INTERVIEW: How Red Banton Left Masaka with a Single Shirt, His First Job as Security Guard

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Masaka born Lubega Tony known to many as Red Banton was at one time, about two decades ago, among the biggest names on the music scene in Uganda. Some of his popular hits include ‘Noonya Money’, ‘Pony Tail’, ‘Balogo’, ‘Kakoona’ and ‘Speed 180’.

From kids to the adults, everyone who’s now in their 20s will testify to having grooved or sang along to Red Banton’s songs as they played on rotation on the radios. Unique to him was especially his ability to craft lyrics that followed a rhyming pattern. However, many years later, many will say the singer has become a shadow of his own self. Nonetheless, he still occasionally makes stage performances on some of the biggest music events, the most recent being the 11th edition of Bayimba Festival in Lunkulu Island.

SoftPower News recently caught up with Red Banton in Namasuba, along Entebbe Road where he stays, to get a sense of what he has been up to lately.

Who is Red Banton?

(Laughs…) My real names are Lubega Tony, born and raised from Butenda now greater Masaka.

Tells us about your education journey

I don’t know but what I can tell you is that I came to Kampala in 1998 where I joined Molly and Paul. Then, I moved on to Katwe Martyrs and thereafter moved to Makindye High School before proceeding to Universal Secondary School.

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How did you get to Kampala?

I used to live with my mum and realized it was time. I looked for my dad who was at the time staying in Kampala. Life was hard in the village and being told Kampala was fun as a young boy, I forged my way and left Masaka.

How did you start your life in Kampala?

It was the hardest thing ever but I hustled through. I did all it took to earn a living and my first job was working as a night security guard (watchman) in a night parking yard at Makindye Secondary School. 

How did you end up in music?

When I wasn’t braving the cold wind, on good days when I was off, I moved to freshen up my mind in the discotheques. I became close to a boy there and before long, I was doing some deejaying work too.

My hustle and restless search for money came with the lyrics of ‘Nonya Money’ which actually took me like two years to record given my situation at the time. In that song, I tell people my story. The story of how Tony slept out in the cold because he was looking for money.

And your name Red Banton?

Like I said, I left Masaka, came to Kampala with a pair of red sandals, a short and my red school shirt which I wore all the time. I washed the shirt every night to ensure it was clean. With time, I realized that neighbors had started calling me ‘Red Boy’. Due to my strong love for Bujju Banto (Jamaican raga and reggae artiste), I just added Red to form my stage name ‘Red Banton’.

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When did you realize you were destined for stardom?

It was in the year 2000 when my song ‘Nonya Money’ won me an Award. I became a big artiste, so, I moved on to record, ‘Kawala’, ‘Pony Tail’, and the famous WBS Television Ad. This was followed by ‘Sija Kuva Kampala’.

What did music earn you?

Popularity. I was all over these big radio stations. I got a lot of friends and a plot of land for my children. Beyond that, I can not say I made any money from music. Unless it (money) is yet to come.

You are too silent what are you up to?

I am not silent at all. My circles of friends know I am present and those who know my worth keep on inviting me for small gigs. It is through such gigs that i am able to pay my children’s school fees, meet my family’s daily needs. It is little but I am happy.

Any plan for mega come back?

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I am not in a competition. Whatever you release, people tend to shun it, claiming “tolina work” (your music is not good). But I am about to release my latest song “Black Skin” produced by EnoBeats.

But to say tolina work is kind of true, don’t you think?

Get serious. There is a lot of work only that it is overshadowed by the intense competition in the industry. The music industry has given birth to too many haters and hit makers who want to shut us down by all means. However, like I told you, legends are slow but perfect in their thing.

What is that one thing in your music career that you will never forget?

I am proud to be the founder of rhymes in Uganda. No one will take a way that record.

Do you belong to any music camp?

No, I am just a good friend to the Goodlyfe crew. Before Mowzey Radio’s demise, I was always close to them because of the zeal we shared.

Final word to our readers and your fans?

God knows my ways. Making great hits is never a sure deal because time comes when they fade. Artistes need to wake up and prepare a Plan B so they don’t end up living miserable lives.

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