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Irene Ntale : Church girl who found fame in doing secular music

When it comes to food, it is not a joking matter for comedian Salvado. PHOTO BY EDDIE CHICCOShining star: Her Gyobera song is the hit of the moment. EDGAR R. BATTE spoke to the singer about her quick rise to the top, becoming a star in just a year.

What defines the artiste in you?
I am a recording artiste, a guitarist and vocalist.

Where did you learn how to play guitar from?
I learnt from church. I joined the church choir when I was 16.

Which church is it?
Victory City Church in Ntinda.

What kind of church is it?
It is a church for born again Christians (Pentecostals).

How do these born-again Christians feel about you singing secular music?
Uh, I actually do not know. My mum used to complain but now she is okay with it. I actually have many beautiful songs and I intend to keep singing them.

Why did you choose to do secular music over gospel music which is more acceptable in church?
It is because in church I would only have to do gospel music yet I am more comfortable singing love songs. Everyone needs love in their lives be it pastors; they are married men and when they are in their bedrooms with their spouses, they listen to our love songs, which they call secular music. So I intend to keep singing love songs as well as writing them.

Some of your love songs have earned you awards like the Buzz Teeniez Awards (BTAs) Best Female artiste in just one year. Don’t you feel it is too soon?
I am not complaining. I am grateful to God. I have worked hard and if God has blessed my work, then who am I to complain. I am just very grateful.

God’s blessings granted, but the BTAs are organised by the same people managing you as a musician, don’t you fear they could have favoured you?
I don’t think so. One, Buzz is very transparent and I believe I have a huge teen base. You know teenagers love my music. I have been doing school tours and I have been performing at campus and the response is really good, so I believe those teens voted me. No one can fool me around. It is very evident I did win.

Your musical strength partly lies in your lyrics, who writes your music?
Different guys have written different songs. Ray Signature wrote Gyobera, Benon Mugumbya wrote Nkubukinze, Nince Henry wrote Esawa then Julius (Julio) Zulander wrote Stay With Me and Love Letter.

Do you also have an input in the writing process?
Oh yes I do. I have to chip in where I can. Let me give you an example, for Stay with Me; I actually came up with a verse. I try to help out. Sometimes when I feel like some words should not be said, I actually go ahead and replace them with what best suits me.

How do these song writers come up with the lyrics? Do you paint the picture for them?
No. I do not write for them. They just write about love. They know I like to sing about love, so they just go ahead and write about it because they know that is what I like to sing about mainly. When I listen to the song and I like it and can relate to it, I just go ahead and voice it.

Do you feel you still ride on the popularity of Bebe Cool’s input on your Love Letter collabo that introduced you to the music scene?
I am grateful for that song I did with Bebe Cool. I won’t lie to you, definitely that collabo made way for me. But I believe I am trying to create my own light, to stand on my own now.

What does it mean for you being a female upcoming artiste?
It means I am just going to keep going and going. Upcoming means you are up and coming. For me, it only means I am growing every day, my fan base is growing and so is my music. I am getting new ideas on what to sing about. I am challenging myself and I am trying out different genres. For me, it only means I am growing in my music.

Where was Irene Ntale before we ever got to know about her?
Before you ever got to know about me, I used to be a backup vocalist. I have backed up so many artistes. I have backed up Aziz Azion, Bobi Wine, Maurice Kirya, Grace Nakimera, Exodus, Jamal, so I have been around. Then besides being a backup, I used to have my own solo acoustic thing. I had my own acoustic setup and I used to play at different venues, like Jazz Ville and at weddings. I was just not into the commercial music.

At what point in your life did you get into music?
That was after my S.6 vac. I joined a church band called the Uneven. I was a vocalist in the band. When our director, Steven Bingi, passed on, we all kinda just left it there. We did not know what to do because we were so close. It was more like a family, so when he died we could not play anymore.
Then I moved to Emin Pasha where I used to sing solo songs every Wednesday while people were sipping on their coffee or having dinner. It gave me more opportunity than backing up other artistes.

When did you sign up with Swangz?
I signed with Swangz last year in January. I met with Benon and Julius Kyazze at Fenon Studios. I used to go to Fenon and one time I told them I had a night at Emin Pasha, so one night they came over and heard me sing and they liked me, so they called me and asked if I could do a meeting with them and I did. We talked about record deals and stuff I had not heard before. So I signed a contract with them since they were willing to help me with my career.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced trying to chase the music dream?
From the very beginning, I did not have enough money to record songs and shoot videos. Basically, I did not have money. That was the number one challenge but after signing with Swangz, it became easier. And now the challenge I am facing is waking up in the morning and finding something in the tabloids about me that is not true.

Which particular story have the tabloids written and you felt really disappointed?
You really don’t want to have it in this paper but just know they are “mob” stories.

Is it true you are dating Bebe Cool?
No. I look up to Bebe Cool. He is an artiste I really look up to, so I am not dating him and more so, he is a married man, so I cannot. I have strong Christian values.

For your collaboration with Bebe Cool, who approached the other?
I will say he did because I had voiced the song already and he heard it and he liked it, then he asked if he could do a verse and some ad libs and there it was.

What was it like working with Bebe Cool?
Working with him in the studio, there was not much connection. We connected more during the music video shoot. He was very encouraging because he taught me things. He taught me how to look straight into the camera and how to do the right thing.

Who is that person you would like to do music collabo with?
In Uganda it would be Iyrn Namubiru because I like her voice. Internationally they are very many. I would like to work with Sauti Soul because they sing from the heart and I like musicians who sing from the heart.

You have done collabos with men, why not ladies?
Because opportunities presented themselves, but I would definitely love to do a collabo with a lady.

It is harder for women to stay long in the industry. What do you intend to do to remain at the top?
I intend to keep releasing good music. I have a fabulous deal with Swangz Avenue so I will just continue doing what I am doing and stay focused on recording music and shooting videos. There is no other strategy than that. I intend to keep working on my talent to the best of my abilities.

Who are your top three local artistes and why?
Number one would be Eddy Kenzo because he is true to his word and he has been here long and he is still at the top. I love Mowzey Radio because he is very persistent and he really has something beautiful with his voice. Third is Juliana definitely. She is such an amazing artiste that everyone looks up to.

Why would a church girl like you dress skimpily for shows?
I dress appropriately for the particular shows I do. I try my best to look good and dress smart. If anyone’s offended by how I look, I believe they can adjust. If I have gone overboard then, I believe I would take note of it.

Do you have a boyfriend?
No, I do not have a boyfriend.

Why don’t you have a boyfriend when you have the looks and fame?
Because I think I do not have the time.

What takes most of your time?
Priorities take up most of my time. I do not want to get into a relationship with someone and then I cannot be available. I do not want to cause heartbreaks.

How many proposals do you get daily?
Very many.

Which kind of guy are you looking for?
I am looking for a strong man. I am looking for a guy who first of all has the fear of God. If you do not have the fear of God, you cannot have me. I need a strong man, a man who will support me mentally, emotionally, financially and spiritually.

You mean in all the proposals that have come your way there is no such man?
The thing about the proposals is I have not allowed myself to consider them.

How old are you?
I am 20 something. I am in my early 20s.

What kind of family do you come from?
I come from a Christian family. I have been raised by a single mother, have two sisters and eight brothers and my mum has brought us up in a Christian way.

What happened to your father?
My father passed on when I was very little. I must have been a year old when he passed on, so I hardly knew him as my dad.

What is your position in the family?
I am the second last born.

Do you share a mother with all your siblings?
No, my mother has five girls and the others are from different mothers. My father was polygamous.

What kind of child were you?
I was a very quiet child because I had few words till about my secondary when I became a bit stubborn.

In which school was that?
I was at Kitante Hill School.

Tell us more about your educational background.
I went to Kitante Primary School, then I went to Kitante Hill School for O-Level and Makerere High School for my A-Level. Then I went to Kyambogo University where I studied Procurement and Logistics Management and graduated.

Do you intend to use your degree?
Definitely. I intend to use my degree somewhere in the future. It is the course my mother paid for, so I will definitely apply it.

What’s your message to your fans?
Thank you for appreciating my music. I intend to release more fabulous music.

Who is Irene off stage?                                                                                                    Irene is a jolly person who likes to smile and have a good time. “I have so many reasons to be happy, and I have very few reasons to be sad. God is a blessing to me. I have an awesome family and have awesome work. I cannot be sad as there is a lot to be grateful for. The Irene off stage is also funny. I like to hang around people that are happy. I love to go to the beach. I love to cook, I love to read novels and I love watching films and reality TV shows. Currently, I am watching Blacklist.”

The other side of Irene Ntale

What do you think of the HIV Bill?
What happened? Update me please?

Pablo vs Mendo Museveni, who is your favourite comedian and why?
Pablo. He is a natural.

What book are you reading now?
At the moment I am reading the Bible. I last read Galatians 4: 15.

What is your favourite foreign dish?
It is biryani.

And your favourite local dish?
Matooke, avocado and fried Chicken.
Can you prepare it?
Yes, and very well.

How many outfits do you have?
I do not know. I need to count

Where do you do your shopping from?
I shop my clothes from Christian Glam in Rubaga.

Are you a tomboy?
Yes, part of me is a tom boy and it just shows up sometimes because I like to hang out with guys.

Why don’t you like hanging out with women?
I do not know. I do not mind women, but I prefer the company of men

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