By: Chao Tolle
On behalf of his Eritrean friends, I would like to extend my best wishes and heartfelt congratulations to Dr Jose Chameleone ahead of his concert tonight – Yemane Haile, – Kampala based businessman
Jose Chameleone has perfected the art of show business. The Ugandan born entertainer, who started his musical career in neighboring Kenya, where he lived over a period of time, staged a symbolic, yet bold show which saw him raise the bar once again in the regional industry that he has dominated over the past 18 years. Dubbed, Legend: Hit After Hit – the East African Heavyweight exceeded all expectations by organizing a 3 and a half hour extravaganza which comprised of just 3 opening acts including East African Recording Artist Pallaso, East African Dynamic Duo – Radio & Weasel as well as The Afrigo Band, widely revered in Uganda.
Kampala revelers, who were in a jovial mood following the election of a youthful local MP –streamed in from as early as 7p and ensured that the show, which was being held at the expansive Lugogo Cricket Stadium was completely sold out.
“‘The experience was great – we had prepared for this for over a month, rehearsing together and supporting our brother. We come from a musical family – The Mayanja Brothers and we only did what we know best. I don’t think we’ve seen a fraction of Chameleone’s talent, which is a Gift from God. I was honored sharing a platform with him because his opening acts were merit based and it felt good to open up for him on this big stage in front of this large crowd of people” – Pallaso, King Of The East
The stage is set. After a warm up from the MC’s of the night, the first act, Pallaso blazes through with a ton of energy exciting the large crowd. In just three years since he started performing, he’s entrenched himself as a popular crowd pleaser having held his own independent shows. His set gives way to Afrigo band – who entertain and give the older fans also in attendance a chance to go down memory lane as they belt out their popular hits.
We’re proud; so proud of Chameleone, who’s weathered numerous storms and proven himself once again tonight. As a cultural Icon we wish him the best in the future. – Radio & Weasel
I’m so happy for him; it was breathtaking sharing a stage with him tonight. However, we are the Mayanja Brothers and this is what we do best and what has kept us at the top. I really didn’t expect anything less than the best for him, which is what he delivered. Weasel, Douglas Mayanja
The lights dim and like a streak of lightning in the dry savannah grasslands ahead of a storm, Radio & Weasel light up the stage and jolt the crowd as they begin their thrilling performance. There’s a solemn moment, when, they pay tribute to their youngest brother AK-47 also a fast rising musician who lost his life two years ago, but the somber mood is quickly lifted as they recharge the crowd with their popular tracks which they perform with the backing of a DJ.
I am the Chosen One
I am the Annointed One
I am the Legendary One
The Only One
There will Never be another one
Following a thrilling set of performances, we hear the unmistakably raspy voice of the Star commanding for total darkness to come over the venue. Lights are switched off and a hush descends upon the crowd in the packed stadium setting. What follows is an intro dominated by the pulsating beat of the drums accompanied by a bass guitar setting the pace for the final yet anticipated performance for the night. While the tempo increased, the crowd’s anticipation reaches fever pitch and the tension to catch a glimpse of the star’s appearance on stage can be cut through with a knife. In typical Jose Chameleone fashion – he doesn’t disappoint.
It was the presence of laser like eyes piercing through the darkness that was the earliest indicator of something different on stage. Jose Chameleone had arrived. His entrance as Iron Man played by Robert Downey Jr., was reminiscent of the moment the Marvel Universe character owned both the larger than life super hero alter ego as both Iron Man and billionaire – Tony Stark. In what can only be described as symbolic, the star appeared on stage and in one fell swoop, reclaimed his position as a Leader – in the form of his alter ego Iron Man who is not just the wealthiest but the leader of the Avengers having inspired Peter Parker who later morphed into Spiderman in the Marvel Universe. No gaudy display of wealth, unnecessary self praise, but an entrance that invited us into Jose Chameleone’s world, a complex creative process dominated by eye popping visuals, gravity defying moments and an energetic live band.
Not one to skip a beat, he quickly saluted the audience and asked to be raised over the crowd on a crane where he proceeded to survey the land like an emperor does his terrain. His energetic presence was felt meters above the ground where he proceeded to dance and jump with the audience craning their necks to ensure that their star remained safe.
After his dramatic entrance, Chameleone continued with the show where he performed hit songs enjoyed in both Uganda and the greater East and Central African region. Speaking of his homeland, remembering his musical beginnings in Nairobi where he’s hugely respected, showering praise on his Tanzanian and Zanzibari fans where he recently performed as well as acknowledging the Rwandese influence on some of his music as he played one of his hit songs, the multi faceted star demonstrated why he has remained relevant in the region, switching easily between English, Swahili, Luganda, French and Lingala during his performance.
He at one point dedicated a song sung in Lingala to the Congolese nationals who were coincidentally celebrating their National Day and who were in attendance. The set doesn’t skip a beat as the star executed various costume changes with the flair of a seasoned showman with his love and respect for the fans evident by the numerous times he stopped to thank them and at one moment confidently reminded his audience that he was both anointed and chosen by God to be a Legend in the field of entertainment.
It isn’t easy selling out a stadium show; but neither is it easy being Jose Chameleone. His set is punctuated by moments when revelers walk up to him to give him gifts on stage, and at one point – someone drapes him with an expensive gold chain. As the multi instrumentalist wrapped up his energetic set, the crowd, which had been treated to both traditional and urban dancers, an electric live band, heaved and surged like a crashing ocean wave during his performance seemed satiated. The Eritrean flag which was in a sea of Ugandan ones stood out – evident of his diverse African base.
Chameleone is very upbeat; and, as he whizzes around in his American Style Dodge sports car, en route to an after party – exudes a lot of confidence. Scores of people who recognize him at the various establishments walk up to him, paying him homage and a member of the Royal Household pulls him aside to congratulate him for staging a thrilling show. He has two more consecutive shows at different venues around Kampala over the next few days and is excited at what is to come.
Later that night, the Mayanja Brothers are huddled together, holding court, which to onlookers may not have meant much – but, the Jackson 5 come to mind. It’s a simple moment in time that doesn’t betray what’s been a dizzying and electrifying couple of hours in the life of Jose Chameleone.
My hired driver, Mzee, – told me upon dropping me back at my apartment hotel, that he had never in his 55 years set eyes on the star. It was, for him, a lifetime achievement that he was going to share with his family. A true indicator perhaps, of the down to earth persona of the larger than life star who’s managed to stay relevant for 17 years.
The LEGEND: HIT AFTER HIT concert by Jose Chameleone opening night was held at Lugogo Cricket Grounds on 30th June 2017 in Kampala.
The event was covered by both Ugandan and Regional Press