WORKING HER WAY UP: After signing to Swangz Avenue, Winnie Nwagi has blown up within a year, releasing songs like Katono-katono, talking about the little things that keep the spark in a relationship. She narrates to EDGAR R. BATTE her journey from a back-up singer to centre stage.
Briefly introduce yourself…
I go by the name Winnie Nwagi and I am signed to Swangz Avenue. I am the lady behind songs like Embera, Gwenonya, Katono-katono and Kyowulira, which is my latest.
When did you break out as an artiste?
That was last year. I was in a competition called Coca-Cola Rated Next.
How did you get into the reality competition?
When it came up, my friends told me to go for auditions. It was not something I had personally considered because I am not a competitive person. My friends kept encouraging me so I went in and gave it a try. I finished third.
What was your experience like at the competition? Do you think it was fair?
I think so because it was all about the votes. The votes I got from fans got me to the third position. I had fun in the competitions because I learnt so many things like being confident on stage, expressing myself to my fans and most importantly learning how to sing live to a band.
What were you before you entered the televised competitions?
I was home where no one knew me. I was backing up some other artistes in a number of studios such as Monster Studios.
Which artistes were you backing up?
I backed up Evelyn Lagu, Haruna Mubiru of Kream Production, Chagga, and others.
When did you start backing-up artistes?
Some years back. I was looking for dime and I wanted to get close to big artistes so that I could get someone to promote me as a singer.
How did you get the opportunity to meet the artistes?
Chagga introduced me to the producers at Monster Studios. That is how I became friends with the guys there.
How did you meet Chagga?
It was at an outing. I was with some friends who knew Chagga. That is how I met him and I told him I wanted to join the music industry. I convinced him I had talent. We met the next day and he took me to Monster Studio. I did voice tests and I was taken on. I did some songs there though I didn’t promote them.
Which songs were these that you did not promote?
I did two songs, one with Ronnie Banton, called Tata ne Maama, which we did not push. I then did Gwenonya, which was modernised when I joined Swangz Avenue. Ismael Pro did the re-production of the song.
How did you get signed onto Swangz Avenue?
Swangz Avenue spotted me from Coca-cola Rated Next. After the competitions, I was called by Benon, one of the directors of Swangz, to talk business. While there, he told me they wanted to sign me on. I was so excited because I had always wanted to be part of Swangz Avenue. That was my dream.
When you got signed, what work plan did you have?
I just wanted to do good music for my fans.
You have since done four songs that have received good airplay. Do you write these songs yourself or is there someone else that does this for you?
The songs are written by different writers. I haven’t written any of those. Embera and Kyowulira were written by Zulanda, Gwenonya was written by Chagga and Katono-katono was written by Chosen Blood.
What would you say are your strengths as an artiste?
I think it is vocal abilities. I would also like to learn how to play the keyboard.
Where do your fans catch you perform?
At any show where I am called upon to perform. I have performed at King Saha’s shows, Radio & Weasel’s shows, David Lutalo’s gigs, Buzz Teeniez Awards and many others.
Which are some your lined-up projects?
I have Googo, a collaboration with Aganaga that was released recently and another with King Saha that is in the works.
You are a fairly attractive woman, don’t men hit on you?
Hahaha, of course they do but I find ways of dealing with them.
How do you deal with them?
I control them in a personal way. I don’t want to let my trick out.
Are you seeing someone?
No. I am single. I am still focusing on music.
Well, the profession aside, you need love too…
Oh yeah, but I am still looking for the right person.
What attributes or character traits should Mr Right have?
He should be someone who is going to love me the way I am as an artiste, someone who is going to take all the sh*t they are going to talk about me in the newspapers, someone who is going to love me for me and someone who is going to be supportive.
I imagine there are men who are chasing you. Don’t you see these qualities in any of them?
There are many that are hitting on me but I haven’t given any a chance because sagala kuwaba (I don’t want to lose focus).
Some come because I am Winnie Nwagi. They wouldn’t have come if I wasn’t that. That is why I want someone who will love me for who I am and understand me and not because I am in the spotlight.
When was your last relationship?
That was with the father of my child.
Who is that?
I don’t want to mention his name.
Is he a fellow musician?
No. He is an ordinary guy.
Why did you break up?
We had our differences and he is not the right person for me.
What, in your view, are the things that make a relationship work?
First of all, he is a kind of guy who is not responsible enough and I cannot take a man who is not responsible. I am a woman and a woman needs to be respected and to be loved unconditionally. Commitment, love, understanding and respect make relationships work. When you commit yourself to someone, you care and love them.
Which of your songs is testimonial?
Katono-katono because in this song, I am talking about love and I am talking about quality over quantity, so it doesn’t have to be over-exaggerated. It is okay to give me quality time over too much that is pointless.
How does Katono-katono particularly relate with you?
I am just sending a message that I need quality. Whoever is there and is interested in me, they have to offer quality.
Tell me, what kind of family do you hail from?
I come from a family of many children. I lost my mother while I was in Primary Four. My dad lives with my step mother.
How many siblings do you have?
You have to let me count. Ha ha ha. We are six, three boys and three girls.
What kind of child were you?
I was so stubborn.
Which schools did you attend?
I went to St. Agnes Primary School in Nagalama, East High School for Ordinary Level and Namagabi Secondary School in Bugerere for my Advanced Level.
Did you stop in S.6?
So many things happened. It is not that I did not want to continue with school.
There were no funds for me to do so.
At what point did you get a child?
That was two years after S.6 ‘vac’. She is three years old now.
How do you balance parenting and your music career?
My father helps to look after my child, so Swangz helps take care of my music career. I provide the support to my dad.
How often do you see and connect with your child?
Every two weeks. I miss her but I cannot handle housemaids. You know how bad they can get.
What is your wish list for the next couple of years?
I would like to become better and do some international music that is inspiring.
Any message to fans?
They should not lose hope just because there is bad publicity about me.
What do you like about swangz?
It is a good studio. I didn’t think about management. I just wanted to get into Swangz even back then when it was housed in Muswangali, off Salama Road. There is a day I went there with my cousin. She wanted me to join the music industry, so she told me to look for Swangz Avenue but instead ended up at Goodenuff Studios. We failed to locate Swangz Avenue. Little did I know that a time would come when I would be called and signed on.