Their big break: The music industry has hundreds of musicians, so you will understand why it is hard for some artistes to break through. Hitting studio and making a great video may be a walk in the park but releasing that one song that will take you from curtain-raising to staging your own concerts is every upcoming artiste’s dream. Isaac Ssejjombwe looks at the songs that gave some of our trending artistes their big break.
AYOKYA YOKYA – CINDY SANYU
When Cindy was fired from Blu 3*, the world seemed like it had ended for her because the girl group was everything in her career. After a few weeks, she released a track called Nawewe, which did well but it was an RnB track, and you know Ugandans and ‘undanceable’ music. Then she did Number One alongside Mickie Wine and Mbikoye, but towards the end of 2008, Cindy release Ayokyayokya, and radio stations, clubs and car radios couldn’t get enough of it. No wonder, she scooped the female artiste of the year in the DIVA Awards. Cindy, however, attributes the success of the song to the producer, lyrics and genre. “I think the song was a hit because of Washington’s magic, my melody and provocative lyrics and the new style of blending dancehall and kidandali.”
She also says the song is still popular, especially outside East Africa and the Diaspora and it was because of Ayokyayokya that she managed to get her first solo European tour, bought her first car and moved to a good apartment. (The things a hit song can do!).
Cindy says after Ayokyayokya, people started demanding for more hits. “When you give people something good, they cannot get enough so they wanted more. It was harder because I write my own music and you can never replicate yourself. I just thank God my next release, One and Only, worked.” Today, Cindy is UG music’s ‘baddest gyal’ and she will pull crowds at any show.
TETUBATYA – A PASS
Alexander Bagonza, better known by his stage name A Pass started his career with a song titled Love Infection, which was something different on the Ugandan scene from a new artiste, but like many, A Pass also affirms that Tetubatya was that song that blew things out of proportion for him in 2013. Despite the fact that it was released on the same day as I’m Loving, Tetubatya stood out more. The artiste says he never got any pressure after the song became a hit because he knows when a song is nice. “I never got any pressure because that is not the main reason I do music. My goal is to release good songs that are embraced by the public and I am glad I’m doing that,” he says. As opposed to many artistes here, A Pass writes his own songs. The singer, however, doesn’t think Tetubatya is his best song so far, because “I have many hits” such as Memories, Wuuyo, and Gamululu rmx featuring Konshens and more coming out.
MULIRWANA – KING SAHA
Some time, it was reported that King Saha was part of Leone Island, then joined Goodlyf at some point before going solo. All this was just a rumour according to the artiste. King Saha, made a mark on the entertainment scene after releasing Pretty, which many mistook to be Moze Radio’s song because of the resemblance in the vocals. Saha continued to be identified as a replica to the Goodlyf artiste but he didn’t mind as he continued to co-exist with the new artistes who wanted to make a mark. Then came Mulirwana in 2014, with an interesting video too. The song got people talking and when he organised a concert dubbed Mulirwana at Theatre LaBonita, it sold out. The next year, he was forced to change venue to Freedom City, and the show for Gundeze, this time was success too. Besides concerts, the song got him nominations in the Hipipo, Zzina, Uganda Entertainment Awards and others. Some of his other songs include Science alongside Winnie Nwagi, Bantu Baffe with Ziza Bafana, Kyatule, Mwana Gwe and Suzaana, among others. King Saha has proved that he is more than a replica of another artiste.
ICE CREAM – SHEEBAH
During the time when she was in Obsessions, Sheebah was more of a dancer than a musician and when the group disbanded, people felt pity for her, not that she couldn’t sing but there was that ‘dancer stereotype’ around her and the media was not making it any easier by reporting that she was just ‘another singing wannabe’ bound to flop. At that time, she had just closed her three-year music, dance and drama chapter with Obsessions Group, thus venturing into a solo music career which was always going to be a hard ride for her and in 2012, She teamed up with Sizzaman on Automatic, which received positive reviews from the media while fans loved it because it had had simple, short and catchy lyrics. Being a gifted song writer and following the success their track Automatic, Sizzaman went ahead and penned Ice Cream. Produced by Nash Wonder, Ice Cream would become Sheebah’s massive breakthrough song and one of the biggest songs of 2013. The song rocked the airwaves, got several nominations and saw Sheebah perform at every major concert that year. This changed not only her music career but also helped her discover herself. It is also believed that this song was what prompted Jeff Kiwa to sign her to Team No Sleep where she has continued to out hit after hit; Jordan, Twesana, Go Down Low, Nkwatako, among others. Today, you do not mention music and Sheebah’s name does not get mentioned.
OLI WANGE – REMA NAMAKULA
Rema Namakula used to be a backup singer for veteran musician and her ‘mother’ Halima Namakula and it is from her that she learnt how to throw high notes, in a sweet voice that attracted Gagamel boss Bebe Cool to take her on. With no time to waste, the two released Missing You and Cease and Sickle. For many people, Rema’s breakthrough song was Cease and Sickle, which is right because it got her out there.
But after parting ways with Bebe Cool, fans became a little skeptical about a solo career, and voila… Oli Wange. This was in 2013 and this track did not only surprise the public but the artiste too. “I was surprised with the song and at the same time excited because I didn’t expect it to be that big.” Rema said about the hit which won her an award as the most downloaded song for the MTN caller tunes that year. She, however, confirmed that the song put a lot of pressure on her because she was afraid of being referred to as a ‘one hit wonder’. “I needed to find another hit song to stamp my foot on the scene and thank God, I was able to achieve that through Sitaki, Fire Tonight, Deep In Love, Lean On Me and Linda among others.” Now Rema is not an artiste to watch anymore, she has made a mark and is no doubt one of the best female artistes.
TONELAGA – MARO
Before he formed his Humble management label, Maro was part of Dream Studios, from where he released his debut song Tonelaga in 2010. But unlike others, the song was a collaboration with Mikie Wine and Empress. Because the song was such a hit, Maro even decided to break away from Dream Studios, releasing tracks such as Sula Bulungi, Tonelaga, Biweewo and Genda Ewamwe among others. Maro, however, disagrees, saying Baibe, a song he did with Mya from Blu*3 was his breakthrough song in 2012. The song was recorded at Aziz Azion’s studio called Studio 84 by Barbi Jay. He says the song increased the number of his fans.
The self-proclaimed ‘RnB kyabazinga’ continued to release more songs such as Kyokoba, Mubi Bubi, Kamboyine, among others. Well, what can we say? Dude deserves a seat on the RnB table.
Nkubukinze – IRENE NTALE
Swangz Avenue has signed many artistes and we believe no one has been as successful as Irene Ntale, who was spotted back in 2012 after backing up an artiste called Sheila at Emin Pasha. According to Benon Mugumbya, one of the directors at Swangz Avenue, they saw something special in Ntale and indeed she hasn’t disappointed. There was something about Nkubukinze, that made it almost every Kampala girl’s anthem. Despite not gaining the popularity of Gyobera, the song topped local charts and dominated the industry. She went on to release Stay With Me and Gyobera, which got her endorsement deals, including being the ambassador for the Red Card to Drink Driving campaign by Uganda Breweries Limited, Brand ambassador Oriflame and winning the best female Breakthrough Artiste 2013 in the Hipipo Music Awards. Her other songs that followed include Love Letter alongside Bebe Cool, Stay With Me, Nzena, Otubatisa alongside Sheebah, Bikoola alongside Radio and Weasel and her latest Sembera. Clearly Benon’s instincts were on point on this one.
WALUMBE ZAAYA – GRAVITY OMUTUJJU
The late Paul Kafeero had transformed kadongo kamu music into a genre that could appeal to the youth, so when singer Gravity Omutujju thought of redoing his Walumbe Zaaya song, it was easy to relate. The redo of the song was perhaps one of the hardest to execute and its success could be pointed to Redemption Studios and the mastering at Power Records. Gravity caught everyone by surprise because he was not known at the time despite having released songs such as Billionaire, Majanjwe and Kampala.
When Walumbe Zaaya was released, it became an instant hit, but people had no idea who the artiste was, until he started performing it in different areas. “The song was a benchmark for me because I became known to the public even if they first despised me for having redone the late Paul Kafeero’s song.” It was 2012 and since then Gravity, real name Gereson Wabuyi, has remained constant in the music game with more hits such as Winner alongside King Saha, Malangaja, Omwotto, and the latest Money alongside David Lutalo. Would we be wrong to say Lugaflow got a new king after GNL Zamba abandoned us?