DREAMING BIG: Katelyn Namiiro aka Kleo was born in Uganda but moved with her family to London. She shares the story of what music is like in London as a Black girl.
Tell me about you musical background?
At first I was not into music. I was into poetry but later, I was approached by a producer who told me to go to studio and write poetry to Rick Ross’s Hustle Hard instrumental. Eventually, going to studio became a way to express my feelings, my anger, happiness, quirkiness and love.
Was that the end of the poetry?
The love for poetry led me into rap. My voice was small and in fact many said I had a baby voice but it played out to my advantage. Most female rappers in the UK sounded very masculine, so I guess for many producers, promoters and fans I was a breath of fresh air.
How long have you been abroad?
I have been in England since I was a toddler. My mother decided to relocate from Uganda to South East London. I have only been shown pictures about my beautiful country.
We heard stories that in some parts of England, being Black was seen as a curse. Were you affected growing up?
As a young Black girl growing up in South London, I faced the kind of bias and suspicion that unfortunately has been rife in some parts of London. That has also influenced my fashion sense somehow?
What do you mean?
Being a young dark-skinned girl in the UK was seen as negative. It was common to bleach and have straight black hair but I decided to instead have different colours in my hair. Lucky for me, quite a number of times, I was scouted for hair modelling .
How is the music industry in the UK?
The local music scene in London is booming. There is talent everywhere. You have to be different to stand out, that is why I am introducing the Ugandan flair.
What Ugandan flair are you talking about?
I have a song titled Mazina alongside another talented musician called Double S who was awarded Uganda best Hiphop Diaspora Act of 2016. This is the first song in which I have blended Luganda and English with drums. It is doing well and I believe I am waving the Ugandan flag on this one.
Tell us some of your other songs?
Scream My Name, F.L.Y and Say I Do, among others.
Who are your music influences?
I loved Lisa Left Eye from TLC and this was because I was always compared to her. However, I cannot say she influenced me because I do not have music influences. But I love Lauryn Hill and Erika Badu.
Which artistes in Uganda do you like?
I listen to Sheebah, Irene Ntale and A Pass, among others. I am Ugandan so I have to listen to my own. I support my own people.
Why are you doing music in a country where you could earn big doing different things?
I do music to make people dance and enjoy themselves. While many people do music for money l, I feel like I have succeeded already. The fact that I make people happy, the fact that I can pay what I have to support my team makes me content.
Any plans to return to Uganda?
I should be coming to Uganda this year in the summer to shoot four videos. I will also visit some schools and my village.