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Naava paints music in black and white

SOULFUL MUSIC: Last week, singer Naava Grey launched her debut 20-track album. It took nearly five years in the making. Edgar R. Batte found out why she takes her time in an industry that is driven by bubble gum hit singles.

You have just released a 20-track album titled Naava Grey – The Album, how long have you been working on it?
I have been putting together this album together since the first song that I released, which is Aliba Wani, in 2011.

Which music producers have you worked with on this album?
I have worked with many producers. Ebiro was produced by Andy Music of Buddies Music, In the Dark by Alshizzo, Aliba Waani by Michael Fingers and a few other tracks by producers; D King,  Josh Wonder, Chali ‘Bravo’ Mulalami and Ogopa Butterfly.

What is Naava Grey The Album all about? What message are you communicating?
Most of the songs on the album are about love and inspired by love and life experiences from people around me.

Why is it mostly about love?
It is mostly about love because I find it easiest to write and sing about love than any other subject.

Do you write your songs?
Yes I write my songs.

Your songs have a beautiful wordplay and depth to them. Where does that come from?
It is very difficult to explain it. Sometimes it just hits me. I think it is more of the sound. When I hear a certain melody, I can easily compose. It is like magic. There are times when it is like a task I have to complete. Sometimes, it is about the mood I am in.

Does your family background have anything to do with your lyricism?
I think so because I come from a family that likes and appreciates music. We grew up listening to our parents’ kind of music, the good old music. It gave us a good connection and attachment to music, so when I write a song, I take it to my brothers and they critique it. Sometimes I read through a song and I can imagine what their comments will be and I put in a little more work.

What kind of criticism or help do they offer you?
They advise on arrangement or meaning of words. If I use a harsh word, they advise me to change it to another that is polite. We share ideas.

Through how many languages have you relayed your messages on this album?
I have done songs in Zulu, Zambian languages, Nigerian languages, English and Luganda.

One of the songs is actually a Nigerian track whose meaning is ‘I am yours’, who are you specially dedicating this love track to?
Hahaha, it is not that there is no one in my life at the moment. There are people around me and I am trying to know them more so that I don’t mess up.

‘People around you’ sounds many. Won’t that turn you into a player?
Let me say that there is a specific one that caught my eye and he could be the one I want to spend the rest of my life with. It is a critical decision. I need to really know this person.

How many guys are chasing you at the moment?
There are those that want to have a relationship with me but I just actually like one that I see myself with in the future, though I think that it is not yet the right time for us to settle and call it a committed relationship. For now, I prefer to be friends with them.

Who is that one you have your eyes on?
No, no, I cannot tell you. I am a private person.

What kind of man satisfies the desires that your heart or soul yearns for?
He has to be patient with me, to be God-fearing and spiritually connected. We have to trust one another. We have to take our time.

You are Muslim, does he have to be Muslim too?
It doesn’t necessarily mean he has to be Muslim. As long as my soul and his are intertwined.

How do souls intertwine?
There is a difference between love of the flesh and love of the soul. Love of the soul is deeper than love of flesh because the latter can last like for two days.

What is the love of the flesh?
Where you are in love with someone because of the way they look. Men these days are about that and you cannot judge them because that is them, but then there is being with someone and you start out as friends and the guy is not attracted to you because you look good and you’re shapely. He dates you and things work out later. That is the real love.

Then the guy you are keeping as a friend stands a chance. Have you done any songs about or for him and special moments you two share?
No, no, no. Those songs I have done are not particularly about this guy.

How long have you been ‘friends’ with this guy?
About two years now.

What happened with your ex, the father of your child?
We were perhaps not meant to be with that person and that relationship was a ladder to get me somewhere. Even if I involved my soul and heart and everything, I found myself not connecting with this person.

How old is your child now?
She is eight years old. She is in year three at Rainbow International School.

Who is the father by the way?
He is Henry Mzili, an artist.

Why did I think that you dated Xenson Ssenkaba?
No I didn’t date him. I used to wear his designs, I think that’s why. He dated one of my sisters and they have a child together.

You got connected to Sony Music. How did it happen?
It was courtesy of my manager, Munya Daka. He has worked with so many artistes internationally and through his work, he got connections with Sony. There was a time he went with my CD to Sony South Africa and asked them to listen to it. One time when they had flown into Uganda, they asked to meet me and we signed a contract.

So what kind of arrangement do you have with Sony?
They do the publishing and distribution and they will get me some opportunities to work with some artistes.

Have they connected you with any artistes for music collaborations yet?
Ah, that is still in the pipeline.

Any common names?
They are popular artistes, but I cannot say for now.

By the way, where did you get the stage name Naava Grey?
Naava is my birth name and Grey is the colour you get when you mix black and white. Grey symbolises my music which is a fusion between African and western music.

But what is your real name?
Asha Naava.

You were known by the name Zziwa in Tusker Project Fame 2010…
Those names have a story to them. There was another girl in TPF called Asha, and so I used my dad’s name Zziwa. We later discovered that we are both from the royal family.

Tell me more about your family’s roots?
My mum is both from the Irish Kingdom and Buganda Kingdom. I come from a humble family of people that don’t like to be in the limelight.

Where then did you get the guts to come out in the limelight?
Surprisingly, it was my family that pushed me to go for TPF. They asked me to give it a try.

And you were 11th to be evicted out of the TPF competitions. How does it feel seeing that you continue to chase your music star whereas those who did better dropped the chase?
It was like a blessing in disguise. I thought I was going to return to do school or family business. However, before I knew it I was caught up in the music industry. I never thought I would become a musician though I had dreams of doing music. That is when I met Steve Jean (a music producer) and GNL Zamba (an artiste). I started doing music with them.

What have you achieved out of music?
I have a farm in Jinja.

What do you grow or rear there?
I have goats and chicken. There is a supervisor on site.

Do you live alone?
No. I stay with my big sister. We have always been tight especially when we lost our dad.

What else interests you apart from music?
I like fashion design. It is a hobby I have had since we were little. I remember I stitched a dress for my sister and people asked her where she had bought it and she told them her sister had made it. I also plan to start a restaurant because I have read what junk food can do to a human body. I want to do boiled, natural food. I have so many dreams. I also love to eat.

Are movies among your interests?
Oh yes. I like Bollywood movies. One of my favourite movies is 3 Idiots. Indians know how to weave stories. I prefer them to Hollywood. Bollywood movies score high.

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