Born Jidenna Theodore Mobisson, Jidenna is an American rapper, singer, songwriter and record producer who has been in Uganda for a week now. Isaac Sseejjombwe catches up with the 36 year old to talk about his personal life and music.
Four years since you joined the music career, what has kept you going in this competitive industry?
The inspiration is the highway in the USA called the 85. I wanted to present the idea of the highway going across the oceans to the continent of Africa so the connection between Africa and the diaspora.
Every students dream is to study at Harvard University but you declined to study over there and instead went to Sanford. Why that decision?
I was trying to get far away from Boston which is where Harvard University is so once I got into school, I left and went all the way to California.
You were a teacher back then, why then did you switch careers?
I didn’t ever want to be a teacher. I was a teacher because I wasn’t making any money as an artiste and then luckily I got a job where I could teach and use music in it and eventually I made records that were hits and got me out of teaching but I love children and believe in them to this day so I kind of use my teaching even in my career.
One of you biggest songs ‘Bambi’ means ‘Please’ in our native language. Does it mean anything to you?
Yes I heard that in Luganda Bambi meant please and I think it’s fitting because I’m pleading for the love of a woman who was a love lost for me. For me it was about the idea that ‘Bambi’ is a dear and of course the Disney character Bambi was a nickname for a woman that I used to date. So for me I’m pleading with her so it actually works perfectly that it means both my dear and please.
You are a classic man when it comes to dressing. What inspires your style?
My earliest inspiration was my dad. When he passed away I got to see old pictures of him back before I was even born like in the 1970s and he wore funky suits with a beard. He unfortunately had a stroke and became disabled so he used to walk with a cane so I put it all together but it was also my way of grieving my father and that was what inspires my style.
What do you know about Ugandan music?
Obviously I know about Eddy Kenzo but there is a lot of music I don’t know so I’m looking forward to learning about the newer artistes that are popping right now.
You claim to have sampled Eddy Kenzo’s ‘Sitya loss’ song in your ‘little bit more’ song. Now that you have been here for a week, should we assume you have already done something with him?
I love Eddy Kenzo’s music. We already have been talking for the last couple of years so if we have time, it can happen and I want to make it happen, collaborations with more Ugandan artistes.
Are you in a relationship?
I’m single, ready to mingle but I’m on tour which makes it hard to date.
Which is your best song and why among those you have done so far?
I don’t know if it is up to me to say what is my best but people will choose. I just like songs that are vulnerable like ‘Pretty and afraid’ on the new album, I like ‘Bambi’ on the old album but I don’t say they are my best because the best are what people choose.
What has been you experience so far travelling around Uganda?
Lake Nalubale was fantastic, magnificent and euphoric. Murchison falls was also just splendid. I was struck by the power and the force and also the finesse of the water when it falls. What I love here is that I’ve been surrounded by nature, water and greenery. I’ve learned a lot about certain animals that I feel have the same characteristics as humans.