Gospel music’s leading lady: She is a singer, but Judith Babirye prefers to be referred to as a worshipper. She is the leading female gospel artiste in the country. She is also set to join politics. Babirye talked to Darius Mugisha about her Webale concert that is on at the Kampala Serena Hotel tonight, her political ambitions, her love life and music.
What has Judith been up to?
I have been making people’s lives better; spiritually, emotionally, physically and healthwise. Emotionally I have been recording a series of songs like Taata You’re My Superhero and Olugendo. Health wise, I recently managed to run a three-day health camp at Nyenga Hospital. We treated over 2,000 people free of charge. We did cancer screening, treated malaria, did HIV testing, optical services, dental care and male circumcision. We also managed to sponsor a few surgeries together with SMS One and friends like Seroma, Salongo Viva, Ms Kabonero, Ms Susan Muhwezi, City Oil, Ms Monica Ntaganda and others.
Musically speaking, your last concert theme song Maama was and still is such a big hit that none of your songs thereafter has been as big. What’s happening?
I think my follow-up songs haven’t been big so far because I haven’t yet recorded videos for them. But I think judging by that fact, they are doing great. The essence of skipping the music videos for now is that we wanted to do live performance video recording. My team and I thought we would have a better appeal if we made the video concept a little bit different, just like you see the Don Moen videos. That’s what we have set ourselves for and we are doing it at the Webale concert this evening.
You seem to have a lot of trust in your new concept, but your colleagues in secular music are turning to foreign video makers for better quality videos. Are you also working with foreigners on your new concept?
I think it’s up to a singer to choose the best. Personally, I have so much trust in local video makers, I think the problems and differences have come up because of financial hindrances. But together with Pepsi and SMS One, we managed to put up a very wonderful video team and I believe they will be able to bring out the quality that I saw in this concept. I think it’s my time to lead in this new video concept, of course others will follow.
We heard you are joining politics?
Yes, I am into politics, and I will run for Woman Member of Parliament seat for Buikwe come 2016. I was born and raised in Nyenga and I come from a political family of Mr and Ms Henry Mukoza. And I think naturally I am a politician and a leader. I was a prefect in primary and a head prefect in secondary. I didn’t go for any political office at campus but I still believe leadership is within me. That’s why even in the industry (music), I’m somewhere.
Has politics already started affecting your music career? Is it the reason your new music hasn’t been as huge as Maama?
No no no, my music is within me and I don’t need time to create music. I sing almost everywhere; in the kitchen, bathroom, when I’m driving, so politics has its own space and music has its own too. And I believe the two (music and politics) work best together; because when God was choosing the best king for Israel, he went for David, a young man who was the best worshipper in the past generations and even the present generations. God said, that is the man that I want to lead my people. That way, God transferred David from a spiritual office to a political one. The spiritual and political offices had to work together to ensure that the children of Israel received the best services. So I believe my music and political offices are going to work together for Buikwe District and all the people that believe in me in Uganda.
You are known to be very religious, what influenced you to join a dirty game that politics has been described to be?
Politics is not a dirty game. It’s the particles that bring together a substance that define it as clean or dirty. So, if more of us that believe that politics is good as long as you do it the right way, I think the story will easily change from a dirty to a good game. If bad people join politics, it becomes bad, but if good people join, then it becomes good politics. I am not joining a dirty game, I’m joining a good game.
We have heard of your strong relationship with the first family, especially the first lady; did they sway you to join politics, are they funding your political ambitions?
I cannot fully address that question. But all I can say is, they (Mr and Ms Museveni) are my inspiration. I have loved them from the day I set my eyes on them when I was a little girl. To this day, they are still my biggest inspiration.
In Uganda, musicians have made it a trend to launch an album every year, but you haven’t launched an album in years?
I have a new album that I released in January, it’s called Olugendo Oluwanvu. It has 13 songs, including Omusumba, Onkwatangako Nga Ngwa and many more. I don’t believe in album launches because my life is really busy. But I will hold an album launch concert when I feel I am ready and when the people are really burning for it.
You seem to have replaced album launch concerts with the themed concerts; where did you get that idea from?
It wasn’t an independent decision, it was due to teamwork. I sat down with my SMS One team and we realised that I had so many songs that get people personal and attached to. So we decided that it was important to create themes people can relate to with their loved ones depending on the season. When we tried it with Maama, it turned out massive as many people attended the show with their mothers. But I wouldn’t advise every artiste to go that direction because our music has different messages and serves different purposes.
When you had your Maama concert, about two years ago, you promised that it was a campaign for mothers that would go across different parts of the world, what happened?
Oh! It happened and I’m still doing Maama campaign concerts. It just so happens that I’m not the type that screams in the media that I have accomplished this or that. But I have been to the US, UK, Kenya, Rwanda and I’m still travelling.
Tell us about the Webale concert, whom are you thanking?
Webale is a concept we designed to show gratitude to the special people in their lives. It might be your lover, fiancé, husband, wife, mother, father, friend, boss; any person that has contributed to getting you where you are.
For example, when I met Ms Elizabeth Mushabe, the MD of SMS One in 2010, I was emotionally low and was going through lots of challenges in my life. I kept thinking all I was left to do was worship and worship until I could get to heaven. But she consoled me and gave me hope. I had heard several consolations from so many people, but she took a step forward by supporting my endeavors. She financed me, organised and coordinated my concerts, and slowly by slowly life began to change. So where I am today, I have people like her and so many more to say ‘thank you’ to.
Talking trying times. Let’s turn to your family, we heard about your breakup with your husband, how have you been able to move on?
My motto is, “he who began the good work in your life will bring it to a good completion.” I started my life way back when I was still in heaven, God sent me here as a human being and I met my husband. If it didn’t work out, I don’t cry anymore because the God that started my life, knows its journey. Actually my ex-husband and I are now on talking terms. It’s a good sign, although we remain separated. He is still a good father to my daughter, he is happy for me to be where I am today and I am equally happy for him.
We heard you were a victim of domestic violence. As a singer and politician who has been there, how do you hope to help victims of this vice?
There is a saying that goes, “we will get there when we cross the bridge!” I have been addressing issues as an artiste but I will be able to address issues as a leader when I am elected into office. But I also know there are laws and policies. For now, I encourage all people going through such times to pray to God.
So are you single, searching or comfortable?
Oh my God! I am so single, although I think I’m taken. Let’s say I’m single but off the shelf.
I don’t understand, are you seeing someone?
Yeah, I’m seeing someone and I’m praying to God, if he says yes, I will go but if he says no, I will not.
How does the person you are seeing perceive the whole idea of you and your ex-husband communicating?
Like I said, my ex moved on and he is happy. I moved on too. But on the other hand, it wasn’t a secret that I was married before, so this new person knows the person he came to. Each of us knows the package that we saw and appreciated in each other.
During the time you were single, you must have been approached by so many men, how did you handle them?
On the contrary, I wasn’t. I don’t know how men look at me, but very few bold ones approached me. I talked to those that did, like any other human being and I told them I wasn’t searching.
Now that you have someone, should we expect a luxurious wedding anytime soon?
I wouldn’t want to say anytime soon; that time zone is so tight. But I must say in God’s timing. God will do his will. It might be a small or big wedding, but personally, I don’t want a big wedding, I want a union that will glorify God and make my marriage holy.
Tell us about your experience as a single mother having to juggle quite a number of duties like motherhood, music, church and now politics.
For starters, I don’t have a church. I had one when I was still with my ex-husband, but for the good of the people, I had to first let it go, because I was also struggling with stress.
But to answer your question, I must admit that as a single mother, it’s very challenging to raise a child alone. No matter how much you provide, that child will always need the other parent’s care and love. And for that, I credit my ex-husband who has been very active in our daughter’s life since the beginning of this year.
Let’s talk about your achievements from music. So many artistes drive luxurious cars and have built fancy homes, what do you have to show?
I don’t have a fancy car, I don’t have to showcase my home and investments. But I must say, five years ago, I was very miserable, but today I am not complaining. And I have the good Lord and my fans to thank.
Finally, what should people expect at your concert tonight?
This show is going to be the first of its kind. We will have video recording during a live performance. I am working with Buzz Events, one of the best event organisers in the country at the moment and they made sure the production, stage, lighting, the band, are all on point. Unlike the Maama Concert where I performed only eight songs, I have rehearsed a total of 20 songs that I am going to perform at the concert. I respect the fact that this is a family show, so I will be on stage from 8pm and will be done by 10.30pm. I am ready to give all my fans a memorable evening of entertainment and worship.