Flying solo: A lot has been said about Irene Ntale since she left Swangz Avenue. It is now a year and a half, and the silky-voiced singer is making a comeback with a concert. Isaac Ssejjombwe caught up with her and they talked about music, her sister managing her and the feud with Swangz.
What has Irene Ntale been upto?
I have been releasing music but mainly, organising my concert ‘Ntale Unchained’ taking place this evening at Kampala Serena Hotel.
Why ‘Ntale Unchained’, had you been chained all this while?
Unchained is a sign of freedom. I can relate it to the days of slave trade. I decided to name the concert that way because I am now free to express myself musically. I plan what I want, what I tell you is what I want you to know, I can record from anywhere I want and I can try out different styles of music. Basically, I am free as an artiste to do what I want with my career.
You talk about freedom with so much zeal. Were you restricted at Swangz?
I am not saying that I was not at liberty to do anything. The thing is that before, I was not part of the decision making; everything was pre-decided for me, I was always told what to do and I did not have much of a say. Once you are under management, you are under someone’s care. It is like the restrictions we used to have when we were children. Not that they were bad but after becoming independent, you make all the decisions yourself.
Some people think you have not been at your best since leaving Swangz Avenue.
First of all, people have their opinions. The way I run my life is not based on people’s opinions. I cannot be worried about what people are saying and that should not dictate my life. I follow my heart, I believe in hard work and I believe I have really worked so hard. I still perform Gyobela and get paid for it and it is a song I did in 2014.
Kampala Serena Hotel as a venue has in the past humbled some musicians. Aren’t you worried about a disappointing turn up?
Choosing Serena for my concert, I wanted my fans to have a VIP show. It is a celebration of my career and journey so far. Of course, if someone is not an Irene Ntale fan, they are going to be negative. My fans will come and I am confident the show will be a success.
You seem too sure that it is going to be a success…
It is because I do not believe in failure. I do not walk around with a failure’s attitude and if you live like that you will never progress. People will always have something to say. Even if I had announced that the concert would be happening next year, still some people would say it is not the right decision.
Do you ever regret leaving Swangz Avenue?
I have no regrets.
But these people practically discovered you and made you a star?
Leaving Swangz was something I had planned to do. It did not just happen. I planned this during the course of my stay and it is the best decision I have ever made for myself, regardless of how some people felt about it. I had every right to make that decision and I made it.
What really happened?
There are some things I just cannot disclose.
If opportunity arose, would you go back?
No, I wouldn’t and I hope that opportunity never comes. Not in a bad way, but I moved on.
Is there anything you miss about the record label?
Honestly, there are so many things that I used to take for granted that I now look back and say, they did a lot.
Things like what?
Things like promoting a song, how to get in touch with media and other things that they used to do for me. I kind of miss that, but I have also learnt how things are done. It is better now. People do not know how record labels work.
Please take us through that.
You sign contracts for a certain period of time. Everyone has a different type of contract so if it expires, then the contract can be terminated and I was not planning to be there for the rest of my life.
There were rumors that greed and jealousy are some of the reasons that forced you out of Swangz. Were you jealous of Vinka?
That is not true because I am not the jealous type and you can ask the people at Swangz. If I was jealous, then I would not have recorded a song with her, let alone shot a video with her because I do not think you people understand musicians. Getting an artiste to record a song with another is not something that you can force someone to do. We had a working relationship for four years and she told me when she got signed and was going to start singing. They [bosses] told me too. Besides, I used to help her with vocals but things change, especially when you leave your workplace. So I guess someone wanted to paint a bad picture.
What do you think of Vinka’s career?
I am not in position to tell you that. I will not give a response.
Many think she is among the best right now. Do you believe so?
I am sorry I will not focus on those people. I am just about my business, stop creating tension where there is no tension. I do not want to respond because people will start judging me for statements that I make.
Swangz Avenue is turning 10 in August and we know you were key in their journey. Will you perform at the anniversary?
I was not contacted by anyone at Swangz to be part of their tour or concert. And that is the truth. I did not even know about it until I saw their billboards.
Tell us about the feud between you and Swangz over a Facebook page. Some think you were just seeking media attention ahead of your show.
The truth is, Julius Kyazze needs to give me back my page.
How many pages do you have?
I have only one page, Irene Ntale, and it is verified. The other is a fans page, Ntale Ntale and for now I am more active on my fans page.
Have you tried IT specialists to fix the accessibility on your page?
I asked some specialists to get me back the page and they told me that whoever is the admin hid it from the public. I can post but those posts would not reach my fans. It is not helping my career because we are in the social media generation.
Why don’t you just create another page?
This page is verified and whatever other account I create will look like a fake.
Shouldn’t this be your manager’s fight? Where is your manager in all this?
My manager only gets involved where necessary. Besides, she has been quite busy running up and down for my concert. I did not want to pile that on her.
We heard your manager is your sister
Yes. My manager is called Sandra Byenkya. My sister is a certified public accountant, she is very good at accounting and I needed someone with such qualifications. She helps in keeping money, book keeping and other stuff.
At what point did you decide to entrust her with managing you?
At the time I was leaving Swangz, she was also leaving her workplace. I asked her if we could work together and the first thing she said was if I could afford her, then good.
Does she have any experience with artistes?
Many managers learn on job. I bet no one went to school to learn artiste management. You can acquire people skills, booking and so on.
How do you think she is fairing?
She is doing quite well because I have never stopped being booked, no one is complaining.
Where do you record your music from?
I record at many studios and work with many producers such as Big Nash, Nessim, Dan Magic and so on.
What next after the concert?
I will have two more extra concerts at Bigzone Nansana the following day and then Mityana Ku Gombolola. I will travel for the UNNA Convention, then travel to Adjumani, Jinja and Mbale.
What is your take on artistes releasing song after song?
What I learnt at Swangz is that you have to leave room for a song before you release another. In a year I would probably release four to five songs.
What do you think of the industry lately?
It is growing. We have many musicians, which creates competition. There are many studios, cinematographers etc. However, I think the industry has become very accepting and it is killing us in the end.
Which artiste inspires you?
I had so many people that inspired me when I started out but after entering the industry, I realised not nice stuff about them. But that said, Bebe Cool inspires me.
Most people do not know it, but he [Bebe Cool] has a good heart. He is caring and wishes everyone the best. When I announced my show, he called and encouraged me. He has also maintained his relevance after many years in the industry.
What should people expect at this concert?
My band and I have put in a lot of work, Steve Jean will even double what he has been delivering with the stage, lighting and sound. People should not expect mediocre work. We have been organising for three months and it is going to be a live experience of music.
What would you say are your top five songs this year?
Gukuuba by me, Birala Ray Signature, Akakona by Zulanda, Whistle by Rema and Ykee Benda and Turn The Replay by Levixone.