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A Candid Conversation with Michael Ross on Business, Music and ‘Private’ Relationships

Ugandan music has been growing from the beginning of the 21st century and someone can tell you, it can never be the same.

No matter the change, there are those names that will never go off our minds with their kind of music.

And among them is Michael Kakooza commonly known as Michael Ross.

Michael Ross Kakooza is a Ugandan Rhythm and Blues (RNB) musician and dancer, who hails from Makindye, Kampala.

Born in 1982 to Joseph and Immaculate Kasibante, Ross comes from a family of 14 siblings.

ChimpLyf’s Shamim Kawalha with Michael Ross at Cafe Amico in Garden City, Kampala during the interview

He began his musical journey as a dancer at the age of six and later ventured into singing while in Primary Five.

“We had a group of five called Boys in Rhythm; three of us were singers and two rappers,” he told me during an interview at Garden City as we sipped on coffee.

(He cleared the bill.)

The group later disbanded due to “certain reasons”, but Ross’ passion did not end there.

“I stayed alone until my Form Six vacation when I released my first single,” he recalled.

He attended Kibuuye Primary School and Makerere College School for his secondary education.

With songs like “Senorita”, “Yooyo”, “Nze Akwagala”, “Ndi Nowange”, ”Clothes off” and many others, Ross has won himself multiple awards and nominations, including the 2003 Pearl of Africa Music Awards, Buzzies Teenies Award and the Kora awards Nomination.

Michael Ross at Cafe Amico in Garden City, Kampala during the interview

Michael Ross recently met up with ChimpLyf’s Shamim Kawalha, and the talented crooner opened up about his musical career and what he has been up to. Below are the excerpts.

When was your breakthrough?

That was my third single “You’re the one”.

By that time, East African Television had integrated.

I remember travelling to Rwanda and Tanzania and everyone singing to my music. That was 2006.

How has fame affected your life since 2006?

Life changed a lot, especially in the early stages.

You know when you’re famous; some people have different expectations of you: the good and the bad.

I was recognised by many people even you can still recognize me (Laughing).

ChimpLyf’s Shamim Kawalha with Michael Ross at Cafe Amico in Garden City, Kampala during the interview

However, it takes away your privacy, there are somethings you would love to do but you can’t because of fame.

But right now, I am different.

I can do anything eat anywhere as long as I want.

How were your first days as a musician?

They were not nice, I wasn’t earning a lot by that time, and people thought I was singing for school children and dot com generation.

By that time English music was not yet embraced.

But after dropping ‘Yooyo’, people’s perception about my music changed.

They accepted me.

So did you join university after Form Six

No.

After Form Six, I decided I was going to do music.

I saw no reason in joining university yet I knew my calling, so I gave it my all and spared my parents’ money.

How did your parents react?

Ooh, they were very supportive by the way.

They used to buy different kinds of music and ask me to sing for them.

So when I told them I wanted to become a musician, they gave me a go ahead. My dad used to let me go perform in pubs at night at Casablanca.

So does that mean that you will never join University or college?

I don’t feel like joining. I am doing what I always loved and I am earning.

The reason most people go to school is to get knowledge and later earn money out of it.

I read a lot so as to get the knowledge and I am earning already.

By the why did you choose to use Michael Ross not your real Name?

I was looking for a stage name and a friend of mine decided that I use Ross flair.

I used it for a while but never lasted. I chose to use Michael Ross which I thought I liked more.

How has been your musical journey?

It has been a good one and I am proud of the person and the work I produce. I am really proud.

And what happened later, you suddenly went silent?

The problem with Ugandans is that when an artist goes silent, they presume “Yagwamu” (He can no longer produce music anymore).

They even stop thinking about them; they keep putting them on pressure to make new things new things.

This same pressure has killed most of your talents. But as for me, I am still producing music.

I want to package my songs so that by the time of production, it should be as good as me.

However, I just released a song with Weasel and I am soon releasing another one that will be a shocker to everyone. No one will be expecting this.

Who is your inspiration?

Micheal Jackson, Usher Raymond and Robert Kelly. Those people have one thing in common; they can all dance and sing.

Why did you stay in Rwanda for song long, had you married there?

No I hadn’t married, I just love staying in Rwanda because just like Uganda, it’s beautiful and they have good people who love and welcome me.

Many musicians are joining politics; do you have any intentions too?

No no! This is what I believe, I believe that not every politician is bad but at one point they get corrupt.

It’s all about being a voice for the people; it’s a lot of responsibility which I think I cannot handle.

I don’t want to be that politician that gets corrupted on the way and forget about my job.

I would rather not try at all.

Those aside, are you in a relationship?

(Shying away) please don’t ask me that question. I believe private life should be private, I wish people could understand. I know I am doing well on that side.

Do you ever listen to your music?

No, I hardly do. I listen to other people’s music so that I know what they do and learn from them. Unless when I am performing, that’s when I listen or when it’s played in a club.

So who are those musicians you listen to?

Radio and weasel. Ooh … I am a big fan of their music (He sings their latest song, Leesu, after saying that.)

I also listen to Maurice Kirya, Fille … ooh … do you know her latest song called “Kizunguzungu”? It’s a master piece too.

Talk about Ykee Benda, he knows how to drop those jaw breaking songs.

Why do you think most musicians turn drugs or use them?

It all comes down to self-esteem and confidence. The lower those two get, the higher the chances of you using the drugs.

The pressure these fans put on us is too much, and when one cannot contain, they run to drugs and waste their life.

And once you start drugs they give you temporarily escape and make you yearn for more.

I am grateful I don’t use any.

Apart from music, how else do you earn your money?

I am into farming and poultry. I just started recently like one year ago.

I haven’t really earned a lot but I am sure I will reap so soon because I have invested a lot.

How do you keep your body in shape?

I understood the kind of body I have and learnt how to maintain it. I cannot go a week without going to the gym it’s become a routine now, it’s a lifestyle.

I don’t do it because I want to look bigger, but because I enjoy doing it.

So where did you get the love for tattoos?

It started way by and I have four tattoos now.

I always loved them and on my visit to USA, I decided to have my first tattoo. I recently acquired one on my chest, would you like to see it?

Any words to your fans?

Watch out for the space, I am creating new and better music. No one should tell you that I am not around; I have always been here and will forever be here.

I can’t thank you enough for the love you show me. It’s amazing.

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