A son of a bank librarian and career secretary, and born in Lusaka in December 1975, Chali “Bravo” Mulalami had a relatively peaceful upbringing till he lost both his parents at the young age of 15. Struggling with a deep feeling of abandonment from the drastic change in life and searching for meaning, he made it his mission to live life as one great adventure, first engaging in various trade, including meat supply (which the nick name “The Butcher” is derived from), alcohol smuggling from neighboring Zimbabwe and eventually settling into real estate and property maintenance all by the age of 22.
As a natural artist Bravo was always looking for a creative outlet which he found in short stints as an abstract painter and a graphic artist but never found total completion till he decided to go into music and record an RnB/Rap album. Frustrated at failing to bring his ideas to life at local studios, he learned how to play guitar and produce, and went on to open Sling Beats studio which swiftly created a highly popular local fusion of RnB and hip hop that is now part of the very fabric of Zambian music.
Bravo is also a highly influential music publisher having released a record 32 albums (400+ songs) in 10 years with the first 20 released in the first breath taking 5 years, with a listing including acts like Ozzy, K’millian, Mampi, Roberto, TY2, Namanje, Kanji, Alice Chuma and Crystal Shaun.
Between musical expeditions to places like Atlanta USA, Uganda and Namibia, Bravo the writer and producer runs Sling Beats Media company and actively works as a TV director, video editor, event manager and sound engineer. His motto in his own words is “Dream it. Think through it. Do it!” and judging by his escapades, there ain’t nothing more to it!
Xclusive UG caught up with him for a Q and A. Here we reproduce it…
Xclusive UG: What brings you to Uganda?
Bravo: I was in Uganda 5 years ago. I finally got an opportunity to come back and interact with the industry here. I am building my network across Africa and the world.
Xclusive UG: Who have you previously worked with in Uganda?
Bravo: I worked with Radio and Weasel on the remix version of the “Potential” by Ozzy as well as Take My Heart. I also did Swag Meter for Tonix and Roberto. My work involves writing and producing.
Xclusive UG: Who do you intend to work with this time around?
Bravo: Since I got to Uganda I have worked with Naava Grey and Lillian Mbabazi. I will be happy to work with more great musicians who share the same love, passion and vision for African music.
Xclusive UG: What are your thoughts on UG music?
Bravo: It’s definitely got uniqueness. I particularly like the Jamaican influence. It’s a niche in Africa.
Xclusive UG: Thoughts on East African music?
Bravo: The local language music is beautiful. I occasionally find the stuff in English lyrically basic. That’s an African problem. The production on the other hand is pretty infectious.
Xclusive UG: Compare Ugandan music/music scene to Zambia & SA music/music scene.
Bravo: Modern Zambian music enjoyed the technical and artistic head start but Ugandan music has a more active audience so it will continue to grow faster. South Africa has been way ahead as far back as the 80s but we are all catching up in some ways.
Xclusive UG: Are their regional sounds distinct to this region on the continent?
Bravo: I think the distinction is more in the singing rather than the instrumentation. East African vocal melodies and backup vocals are unique to it.
Xclusive UG: Is there an African sound?
Bravo: Definitely, but mostly on music which features African sounds we inherited. Modern African fusions are also
Xclusive UG: Is it time for African artistes to embrace African sounds if they are to leave a mark on the global music scene?
Bravo: We need to reach out to the world with modern sounds while fusing in our own to produce something globally familiar and also unique. Let’s think global but press our identity.
Xclusive UG: How can Africa dominate the world music scene?
Bravo: Dominate is a big word. The way I see it music is a language. The instrumentation and vocal melody have to resonate globally. Clear ideas expressing a message that the world can relate to. That will get us closer to the mark.
Xclusive UG: You have been to studios/production houses in the USA. What have you learnt that has improved your work?
Bravo: Well, one can improve their writing and production skills even here working within Africa by constantly working with different people. In the USA one definitely improves in technical skills like mixing and recording after rubbing shoulders with experienced professionals in an advanced studio environment.
Xclusive UG: Equipment & sound; How can artistes and others not willing to pay the right price help studios in Africa step up?
Bravo: Good producers and sound engineers who don’t get paid their worth eventually move on to other lucrative ventures. They are replaced by younger, less experienced people. A valuable resource is wasted. Imagine the value of a 50 year old sound engineer in form of knowledge gathered over years. The music suffers in the long term.
Xclusive UG: Why is Nigerian/SA music dominating Africa after say Congolese music in the ’90s?
Bravo: Both are enjoying the right sort of media coverage across the continent. That’s key. Both have huge populations within each country to build capital to better invest into reaching the whole continent. Both also enjoy the backing of bigger more organized record labels.
Xclusive UG: Without downloads, artistes (even in USA; see recent Forbes list on richest under 30 artistes) its left to concerts & endorsements to make cash. How can the African/Ugandan artistes tap into this (or, is that what they have been doing already anyway since we never buy records in Africa).
Bravo: I think as Africans we are quick to release material before creating a viable business strategy around it. Most artistes focus on fame and scramble for shows when fame arrives. By then they still haven’t thought of earning money from digital downloads, hard CDs and endorsement. It helps to cover all the bases in advance.
Xclusive UG: How can other countries like Uganda or Zambia catch up with the ‘Nigerias’ of this world?
Bravo: Let’s make music which cuts across regions; increase our market sizes by collaborating with other African countries artistically and business wise. If we build numbers we build confidence in local and international investors who can help us move forward to meet the heavy weights on a plain field.
Xclusive UG: Ugandan artistes usually do collaborations with visiting international acts to widen their market…but usually the songs never cut it at the highest level. Why is this so? Are the songs rushed?
Bravo: I wouldn’t know for Uganda specifically. From my experience a song should be bigger than the artistes who perform it. If the best thing about a song is who features on it, it’s just a publicity tool. Big songs make big artistes. That’s less likely vice versa.
Xclusive UG: Which countries have you done work in?
Bravo: Physically just Zambia, USA, Namibia and Uganda. Remotely, I have collaborated with people from Zimbabwe and Nigeria as well.
Xclusive UG: What are your plans for the future?
Bravo: Music is my God given vehicle through life. My focus is on building my brand internationally for my own legacy. I love the experience of working with different people from different places. I also intend to continue playing my part developing African music both artistically and from the business end.