glasses and a thousand queen dancers. We had our own Soukous star and what’s more, we understood what he was singing.
But there is a saying, “Never walk away from a winning streak.” Ragga Dee found his niche and he started churning out one society conscious song after another. The more he released, the more we cheered. Today, with all the launches from the avalanche of music stars, many of whom are journeymen trying to get rich quick, Raga Dee is probably the only musician who can launch again and again without grating on the people’s nerves.
Because Kampala just loves his antics. The comedy in his songs and the experienced voice are assets that cannot be duplicated. Of late, he seems to have gone into over drive because just before we get used to the tune of one of his releases, he hits us with another one.
Somewhere along the road to stardom, Ragga Dee must have noticed that his music is not really ragga anymore. The few lines that could be classified as such in his songs are actually usually pure rap or a lame excuse for ragga. Somewhere along that road, he must have tried to change his identity but realised that it was not going to be easy.
Besides, this is the city where the fans think they own you because they came to your show. If they want to call this soukous singing rapper a ragga artiste, he will not be changed. Or hurt. As long as the fans keep the green notes dropping into his coffers. What’s in a name?