For a man loved and hated in equal measure in Uganda’s entertainment arena, the news of singer Bebe Cool siring a then 20-year-old son is one story that sent a bout of chills down the spine of Uganda’s entertainment buffs in the recent past.
Allan Hendrik Ssali crawled to the limelight 2 years ago instantly becoming a tabloid fodder, social media sensation and dethroning Alpha as the singer’s first child. He shares the same looks, voice, demeanour and maybe opinion as his dad and hey, he also sings although his biggest hit so far has been being "Bebe Cool’s 22-year-old son".
We caught up with him for a drift through career, life in the Bebe Cool household, his mum, step mum Zuena and more…
So, man, I hear you also sing?
Yeah, I do. I started 3 years ago in my S.4 after miming my dad’s songs for a while at Kawempe Muslim Secondary School. I started going to the studio when I joined Kitante Hill School as a day scholar. My first hit was Bunddu that went viral. Some people thought it was Bebe Cool who voiced it until they started seeing me on stage. I also did Akagambo and Blessing.
Hold up, where do those songs play?
They play on TVs and radios. You know one hard thing in this industry is promotion and I do that myself. I tried earlier to make friends with Deejays, radio and TV presenters I could see with my dad if I knew they would be helpful in future. I also move to libraries in majestic plaza personally to take my songs. Some people think that my dad does that for me and asks people to play my songs.
Yes, why all that hustle when your dad is well connected?
(Receives phone call and answers, “Mummy I am still having an interview, I will call you back shortly”). My dad said, ‘I am not going to spoon feed you, hustle on your own’. It taught me that I need to build my own contacts and that is how I have registered this small success in the industry?
But look! You are 22 years old, lived with your celebrity dad for 9 years and only known to the public for 2 years. I find that creepy?
What do you mean? People knew about me, it’s only the media that got to know about me 2 years ago. While at Kawempe Muslim Secondary School, my friends knew but the rest got to know in my S.3, third term when he came for me. People wondered whether he was my uncle or I was his adopted son. I wanted it that way because there is some student fan of Bobi Wine who really hated me after knowing I was connected to Bebe Cool and that was the time their beef with was at its peak, throwing diss songs back and forth.
That must have affected you?
Yes, so much that there is a time I spent sleepless nights with the guy abusing me until I threatened to report him to the administration.
And don’t you think you would be a bigger star now if you had lived with him from day one?
Then it was not about this music industry thing and besides I was young.
Speaking about this industry, don’t you think you are more known as Bebe Cool’s son than as an artiste?
Well, before I was recognised only as Bebe Cool’s son but as per now people are beginning to realise that I can actually sing. I have been to shows, clubs, schools and people have liked me. The first time I went to a studio, the producer refused to record my song calling me a copycat until a friend convinced him I was Bebe Cool’s son that we preceded with the session. And recently in an interview, somebody asked me why I sing like Bebe Cool, I was like do you know where I can go and get surgery?
It’s weird that I keep thinking you were going to be a secret love child forever if your stepmother Zuena did not divorce and set conditions for her comeback, which included bringing you home?
I don’t have an idea about that. I don’t even think I am the right person to answer that question. By then I was not there so I don’t know about that arrangement.
Then how did you end up joining them?
We had contact from way back; I would come live with the family during holidays. He took care of me, paid my fees and every other thing when I was living with my mother until I finished my P.7 that he brought me to stay with him permanently.
So how else where are you going to come out if the media had not made this their business? Through music?
See, no one would have accepted me as artiste unless I had music however much I am Bebe Cool’s son. You see this industry has lots of people with ill motives; most of them want to work for me to get close to my dad
Speaking about your dad, what is his relationship with your mum like? Do they ever meet or even communicate?
The only connection between them is me because for what reason would they meet? They bumped into each other once at Kawempe Muslim Secondary School on our visitation day. But if she wants to know about my education, she calls my dad and my dad also does the same.
Hold up! Did they even communicate the time they met at your school?
I actually called both of them to come visit me because I wanted the double visit, so they just bumped into each other as mum was leaving and they greeted each other.
Is it safe to say the relationship between your dad and mum is not bad?
Yes, they do communicate but only where necessary. I am the only Centre of communication because it is always about me.
Where is she by the way?
She is around, lives in Bugolobi but hates the media. There is a time she spent a week at home when the media wanted her at any cost.
Your dad is this guy who is loved and hated in an equal measure out there because of his somewhat unpopular opinions. How do you connect with him?
He is one person who takes risks and at the end of the day, people appreciate him. They love what he says but don’t want to show, they even listen to his music but can’t confess to the public. I am so proud he is my dad and we get along really well.
Don’t you think he needs to hire a PR team to run his social media accounts where he shares controversial posts laden with unpopular opinions?
One thing people should know is that he has a reason he posts those things. Sometimes he wants people to talk; I personally would want to write a post that would go viral for a whole month, so if he can do that, I don’t think he needs a team.
Do you mean you agree with his opinions?
Mind you, he is my father so I have no say over what he does; I keep my limits as a son and respect. I don’t think I am the right person who would tell him off.
Then about your step mum. In the African setting, stepmothers are taken to be evil by their stepchildren and sometimes society. How do you connect with Zuena?
He has been so nice to me, she has taught me and that is what most step parents don’t do. If she also fed me and put a roof over my head then she is good enough. We get along very well and more so my young siblings, we are so tight and that is what makes everyone happy. She always checks on me to find out where I am and if I am safe.
I presuppose you have a girlfriend?
Yes I have, we have been together for about 3 years. I think even my dad and mum must be knowing. I mean, I should be having a girlfriend.
Is she the one you have impregnated according to the story making rounds?
That is not true; I don’t even know where it is coming from. There is a friend who sent me a screen shot and did not take it seriously until some journalist called me ... that was when I wondered if it is that serious. It is just propaganda, though.
So Allan, who is the biggest artiste in Uganda?
That is definitely Bebe Cool. You must have seen what happened at the Serena Concert. Who had filled up the place like that before?
You mean even Maurice Kirya didn’t try?
Not even trying, he didn’t do anything. Look, some people were even turned away, tickets that go for shs 100.000 were at shs 200.000 that day and all tables were full so I don’t think I am wrong to say he is the best
Are you signed to Gagamel though?
I don’t think there is any artiste signed to Gagamel right now unless I just don’t know. Look at this thing of Rema that she was signed for 5 years. Is it possible to just take off like that? But I think soon there will be some signings as for me I am part of it by blood, I don’t need a contract.
What?! Okay, now that you are part of Gagamel by blood and your father has had tension boiling between him and Bobi Wine for some time now. What happens if he (Bobi) offers you an irresistible deal at firebase?
It will depend on ... but what I can tell you is, I don’t want to get into their beef. My dad told me that he wonders why Bobi had to get his family in their beef? If you are abusing someone you should have limits but not even the family that is too much. So I don’t think I can go for that deal though I am cool with Bobi Wine because I don’t even know the genesis of their beef.
But wait, is their beef legit or it’s just a marketing gimmick?
Their beef is real. That is what I can say.
Have you ever met Bobi Wine, though?
Yes, once at a petrol station, he noticed me and saluted me like ‘bless’, I saluted him back.
And now you are 4 singers in the house. You, your dad, Step mum and Beata. But do you think Zuena counts? Is she musically talented?
She actually does not sing anymore but yes, she is talented. She found better things to do, but that is just my opinion, I don’t know why she stopped.
And is Bebe Cool’s vocabulary only limited to ‘upcoming?’ Even Eddy Kenzo who won a BET award?
How would you really compare Eddy Kenzo to Bebe Cool? People just need to give respect to artistes who started the game and that are what he actually means
Any collabos with your dad?
No, how will you differentiate the voice? That is actually a question people ask a lot but maybe in future.