30 years of fun, greed, and lechery on stage
Kampala, Uganda | AGNES NANTABA | `Dr Bbosa’ is a very familiar name among fans of local drama series in Uganda. He was a character played by Sam Bagenda in the then popular long-running local drama series `That’s Life Mwattu’ that started in early 1990s. He was mix of fun, greed, and lechery whose escapades made him a darling of viewers.
The `Dr. Bbosa’ name stuck and Bagenda has built his prominence in Uganda’s acting and drama industry for the last 31 years on it. He says even some of his relatives and close associates still refer to him by the same name.
One of the four children of Dr. Sam Bakiranze and Margaret Bakiranze; a teacher (both deceased), Bagenda went to school in Kitante Primary School, doctor’s quarters in Mulago Village, in Kampala near where the family lived. He joined Lubiri Secondary School for O-level and Caltec Academy Makerere for advanced level. About acting, he says “the potential was there”. But first he developed an interest in music and an Anglican Church Choir.
It was here that Bagenda, together with three colleagues sought to shake the traditional Anglican Church service a bit through using dramatisation in musical performances. The priests were upset and warned them against it. Eventually they were expelled from the church ministry.
Bagenda and team formed Sunrose Choir. At the time, Bagenda was in Form Six vacation and doing cover versions of other musicians’ songs and sometimes tweaking them and embellishing them with dramatisations and different musical instruments. Even when he joined Makerere University in Kampala to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce, he carried on with the music.
“I was also part timing as a tutor as YMCA and chose to inject into the choir the little money I was earning,” he says.
With time, his group organised a performance and it so happened that some senior members of the Ebonies then; including Jimmy Katumba, Yeko Mukasa, and the main founder of the Ebonies; JW Katende Ssembajjwe, were in the audience. This would prove to be Bagenda’s turning point as the Ebonies top brass approached them with a proposal to broaden their scope and include some secular music.
Bagenda had always admired Jimmy Katumba’s performances and joining him in December 1986, was a dream come true. He joined the Ebonies as a singer.
But joining the ebonies meant choosing between his professional accounting career and drama.
“Since there were already many accountants then, I chose to go with passion which I am still doing today,” he says.
His first major performance was in January 1987 at the grand opening of the current Bat Valley theatre.
Later in 1988, Katende gave Bagenda a part in the Ebonies production of ‘Dollar’ in which he played a priest. He was a hit and there was no turning to today. His acting journey has been versatile, allowed him take on many roles but, he says, the one he enjoyed most was acting as a priest and an old man in ‘Dollar’ and `Dilemma’ series. He says it is a career that has seen him travel extensively, make friends, and prosper.
At 52-years old, he says he has no plans of either retiring or quitting the Ebonies any time soon.
“I don’t see myself retiring because drama is a thing for life,” said Bagenda, “I have started nurturing young talent so I will continue back stage with directing and once in a while go on stage because drama is just my other half.”
His only regret is that Uganda’s drama industry focus “more on quantity than quality”.
“That may not be sustainable for the industry,” he says.
Bagenda has been married to Patience Kentaro for eight years and he has eight children.