She had been missing in action ever since she signed to Universal Music, but Irene Ntale has not been sleeping. On Friday, the silky-voiced singer dropped as six-track EP, Sukaali.
One could rightfully argue that since they were signed to international labels Universal Music and Sony Music, Irene Ntale and Vinka have respectively been less active.
At the beginning, however, both had something working, with Ntale giving us Nyamba while Vinka released songs such as Amaaso, Red Card and By The Way among others, then they went silent.
Much as little is known about the two record deals, it is clear they are different from those that came before them. For instance, both artistes have at least managed to release music under a year after getting signed and have continued collaborating with producers and artistes of their choice.
Last week, almost nine months since she released Nyamba, Ntale released new music, a six-track EP, Sukaali.
Ntale has not been off the social scene, having shutdown the Club Beats at Home concerts twice with an acoustic set and later as a trio with Lydia Jasmine and Lillian Mbabazi, but for Ugandans, presence on the scene is releasing new music, thus her lack of new songs was interpreted as a slope.
But then Sukaali landed on Friday, after days of teasing on her social media sites. The Extended Play is pretty much everything her cover picture sells it to be – here, she appears seated on what looks like a simple throne with one hand holding onto the instrument that makes her standout of the pack – her guitar.
Bits of everything
The EP is made up of six songs that are all different in many ways; from genre, feel, approach and lyrics arrangement, it is clear Ntale was using the compilation not to simply release new music for the sake of it, but say more with it.
Sukaali, for instance, is in the same mould as Sembera, which was the lead song off the only album she did while at Swangz Avenue. The difference is that she slows the tempo and employs more instrumentation than she did Sembera and of course borrowing guitar patterns that Franco was famous for in the 1970s.
Sukaali, as a lead song of a Ntale EP, probably shows she wants to be associated with an organic sound or as a person that sings to live instrumentation as opposed to high tempo computer generated sounds made famous by local FM stations.
But Ntale, alongside her sister Sandra, last year spent almost five months in Nigeria and it is fair to imagine she picked a few things that she let inspire her Onkubirako song.
Turn Up is an ordinary song that will probably get its two or three weeks of fame and later fizzle out like many songs of its kind.
Allergy is a ballad, one that is good but would probably have been better if she had done it in a minimalist form with only her guitar.
It is a song that easily gets you thinking how wonderful it would be if Irene Ntale released an unplugged acoustic album, even if it was made up of her older songs.
Every Way and Mpima are so far the people’s favourite. Every Way is easy to the ear, thanks to the production and the cheeky lyrics while Mpima picks from Ntale from 2013 when she did songs such as Eno Yesawa or Stay With Me.
For an artiste like Ntale, it is going to be hard to imagine Ugandans turning songs from this album into hits. In fact, with the exception of Turn Up, the rest of the songs may be understood and appreciated in the later life of the body of work.
Not the best 19 minutes of Irene Ntale, but in all ways, she released a balanced body of work. One that took care of her musical ambitions with Sukaali while giving time to sing for those that want to jump and shout with Turn Up.
Generally, she balanced the boat with an album that caters for almost everyone.
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