Who is GNL Zamba?
GNL is a self-driven, simple, down to earth, mellow fellow, with a love for books, poetry and enjoys an occasional intellectually stimulating conversation. I don’t understand why he always describes himself in third person.
What does GNL mean?
GNL comes from a philosophy of my own life – “At the highest level of self-expression, you achieve Greatness of No Limit.” But my real name is Earnest Nsimbi Zamba.
What was your first song?
My first song was a remix of Baby Jesus, with a rap twist, but that was way back as a little superstar. Professionally, it was Soda Jinjale.
You have been described as the artiste who changed the face of hip hop music in Uganda. How did you do that?
I write better and deeper. Talent is a muscle. I write from the heart and I experiment a lot to discover new stuff, so I don’t sound the same because monotony bores me. I have diversified to writing music for sound tracks, world music festivals, musicals, health campaigns and I play the trumpet now.
What is it with you and cornrows? You haven’t changed your hairstyle since the first day I saw you on TV?
Hahaha … I guess I’m both old and new school. I tried dreadlocks but hated them because they are dirty. I had French and bush cuts when I was young, I had a Mohawk in 1996, a marine style and a shaolin in 2006, but I decided to keep my hair in cornrows and Afro styles because that’s what suits me. I’m an aspiring actor and some roles require longer than normal hair.
How different is your music from others?
I paint pictures with words. My music is so powerful, inspiring, festive and a quiet storm of dreams. I have songs for every occasion.
Describe for me your musical journey?
It’s been fun and tough, it’s been a learning curve. I have fallen as much as I have triumphed. I was happier having a Wikipedia page than I was when I got my biggest pay cheque. I did a show in Manhattan, New York and flew back and did Ekiggunda in one weekend. I have seen people tell lies about me and seen others support me. I can’t summarise my musical journey in a paragraph but I guess I will write a book, Lugaflow Philosopher (From the ghetto to Hollywood).
I heard and read you changed Baboon Forest management. Do you think it was a wise decision?
I was travelling a lot and I believed in Big Trill’s vision for the company, so I appointed him CEO. It’s hard to notice the general when he’s fighting with his soldiers in the trenches. I’m currently building Baboon TV under Baboon Forest Entertainment for films and TV content. I am now the executive director. We just diversified.
Why was your Caesar concert cancelled and what are you planning next about it?
It took so long to get permission approved by KCCA and they came with strenuous intricacies of conditions on our performance venue, which would have been unfair to my fans and the sponsors, but we are planning to hold it in August this year as well as a Caesar country tour after the concert.
Is hip hop as profitable as other types of music?
Of course and by far, it’s a billion earner in the US. It earns more than any genre because there are very many labels. In Uganda, we run advertising and endorsements as hip hop, plus, Zamba earns more than your average Ragamuffins. Other genres advertise on cloth banners for Shs30,000 while hip hop artistes are billboard material.
What does the future look like for you?
Like I said earlier, I am building Baboon TV and Film, plus working towards Russell Simmons, Will Smith and Ice Cube who are Hollywood and music too. One time I will walk the red carpet as Uganda’s “Lupita Nyong’o”, better yet a hip hop mogul.