meta-scriptHow Afrobeats Star Bobi Wine Took On Uganda’s Dictatorship |
A close-up photo of Bobi Wine shows his fist raised among a crowd during an exchange with Uganda People's Defence Forces and Local Defence Unit after they stopped his procession as he headed for his campaigns on Nov. 30, 2020.
Bobi Wine during an exchange with Uganda People's Defence Forces and Local Defence Unit after they stopped his procession as he headed for his campaigns on Nov. 30, 2020.

Photo: Lookman Kampala


How Afrobeats Star Bobi Wine Took On Uganda’s Dictatorship

"Artists are the new advocates of society," says the artist, who is the subject of the Oscar-nominated documentary 'Boby Wine: The People's President.' "This platform that we have is a very powerful platform that can change the world."

GRAMMYs/Mar 6, 2024 - 02:36 pm

Bobi Wine has been shot at, tortured, beaten, and bombed in his quest to unseat Uganda’s dictatorial president Yoweri Museveni. But before he became the leader of the opposition in the East African nation of over 47 million people, he was the country’s biggest musical icon. 

Born and raised in the Kamwokya slum in the capital city of Kampala, Robert Kyagulani began making music under the name Bobi Wine in the 1990s, rising to fame for charismatic lyricism and a style that incorporated influences from Afrobeats and dancehall. After an encounter with an unscrupulous policeman opened his eyes to Uganda’s corruption, he decided to shift his music’s focus. 

“I decided to change my music from entertainment to edutainment. I started speaking for the ghetto people,” Kyagulani tells 

In the 2010s, Kyagulani took things even further by entering politics, winning a seat in Uganda’s national parliament and opposing the efforts of authoritarian president and former general Museveni. After the president successfully removed constitutional age restrictions to set himself up as president for life, Kyagulani decided to leverage his stardom and run for president to unseat Uganda's dictatorial leader and prevent him from winning an illegitimate sixth term. 

Nominated for Best Documentary at the 2024 Oscars, Bobi Wine: The People’s President shows Bobi and his National Unity Platform struggle against an increasingly violent backlash from the regime in the leadup to the 2021 election. The documentary was directed by Moses Bwayo and Christopher Sharp.

2024 Oscars: Watch Performances & Highlights

Even before deciding to run, Kyagulani had been arrested and tortured by the regime. But things would get even worse as the campaign went on. Staffers were abducted by the military and police, which used COVID restrictions as a pretext to clamp down on dissent. Kyagulani sent his children out of the country for their safety. In one scene, he’s dragged from his car while giving an interview to international journalists; in another he and his staff barely survive a grenade explosion. 

After all this, it’s a miracle Wine is still alive. In the three years since the election, in which Musuveni declared victory after taking down the country’s internet, Kyagulani says the film has been “a lifeline,” and that the international attention it’s received has held back the regime. Speaking to from Los Angeles ahead of the Oscars, Kyagulani says he’s adamant about what he’ll do when the regime eventually falls. 

“When I become president – because I know someday I will – the first thing I will do in the first 100 days is to make sure I don't stay president.” 

This interview has been edited for brevity. 

When you began to use music to address the political situation in Uganda, who did you take influence from? Who, as in artists, musicians, political thinkers, who did you want to channel to send your message out to the people in Uganda?

It was not only musicians, it was also people in sports like Muhammad Ali, and activists. But most importantly musicians like Bob Marley and even Tupac. They had an influence on the people. They had the ears of the people. While politicians struggled to speak to people and get people to act, the musicians would actually get people to act. 

African music has become especially popular in America recently because of the Afrobeats movement and figures like Burna Boy and WizKid. How do you feel that your music fits into that larger movement, especially coming from East Africa, which is a totally different side of the continent?

I'm very, very glad that African music is finally getting the attention of America and the West, the most important population, the one that makes decisions that can save and destroy us. So I only wish that the African artists of today use the opportunity and the attention they have to speak out for the people of Africa, so that we don't only become known as entertainers. 

Can you talk about the ways that you have used music as a tool for political action? You've used it to attack corruption in Uganda and gain supporters, but you've also used it to spread awareness of COVID-19, as you did in the documentary. How does that fit in with your evolution from an entertainer to a politician?

Before, I was singing about cars and money. For a long time I was a young man like any other. But something happened to me, I got into a situation where I was bullied and harassed and humiliated just because I had a nice car. And this was being done to me by a security officer. So when this happened to me, I remembered how I had watched it happen to other people while I was not speaking out. 

Since then, I decided to change my music from entertainment to edutainment. I started speaking for the ghetto people. I realized that my music is not only for entertainment — in any case, I was very successful. I had made a lot of money and changed my own life. But I thought there should be a bigger meaning to my music, there should be a bigger cause to my music. There should be bigger benefits, not only financial benefits to me, but also transformational benefits to the ghetto back home where I come from. 

I wanted to inspire others and show them that this microphone that we have, this platform that we have, is a very powerful platform that can change the world if politicians have not represented the common people. 

The artist doesn't have to get a degree to speak for people. They don't have to be members of Parliament to speak for people. You will find one artist can have a bigger following than a president or a minister. So I thought we could use that platform to speak for our people, to speak about corruption, to speak about behavioral change and transformation, but most importantly about freedom — especially in Uganda, where the president has been in power for almost 40 years, and he does that through arresting political opponents, killing activists, and jailing opponents. Nothing could speak for them more than the music.

I do want to ask you a little bit about the sound that you have pursued because it contains elements of Afrobeats and hip-hop, as well as dancehall, reggae, and calypso. Where do you take the deepest influences from? 

I would say Afrobeat, because Afrobeat just means a beat from Africa. But even Afrobeat differs between West Africa, East Africa, to North Africa which has more of an Arab influence. So my music is more of a fused Afropop, but I also get a heavy influence from Jamaican music, from reggae and dancehall, especially the dancehall of the ‘90s, which is when I started singing. So it's a fusion, it’s where Africa meets the Caribbean. 

Uganda is a very big country, it's a place of many different groups, ethnicities, and languages. How do you think music plays a part in crossing those divides and uniting people, especially for a political cause like you've pursued?

Music is very powerful, especially in our generation (Bobi is 42 years old), where it is hard to limit it. The media takes music across borders. There's always been music like mine that speaks for the people, music like the great Fela Kuti from Nigeria, Philly Lutaaya from Uganda, and many others. But now that we have new technology such as social media, musicians have played a great role. 

During the #EndSARS protests in Nigeria to end police brutality, when the artists came out the government listened to the people and sanity was restored. So music continues to play a big role in Uganda alone. Now, the artists are the new advocates of society, and it’s good that they are usually grounded, and people are more represented through the music. But I must also say that many artists, after discovering the power of music and how much it can influence society, have unfortunately decided to exchange it for money. 

Since the dictators recognize how powerful music is, now a huge amount of Ugandan taxpayer money is going to a group of artists whose job is to sing against the freedom of the people of Uganda, to campaign against any kind of change, and make sure that they paint a rosy picture for the region. 

There were a lot of very difficult moments captured throughout the film. What was it like to have cameras following you when you were in dramatic or difficult situations with your family, for instance?

Well, of course, we did not give complete access to the cameras, but with time, we completely forgot the cameras existed. These people, the cameramen that followed us across the world,  they became friends. And later, they became comrades in the struggle. When we were beaten (by the police), they were not scared. They were beaten, they were jailed, they were tortured. One of them, Moses Bwayo, was shot in the face. And right now he cannot live in Uganda, he’s seeking political asylum in America. So it was equally hard for them. 

They realized that they are not only filming a politician, or a person pursuing a certain goal. They're filming the revolution happening right in front of their faces. Sometimes we kept teasing ourselves, saying that the revolution will be televised, because there was always a camera around. But we completely forgot about the cameras, everybody was just in the moment.

A lot has happened since the end of the documentary, which ends as the 2021 election is wrapping up. Can you summarize what happened after? 

After the election, the cameras went away, but the action continued. It became even more vicious. At the time, the camera was our only security. We probably all would have been killed, but whenever [the police and army] saw a camera, they tended to restrain themselves, especially because most of the footage ended up on social media. 

After the election, the cameras went down, the international attention shifted somewhere else, somewhere more important and active. But the aggression back in Uganda continued. Abductions continued. Many of my friends are missing — three of them were abducted only three days ago. There are those that were abducted three, four weeks ago and they’re still missing. Hundreds of families are reporting their loved ones abducted for having supported me in the election. 

The crackdown continues because the regime has never seen such an immense uprising of young people. They’re trying to avoid it. They’re trying to nip it in the bud. So the murders continue. 

I’m glad that now, through this film, we’ve had the attention of the world. That helps us. For example, I was always getting put under illegal house arrest. Whenever I go back home, often I’m pulled off the plane, put under military detention or house arrest. In fact, on the day this film was announced as an Oscar nominee, I was under house arrest. Me and my wife and children had just escaped out of my house and we were hiding from the military when the announcement came out, the government saw in the international media that the film might be nominated. Three hours later, the military withdrew from my house and they let me free. So this film for us is a lifeline. 

Bobi Wine is pictured in a recording studio

*Bobi in the studio | Southern Films*

Do you have any plans to attend the Oscars? Have you been invited? 

Yes, I’m already preparing my nice African suit! I’ll be there with my wife; I hope the government of Uganda does not block me from attending. 

You’re in Los Angeles now, you could feasibly stay there until the Oscars. 

Yeah, but I don’t want to live in fear! It’s my right to enter and leave [Uganda] any time I want.

Do you think in hindsight, there was any chance of winning the election in 2021? Or do you think that the crackdown from Museveli would have come no matter what? 

We won the election, even though he took down the entire internet. Do I think there was a chance for General Museveli to respect the voice of the people and hand over power peacefully? There would have been a chance, only if the international community stood with the people of Uganda, only if the UN stood with the people of Uganda, if all the world democracies say we are not going to respect a country that disrespects democracy. But unfortunately, that has not been the case for a long time. 

And I hope this film also touches the morality of Western leaders, and tells them to stand by the values that they profess. That would earn us democracy. And democracy should be supported everywhere, not only in Africa. You don't take democracy for granted because you can very easily lose it. 

Obviously, the main goal of the 2021 campaign was to remove Museveni from office. But did you think at all about what you would do as president? What policies would you have pursued, and what would you try to do for the people of Uganda?

Definitely, yes the main agenda was to remove General Museveni, because it is the only roadblock to the new Uganda, the free Uganda. When I become president — because I know someday I will — the first thing I will do in the first 100 days is to make sure I don't stay president. We want to reduce the power of the president to damage the country, and we’ll put that power in institutions, re-empower the Parliament and the judiciary so that they’re not in the pockets of one person.

And of course, we will try to attack corruption, because corruption is the biggest problem, and re-divert our resources to schools and health care. In Uganda, we lose 200 children and 20 women giving birth every day, according to statistics from the Ministry of Health. Three hundred children are projected to die every day under the age of five in Uganda. The healthcare system is [so] terrible that the ministers and the political elite get their medical attention in America, in Europe. No politicians in Uganda or political elites get their medical attention from Uganda because the hospitals are messed up. So we want to fix the hospitals, and also fix the schools and fix the roads. [We want to] make sure we have the rule of law and respect human rights, make it not a crime to disagree with that. And the rest will come. 

We have a manifesto that explains this entire program, talking about what I think a new Uganda would look like. But in brief, I can tell you, it will be the coolest country in the world, with the coolest president, who respects young people, who respects innovation, who presents his country not as a failed state but as a model for Africa. We would love [to be] a country that relates very well with the international community. Imagine a president of a country coming to Hollywood to give a performance. That is what Africa will be known for, not for child labor, not for [poor] maternal health, not for corruption, not for wars. No, we want to have Uganda as a model for [the continent]. 

Ugandans  are very smart, but many of us have had to run away from Uganda out of fear for their lives or their employees. I want to bring back all those people and have them build our country. We will have better trust in the world. We have big resources, we have gold, we have oil. We have the youngest population in the world! Man, you would see a transformed country! You would see Wakanda! For me, my main goal is to build a Wakanda, in Uganda.

2024 GRAMMYs: Tyla Wins First-Ever GRAMMY Award For Best African Music Performance

Ludwig Goransson holds his Oscar award for Best Original Score for Oppenheimer.
Ludwig Göransson holds his Oscar award for Best Original Score for Oppenheimer at the 2024 Oscars in Hollywood, CA.

 Photo: John Shearer/ WireImage/ Getty Images


2024 Oscars: Ludwig Goransson's Masterful Composition for 'Oppenheimer' Wins Best Original Score

The 'Oppenheimer' win by one of the youngest composers to ever receive the award for Best Original Score, marks a second Oscar victory for Ludwig Goransson.

GRAMMYs/Mar 11, 2024 - 03:52 am

Ludwig Göransson's captivating composition for Oppenheimer has triumphed in the Best Original Score category at the 2024 Oscars.

Göransson's victory represents his exceptional talent and innovative approach to film scoring, as one of the youngest composers to ever receive the Best Original Score Oscar. It marks his second win in the category — he took home his first Oscar in 2019 for Black Panther. Göransson's work on Oppenheimer also won at the 2024 GRAMMYs for Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media (Includes Film And Television).

Göransson's work stood out among the competition, going up against the scores of American Fiction, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Killers of the Flower Moon, and Poor Things. His ability to convey deep emotional narratives and complex historical contexts through his scores has established him as one of the most innovative and sought-after composers in Hollywood.

2024 Oscars: Watch Performances & Highlights

Göransson's composition for Oppenheimer serves as the heartbeat of the movie, underpinning the film's exploration of the moral complexities and monumental impact of J. Robert Oppenheimer's work on the atomic bomb. Through his music, Göransson invites audiences into the internal and external conflicts faced by the "father of the atomic bomb," providing a sonic backdrop that is as thought-provoking as it is visceral.

Read more: Watch: Ludwig Göransson Discusses His GRAMMY Win For 'Oppenheimer' At The 2024 GRAMMYs 

The award was presented by fellow GRAMMY winners, Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo, who will star together in the Wizard of Oz big screen adaptation of the musical Wicked as Glinda and Elphaba respectively, premiering on the silver screen later this year. Speaking to the power of music to leave an indelible mark on the viewer through film, Grande said, "a great film score can leave a handprint on our hearts forever. It can ignite wonder and astonishment, make us feel sadness and longing and even transport us to new worlds." 

Göransson achieved just that. In his acceptance speech, Göransson thanked his colleagues,  and stars of the film for contributions to his distinctive vision. "Christopher Nolan, it was your idea to use a violin in the score and it allowed me to work and collaborate with my wonderful wife and acclaimed violinist, Serena Göransson," he said.

Göransson ended his speech by acknowledging his parents, "Thank you for giving me guitars and drum machines and not buying me video games." 

2024 Oscars: Billie Eilish And FINNEAS Perform A Heartrending Version Of "What Was I Made For?" From The 'Barbie' Soundtrack

Billie Eilish and FINNEAS
Finneas O'Connell and Billie Eilish show off their Oscar awards for Best Original Song for 'What Was I Made For?' from 'Barbie'' at the 96th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Photo: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images


2024 Oscars: Billie Eilish and FINNEAS Win Best Original Song For "What Was I Made For?" From The Motion Picture 'Barbie'

The duo's win for "What Was I Made For?" [From The Motion Picture 'Barbie'] marks the second Oscar win for Billie Eilish and FINNEAS, making Eilish the youngest two-time Oscar winner ever.

GRAMMYs/Mar 11, 2024 - 02:23 am

Sibling duo Billie Eilish and FINNEAS are taking home more awards "What Was I Made For" [From The Motion Picture *Barbie*], this time at the 2024 Oscars, winning the prestigious Best Original Song award for their heartfelt ballad.

Once again, they've proven their unparalleled talent crosses effortlessly between the realms of music and film. Billie Eilish and Finneas won their first Oscar in 2022 for Best Original Song with "No Time to Die," the theme for the James Bond film of the same name.

Fittingly, the award was presented by two GRAMMY-winning musical performers, Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo, who star as Glinda and Elphaba in the Wizard of Oz big screen adaptation of the musical Wicked, premiering on the silver screen later this year. 

2024 Oscars: Watch Performances & Highlights

Eilish, who admitted to having a nightmare the night before receiving the award, burst into laughs before thanking the Academy and Barbie director Greta Gerwig, "Thank you to Greta, where did you go? I love you. Thank you for this. I'm so grateful for this song and this movie and the way that it made me feel."

The pair contended for the award against a diverse group of nominees: Diane Warren with "The Fire Inside" from "Flamin' Hot," Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt for "I'm Just Ken" also from Barbie, Jon Batiste and Dan Wilson with "It Never Went Away" from American Symphony, and Scott George for "Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People)" from Killers of the Flower Moon.

Ahead of the win, Eilish and O'Connell gave a stirring paired back performance that highlighted their power as a pair.

Read more: 2024 Oscars: Billie Eilish And FINNEAS Perform A Heartrending Version Of "What Was I Made For?" From The 'Barbie' Soundtrack

"What Was I Made For?" captivated audiences and critics alike with its poignant lyrics and emotive composition, underscoring the siblings' ability to tap into universal feelings of identity and purpose.

This Oscar win is a significant milestone for both artists, reinforcing their status as multifaceted talents capable of storytelling that resonates across different mediums. At the 2024 GRAMMYs, they had already made waves with the same song, winning Song Of The Year and Best Song Written For Visual Media.

Eilish and Finneas's journey from the music studios to the glitz of the Oscar stage is a testament to their hard work, creativity, and the deep connection they share as siblings. Their ability to collaborate and push the boundaries of music, now recognized by both the Recording Academy and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, sets a high bar for artists striving to make their mark across multiple industries.

Eilish and FINNEAS are not just a powerful duo in music but also formidable talents in film music composition. Their Oscar victory tonight is not just a win for them but a win for the incredible synergy between music and storytelling in cinema.

2024 Oscars: Watch Ryan Gosling And Mark Ronson Perform A Soaring, Hilarious Version Of "I'm Just Ken" From The 'Barbie' Soundtrack

Ryan Gosling - 2024 Oscars
Ryan Gosling performs 'I'm Just Ken' from "Barbie" onstage during the 2024 Oscars

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images


2024 Oscars: Watch Ryan Gosling And Mark Ronson Perform A Soaring, Hilarious Version Of "I'm Just Ken" From The Motion Picture 'Barbie'

At the 2024 Oscars, Ryan Gosling and Mark Ronson performed an unforgettable version of "What Was I Made For?" [From The Motion Picture Barbie], which is up for Best Original Song at the ceremony.

GRAMMYs/Mar 11, 2024 - 01:53 am

At the 2024 Oscars, Ryan Gosling and Mark Ronson performed a jubilant version of "I'm Just Ken" [From The Motion Picture *Barbie*], which is up for Best Original Song at the ceremony.

With an effervescent backing of black-suited dancers, Gosling leaned into the universal male yearning of the instant Barbie classic. And the arena rock magnitude was helped along by two guitar shredders who rightly dominate that world: Slash and Wolfgang Van Halen.

As Gosling put it at CinemaCon in 2023, Gosling initially doubted his Kenergy.

"It was like I was living my life and then one day I was bleaching my hair, shaving my legs, wearing bespoke neon outfits, and rollerblading down Venice Beach," he said.

"It came on like a light scarlet fever and then I woke up one day and was like, 'Why is there fake tanner in my sheets? What just happened?'"

2024 Oscars: Watch Performances & Highlights

Billie Eilish and FINNEAS won the Oscar for Original Song for "What Was I Made For?" [From The Motion Picture Barbie] at the 2024 Academy Awards.

Keep checking this space for more updates on the 2024 Oscars — including GRAMMY winners and nominees who are featured during the big night!

2024 GRAMMYs: Billie Eilish Wins GRAMMY For Song Of The Year For "What Was I Made For?" From The 'Barbie' Soundtrack

Becky G - 2024 Oscars
Becky G performs 'The Fire Inside' from "Flamin' Hot" onstage during the 2024 Oscars

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images


2024 Oscars: Watch Becky G Perform "The Fire Inside" From The 2023 Comedy-Drama ‘Flamin’ Hot’

At the 2024 Academy Awards, rapper/singer Becky G performed a combustible version of "The Fire Inside" from the 2023 comedy drama "Flamin’ Hot,’ directed by Eva Longoria.

GRAMMYs/Mar 11, 2024 - 01:32 am

At the 2024 Oscars on March 10, rapping and singing firebrand Becky G performed a blazing version of "The Fire Inside," from the 2023 comedy drama "Flamin’ Hot,’ the directorial debut of Eva Longoria. The song was written by GRAMMY winner and 15-time nominee Diane Warren. (A clip of the song will be added to this article shortly.)

At the ceremony, G didn’t disappoint, turning in a scorching rendition of the song, with apt digital flames billowing behind her and her accompanists.

“Nothing can hold you back/ No one can kill your vibe/ When you got the fire inside,“ G sang with authority and aplomb. “And oh, you're gonna own this life/ Cause you got the fire inside/ 'Cause you got the fire, you got the fire.“

At song’s end, Warren hollered her approval. What it must have been like to see your creation transpire on the 2024 Oscars stage, whether for the first time or after many.

2024 Oscars: Watch Performances & Highlights

Billie Eilish and FINNEAS won the Oscar for Original Song for "What Was I Made For?" [From The Motion Picture *Barbie*] at the 2024 Academy Awards.

Keep checking this space for more updates on the 2024 Oscars — including GRAMMY winners and nominees who are featured during the big night!

Becky G's 'Esquemas' Is A Celebration Of Biculturalism And The Woman She Is Today: "I'm Actually Living Life For The First Time"