Depression and drug abuse is the leading career ender for many artistes in the world, especially in the US. The vice almost ended Jackie Chandiru’s music career, not once but twice. The former Blu *3 singer has vowed to kick off from where she left off. Will she reclaim her position on the music scene? Isaac Ssejjombwe caught up with her.
Hi Jackie. How are you feeling now?
I am fine, thank you. I feel good and energised.
When did you leave rehab?
About seven months ago.
What have you been doing since then?
I have been recovering and preparing myself to get back to music. To get back to what I love doing and I think I am ready now.
How has the recovery process been?
It has not been easy since there are things that can trigger you to slip back, but so far so good.
What are some of those things that may trigger you?
It depends. Sometimes family disasters or basically anything that puts you out of your everyday mood and saddens you so much and you start looking for where and how to substitute for that pain that has been inflicted on you.
How are you able to prevent those specific things?
First and foremost, I am surrounded by an amazing group of friends and family that I trust. They help me with everything I need.
About two years ago, you swore that you were done with drugs. What went wrong?
I cannot really place my finger on anything but somehow, just like I told you, there are so many triggers. I guess I had not fully become strong enough to fight those triggers.
You have not answered my question.
I was going through depression. There were so many factors that led to it at that time and being Jackie Chandiru, I could not confide in people because if I did, next thing it would be in the media, so I held it in and it became too much and sent me into depression.
Was drug addiction one of those things?
Yes. I got into substances a bit. I used some prescriptions that caused that problem.
How sure are we that you are not using them anymore?
The people I talked about earlier have been extremely helpful, so even if I feel down, I know I can call and rely on any of them at whatever time. It is seven months now and I have not used any.
Did you check yourself into rehab?
There is no sane person who can take themselves to rehab. It was family and some friends who figured that I needed help. When you are in that position, you can never figure out what is going on.
Were you annoyed with them for doing this?
Yes, I was.
I was annoyed with them because I thought I did not have any problem and taking me there was the worst they could do because they did not know what goes on in there. I felt like it was a punishment and that they were abandoning me but later when I learnt that there was a problem, I understood that they were helping me.
So should we assume that you are at peace with them now?
I am very grateful to them because if they had not intervened, I would be dead by now.
Which rehab centre was that?
Recovery Solutions Treatment and Counselling Centre. I was there for two years altogether.
Were you on your own for these two years?
Not entirely. I used to get visitors every weekend, especially my sister. Those who were not able to come would call.
What goes on in rehab?
Basically they teach you how to live life without using substances and help you find yourself again, get out of depression, help you know that you are somebody special and important. It gives you time to reflect on life and move forward.
How confident are you that you will not go back to rehab?
I have learnt my lesson. I apologise to whoever I hurt but rest assured, I am not returning. I spent so much time over there and I would not want anyone to go through what I went through.
So, do we expect you back to doing music or is that in your past now?
I have released some songs already and more are coming up. I have been in studio recording and doing dance rehearsals. I have been watching and following the industry keenly but realised that female musicians are sleeping, so I want to wake them up, now that I am back.
But we have people like Sheebah, Spice Diana, Lydia Jazmine, Vinka, Fille and Cindy running things while you were away.
They might be ruling the airwaves but there is what we call stage performance and presence. I have not seen much of that yet. Like I said, I have been following and seeing the industry but they are lacking in some department. I am back to teach them a thing or two.
What new thing are you bringing on the table?
You just wait for my first public appearance.
Wait. Did you say you will be performing soon?
Yes. I have a listeners’ party happening towards the end of this month and I will be performing.
Are there any artistes who have been supportive during your troubled days?
Yes. Jose Chameleone, Messach Ssemakula, Spice Diana, the late Mowzey Radio, Weasel, Balaam, Lillian Mbabazi, among others. They have been talking and encouraging me. Chameleone specifically told me that certain things happen but it is the lessons we learn from them and how you pick yourself up that matters.
What would you say about the Ugandan music industry today?
It was missing me.
If you have been following the industry, who would you say were your top artistes last year?
Chameleone, Lydia Jazmine, myself and Lilian Mbabazi.
Talking about Lilian, many people out there would love to see a reunion of Blu *3. Can this happen?
Yes. And definitely this year.
What have you been missing in the industry?
Masuuka – Lydia Jazmine, Beera Nange – Sheebah, Katono – Bebe Cool and Zahabu- Charley na Nina.
With the new crop of artistes, what difference are you coming with?
The same way I got into the market in the first place, knowing that there was nothing new I was bringing but rather singing in my mother tongue. That is my niche. Besides that, I am also going to participate in the production of my songs because Ugandan sound has been the same for a long time. There is a specific sound that I want, which I have in my head so I will be telling the producers the kind of strings I want, the snare I want or drums and so on.
Which style are of music have you decided to do?
Basically the style that gets you on your feet or that which just wants you to sit and listen to every single detail of the song. I will not tell you my age but right now you will not find me jumping around and throwing my legs here and there with my clothes falling off because I am a married woman, but you will definitely enjoy whatever I will be bringing.
Talking of marriage, how is your husband?
He is very fine.
Has he been supportive?
Yes, of course. Anything that I love to do and have passion for, he supports me.
We came across clips of you at Pr Robert Kayanja’s church and we thought you had switched to Gospel music.
I was taken there by my friends Larry and Jeff. My music will be a blend of everything because that is how I want it. I just want a message out and if you can decipher abstract then we are on the same boat. Champion is actually a Gospel song but people did not see it. It is abstract and like the Bible says, let those who have ears listen.
Are we seeing you in a concert soon?
I am still scared. The same fear I have to step on stage is the same fear I have for a concert, but I will definitely do it.
Where does the fear come from?
I have taken long without performing and there is a fact that I have never done a big solo concert, but I am getting myself together for one.
What are your goals this year?
Getting to full recovery, getting back on my feet musically and pleasing the people I hurt with what I did. I want to make things right with them.
What advice would you give people in the same situation you were in?
I would actually tell everyone that sometimes you cannot blame people who faced a problem like mine because the person does not just choose to be an addict. There are things that lead to the addiction.
What needs to be done is letting the family know and establishing the root cause of everything so that they help you. People in the same situation should be given chance to explain themselves.
Worst rumours while in rehab…
• That I was thrown out of my house because of rent
• That I could not afford my own treatment
• That I was dumped by my husband
• That I was found unconscious by bouncers in my house.
• That I was in bad shape in Mulago.
• That I was suicidal
• That I was on cocaine and heroine
• That my husband left me and that he is a liar, married in 28 countries and
used expensive cars to lure me.
• That I was drugged and molested by my husband and his friends. This was all heartbroken women using media to taint my name. It is pure sinful to come up with rotten stories simply because there is someone better. Just like companies, you never find only CEOs. There is one up, then the manager, assistant manager and so on. We are never the same, otherwise we would be doomed.