In October 2019, when he was hosted on NTV’s mid-morning show, Mwasuze Mutya, Douglas Mayanja alias Weasel told the host how he first met Moses Ssekibogo alias Mowzey Radio. “One day I woke up and found my car washed spotless clean.” This act left Weasel astounded, “I wanted to know who had done this.” Previously, no one had done such a thing for him never mind their home being always full of people.
At the time Weasel stayed with his brother Jose Chameleone. Upon asking, he was informed, it was the new guy who only showed up and left. The new guy had just been introduced to Chameleone by then Leone Island’s Chagga. Chagga, himself a musician, had found this new guy at a barber shop in Ndeeba, on the outskirts of Kampala.
There he went about cutting his client’s hair as he serenaded them with R&B songs that had dominated the 90s and the early 2000s. He sang with passion R. Kelly’s songs as he did the Boyz to Men’s.
Then, a happy client, Chagga, wondered whether this young man, a barber, would like to explore the world of music beyond A cappellas for his barbershop clientele. Chagga would offer to introduce this young man to the Leone Island boss, Jose Chameleone, then one of the biggest stars on the Ugandan music scene.
Chameleone had recently released the Mama Mia music album and the cover image was of him raising a rod donning a Maasai shuka. The young man, eager to meet his Ugandan idol, showed up at the singer’s home a few days later with a portrait of him. On receiving the portrait, Chameleone asked, “Who drew this?” as he walked out to see the artist. The artist’s name was Moses Nakintije Ssekibogo. He was soon to be known as Mowzey Radio, a moniker that would endear him to the rest of the world for a decade and more of music.
This was in 2004.
A star is born
However, 19 years prior a handsome boy had been born. The story of his childhood weaved between Bukaya in Jinja, and Kibuye and Ndeeba in Kampala, he would go on to attain an education at Alliance nursery school, Malongwe primary school, Kibuye Public Primary School, Lakeview S.S for “O” Level and later Kiira College Butiki where he completed his “A” level education. He then joined Makerere University to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology in 2004.
Radio, now a freshman at the university, soon joined his mother, Jane Kasubo, who had moved to Ndeeba, a Kampala suburb. He would start part-time work at a barber shop owned by his brother, Frank Ssekandi. Radio’s skills as a barber would be honed here.
It was during his stay at the barber shop that he practiced his two passions—singing and drawing. It was at the same place that a repeat client, Geoffrey Kyagambidwa alias Chagga, identified him before introducing him to Jose Chameleone.
Chameleone received Mowzey Radio as an artist. However, for him to be welcomed into Leone Island as a musician, he had to prove himself—an opportunity he latched at with both hands through his first song, Jennifer, that soon landed him a slot as Chameleon’s backup singer and consequently a member of his Leone Island band. Chameleone’s younger sibling Douglas Mayanja alias Weasel was a member of this same band.
As the rookie in the band Radio did more than sing. He often ran errands for Chameleone and other members of the band, which may explain the car washing story by Weasel, soon to be Radio’s singing partner and one-half of the duo Radio & Weasel. “I was very impressed by his deed. He didn’t have to do it but he did it. From that day on, I asked him to always move with me. That’s how we built a bond,” revealed Weasel.
The two became very close and inseparable that soon they began breaking rules together. A misunderstanding with their boss, Chameleone, saw them kicked out of his house, a move that consequently resulted into the formation of the GoodLife Crew.
At the time, in 2008, Radio had finished his BA degree at Makerere. Together with Weasel, they met Aziz Azion who introduced them to Omulangira Ssuuna, owner of a recording studio in their neighbourhood of Nyanama, a Kampala suburb. There, they would record Nakudata, a song that turned their lives around, down side up. They were noticed and soon they became the talk of town. That very year, they released other songs such as Zuena and Lwaki Onumya which went on to win the PAM Awards in the different categories they had been nominated. The duo also carried home the award of the best upcoming artiste for that year.
Henceforth, they were to release various hits that played on radio stations across Kampala, earning them the moniker “dynamic duo” by the Capital FM’s Alex Ndawula. This dynamic duo had something unique about it. They enjoyed a relationship that went beyond the boundaries of work and sometimes, the media referred to them as twins. “We did everything together. We stayed in the same house even after we could afford staying apart. When we went out to buy something, we bought it in pairs from cars to clothes. Whatever I owned, Radio too owned,” recalls a sorrowful Weasel.
This bond also informed their creative process. For people who never sat down to write their songs, Radio and Weasel’s creativity was always a spark. Once they entered a recording studio, standing before a microphone, words, like a river, flowed. And out of that one session, another music hit would be made. Between them more than 100 songs were recorded, about 40 of which were videos. This number does not include the projects they collaborated with other musicians.
The GoodLife crew rocked Uganda airwaves for a decade—2008 to 2018—without a break. In that time the duo became regular fodder for the media, especially the gossip columns, for their fights with more established artistes like Bebe Cool and Chameleone; equally the won the hearts of many urbanites to whom the lyrics of songs like Bread and Butter struck a familiar, be it urban, cord.
The duo’s music gave meaning to the simple daily living. It redefined everyday words, making musical imagery out of the very ordinary. This would open doors for the two artistes to work with global brands like the Warner Brothers, Sony Music, Coca-Cola among others.
Away from his music, Radio loved conversations. He had a way with humour and sarcasm. Those who knew him in his childhood say he was very quiet. There was not a lot known about him. However, what he lacked in speech, he made up for in song. Stephen Walakira, a childhood friend and schoolmate, says their nursery school teacher once told him (Radio) that he would make a good musician.
Looking back at the decade that was and the two years without him, time can only bring about healing. Healing to those that lived and worked with Mowzey Radio as well as his fan base. “I have had to learn to live alone. I had to take a break from my music,” says an aggrieved Weasel in the NTV interview.
Death hits us differently, some easily get up and move on while to others, healing takes some time. One sure thing that forever will remain is the music that Radio lovingly sung and shared with us. In that way his legacy lives on.