ICE CREAM QUEEN:
sat with Sheeba Karungi and she narrated her bumpy journey to stardom and why she posts semi-nude photos on the social networks.
When did you feel like you had finally gotten your breakthrough?
I think it was after I did Ice Cream. I got a breakthrough as a solo artiste before Ice Cream when I did Automatic, but it was not as huge. After Ice Cream, I think there is no turning back.
Tell me about the story of Ice Cream. How did it come about?
I stalked Sizzaman to write me another song since he had written Automatic and people liked it. I kept on stalking and calling him, begging him to write me another song. Finally, we met and talked and he got the Ice Cream topic, which I liked and recorded.
Talking about Ice Cream, were you talking about the one we all know and have licked or something else that people are imagining?
Oh yeah, the real Ice Cream. But given that it is me singing about Ice Cream, I am sure so many people get ideas in their heads because I am cheeky.
And you did not have any sexual ideas or innuendos?
It could be, but sex is part of humanity, we all know this. So it could or may not be sexual. Anyway for me it was about Ice Cream but either way you want to get it, you get it.
Which is your favourite Ice Cream flavour?
I like vanilla.
You are quite a seductive stage performer. Where do you get these moves?
I think my head is very visual. I see something and then visualise something sexy. I want to see everything in a sexy way.
Why do you choose to see things that way?
It is because I am not the girl who came from a background where I got so much attention. I was not confident because I was in a girl group and the other girls were tiny by the time I joined and I was a bit big and I was so young. I did not know so much. So, most of the time I felt so out of place when I was with them. I was not confident. So when I left Obsessions, I started actually getting to know me more.
What did you not know about you that you later on discovered?
I started seeing many characters in me. I got time to realise I liked ragga, reggae, wining, movies and I also realised that I like being sexy and visualising sexy things.
I like thinking about so many things in a sexual way because it makes me feel confident. It makes me feel beautiful as a woman.
Does that explain some of the photographs and the videos you post on your social network pages in which you expose a lot of flesh?
Yes, I am very free with my body. So many women are not so confident. I do that sometimes to put confidence in people like me who grew up without it because there were no women like me at that time. Okay, they were there but they could not do what I am doing right now. They made us feel like your body should be covered.
They made us think that our skin should be covered because we are not perfect, not white, and not Brazilian and not super models. I have scars everywhere because I am human but I wanted to feel like even me who is not a superstar, who is not a model, can feel like a model. I can wear what a model wears without feeling less of a woman, so I think it is about confidence building though the world gets twisted. I do these things when I am home.
Do you think twice before posting these images?
I just take my pictures and when I am posting them on social media, I do not even think about anyone. I just think about me honestly. I put my laptop, tab, phone or camera before me and start taking pictures and whatever looks sexy I post, and as I said, I love things that look sexy. If the look is sexy in the picture, I post it because at the end of the day, I am targeting a certain clientele.
Who is the clientele that you are targeting?
I want to target a very confident crowd, a crowd which is ready to change from normal, a crowd which is ready to think out of the box because we are moving. This is some revolution coming up. I feel like it is a revolution and I want to be part of it and I am happy I am part of it. A revolution means that so many people are going to come in different characters. I think I am part of those characters. I want to inspire the young women who do not feel confident about being naked, who do not feel confident about exposing themselves, not even in a bikini. I have so many friends that cannot put on a bikini.
When you grow up and finally become who you want to be, you want to express who you are through pictures, music and actions. As for me, I want to be sexy and I want to be confident.
Don’t you think that expression of sexiness compromises your morals?
I think morals are over-rated. We have so many marriages that are not going right or relationships that are not formalized in church or customary, why only talk about morals when Sheeba puts on a knicker and a bra?
But your Facebook page is liked by under-aged young people who look up to you for inspiration and sexiness might not cut it for inspiration …
I do not want them to forget that I am also human. I am here to inspire. Yes, I love to inspire but I am 24. I am young. I am going to get off once in a while to be me. Sometime I have to do something for me without thinking about the world.
You talked about having grown up in a society that probably did not give you this self-esteem. Tell me about your background?
I was brought up by a single mother. I have not had a father figure in my life.
Do you know who your father is?
Yes, I know him.
Is he still alive?
Yes, he is.
Who is he?
No, that side of me, I do not talk about because if I know he is there and we do not talk, that means we have no relationship. I do not have that much of a relationship with my father. I do not know anything.
Does this mean you have never met?
We have met on occasions where we are supposed to meet and that is it.
You sound like you do not like him much?
That is personal. That is very personal but all I know is my mother, that is all I know.
Who is your mother?
Her name is Edith Kabazungu. I was brought up by her. We are five children and I am the last born. We are two girls and three boys.
What do your other siblings do?
One is married. She is 29. The two boys are also married. One is an Information Technology (IT) engineer and he is not married. He is the one I follow.
How far did you go with your studies?
I am a drop-out clearly because I joined Obsessions when I was 16.
Why did you drop-out?
It is because I knew exactly what I wanted. When I was in school it was either drama or dance. At that time I did not even know the singing part but I just knew that I wanted to dance.
In which class were you when you dropped out of school?
I was in S.2.
What was your mother’s reaction when you dropped out?
Oh, she was very mad at me because I was very smart in school, so she wanted me to be a nurse. Every day she would tell me, “You know what, I cannot wait for you to be a nurse treating people…” and I was always in the mirror learning how to dance when she was not around.
Where did your dance career start?
I started dancing in Stingers at 15. It was a dance group before I joined Obsessions.
How did you get into all this?
I grew up with a best friend called Sheena. She knew I loved dancing so much, so she told me there was a place in Bwaise called Eden Service Park. We went for a party at night not knowing that my mama was coming back. We thought she was going to work away for a week like she usually did. She used to work in a coffee factory. She would go for a week and then come back. This time she did not come back in a week. She came back in days.
That night she came back, we are out at Eden. We did not even have the Shs1,000 entry fee to enter. Some dancers came around and one of them knew me and helped us get in.
I watched them dancing and I did not go back home because I was scared my mum was mad. I joined Stingers and had to learn how to dance for three months.
Weren’t you feeling for your mum?
I was, but I was young. I was just 15. At that time all I could think about is what I wanted.
From that point, when next did you talk to your mother?
It took like eight months. I wanted to talk to her so many times but she would not talk to me. She was so mad at me. She did not want to see me again. I kept on insisting. So after eight months I went home and with help from my sisters, she talked to me and then we solved the issues. She thought music is slutty business. I told her I was a dancer and I did not want to continue with school.
Where were you staying at the time?
So many different places. I would go stay at my friend Yasin’s place. He was our neighbour in Kawempe – Tula. At other times, I would sleep at the Stinger’s house in Kyebando.
Wasn’t it tough?
Yes it was. I was young and working in a very huge industry of users, manipulators, bad-hearted people and drugs everywhere.
Did you ever use drugs?
No, I have never. I do alcohol. It is a drug maybe.
Do you smoke marijuana?
No, I smoke shisha.
Shisha is dangerous, you know…
I know, but it is one of those dangerous things I cannot stop doing.
People have linked you to being gay, are you straight?
I am straight.
Do you have a boyfriend?
No, I do not have a boyfriend.
You sing about love but you have no boyfriend?
Yes, I have so much love for people and children but I don’t like men for relationships. May be because I did not have a male figure in my life as I grew up.
How do you look at men?
I look at them as people you cannot trust. I cannot trust their words. They say this, and then they do something else. But I have so many friends that are male and I learn a lot out of experiences with them. I am not against them. I have dated men before.
When was the last relationship you were in?
I think in February last year.
How long did that relationship run?
It went on for about three years.
What went wrong?
You grow up and you realise the people you are with are not exactly supporting you the way you want them to support you, emotionally and physically, because we all need that support.
Emotional relationships aside, let’s talk about your musical relationships particularly Team No Sleep, who else is in this group?
Pallaso, AK47, Bakri and Lydia Jasmine for now.
How did you join?
It actually found me there. It was formed when I was already working with certain people that I am working with.
Does the phrase “certain people” refer to Jeff Kiwanuka?
Yes. He is my manager now.
Who came up with the name?
We were in the bar. I do not even remember who came up with the name, but someone said, “Team No Sleep” and then the next thing we knew, everyone liked it.
You guys never sleep?
No, we do not sleep. We make money and make hits.
How is it like working with guys?
I love it, it is less dramatic. I have worked with women all my life, so I feel relieved that I am now working with dudes because girls take everything personal.
Away from music, who is Sheeba Karungi?
I love watching movies and dancing. I can dance the whole day even if I am alone. I love children very much.
When are you having your own?
When I am ready.
When do you think you might be ready?
I do not know. I wish I had the key to that.
Who do you look up to?
I love Rihanna. She is a leading female artiste and I believed in her because I know her story and I relate to it. Plus, she has to work for everything she gets and I also have to work for everything. I don’t ever get anything free of charge.
On her edgy fashion sense
My fashion sense is guided by how I feel. When I feel a little dull, you find me wearing something dull. When I feel sexy, I wear extremely sexy. When I feel like being free, I wear men’s T-shirts. I do not follow trends. I do not wear brands only. Whenever I’m walking on the streets and I see something nice, I buy it. I feel like I can express myself more through my clothes than words.