Music. James Baker Ssembuusi, alias Zulanda, is a singer and producer behind songs such as Mukwano Gwo, Ebitengo, Akakoona, Long Kick and Yita Waiter among others. Besides his own songs, he is a songwriter that has worked with various artistes. Isaac Ssejjombwe caught up with him.
What are some of the songs you have written?
I am blessed to have been part of brilliant projects such as Irene Ntale’s Stamina Daddy, He Go Down, Nkubukinze, Love letter, Stay With Me, Lillian Mbabazi’s Kuuma Obudde, Winnie Nwagi’s Embeera, Kyowulira and Bebe Cool’s Nkwongedde Akalulu, among others.
If it wasn’t for music what would you be doing?
I’ve never been compelled to have a desk job or an eight to five job. But without music who knows guess my farming hours would be more than the usual ones.
You were once affiliated to Swangz Avenue, why did you leave?
I left to find myself. To spread my wings and see the world as it really is. Pampering was getting to me creative wise, not that it is bad but I am built for blood, sweat and tears so as to inspire my creativity. But I will always be grateful to Swangz Avenue.
How long were you at Swangz Avenue?
I was there for around seven years, including those before I started singing.
What were you doing for the seven years?
I was voicing and composing ad jingles mostly besides the song writing.
What pays more between singing and song writing?
Song writing is part of the bigger picture of music, I know what you mean but at the moment, singing is more lucrative. If the copyright law was well enforced though, one would make a living off song writing only.
How much do you charge to write a single song and how much do you charge for a performance?
These prices are determined by dynamic factors, this could be the time invested, and work involved, geographical location of client, basically different prices but precisely its seven figures.
Are there situations where the audience asks you to sing songs you have written for other artistes?
Yes the audience wants what it wants and I am a humble servant so I have ever done that before the lockdown age dawned on us.
What is the favourite song you have written?
To be honest, I haven’t written my best song yet. I feel a void of doing better with each day that goes by though, Nkubukinze by Irene Ntale was my first baby, so it sits differently with me.
Who is the most flexible artiste you have worked with?
Most of the big names are quite easy, unlike a number of up and coming brothers and sisters who need some extra work to make a good song.
Where do you rank yourself among song writers in Uganda?
I rank myself as number one of course, not underestimating my colleagues in the game but charity begins at home, the rest come in second.
How are you surviving in the lockdown?
I have been surviving through my song writing and the good friends and family that we have. God bless these people everyone deserves to have them.
How many songs have you sold since last year?
Since last year, I have written more than 10 songs, one of them was Road Mufele for Alex Muhangi and Kabampaane for Barbarita and others for artistes abroad.
Besides song writing, how have you been surviving?
Publishing music for various artistes, agro business, song composition, production, artiste branding and management, among others.
What lessons have you learnt in Covid-19?
That we need one another and we need to create various entities to bring in cash to be safe.
What makes you stand out from other artistes?
I am me and no artiste can be me. They can be like me but originality makes me stand out, check some of my music out, I implore you.
Are you in any relationship?
I have a woman I call mine and she calls me her’s.
Would you let a woman vibe you?
Yeah, I am a bit liberal when it comes to love matters. I mean who makes the rules? I roll with the flow if we share common attributes and ideas then why not.
Which qualities do you look out for in a woman?
A God-fearing woman with vision is so attractive to me.
What is the most precious gift you have ever given a lady?
Does a full salary qualify because I did that with my first pay cheque. We broke up a month later.
Why did you break up?
It was an issue of time. I vaguely remember something to do with not having enough time for the relationship. The pay was just Shs300,000 at the moment.
Would you date a wealthier woman than you?
I wouldn’t mind it as it would push me to make more with her or even more than her because I am a born hustler.
Tell us about your new projects?
I have a fresh project, a single called Nkweguya for the lovers out there to ease your lockdown woes and a collaboration project called Champion with Daxx Vybes and Santana.
I am the second last out of nine children. My Father is the late Ssembuusi J.Claudius and my mother is Molly Namazzi Katete. I went to Masaka Primary School, Bright Grammar, Blessed Sacrament Kimaanya, Hope Primary School, St Joseph’s Naggalama and Kisubi High for O-A Level respectively then did a bachelor’s in Business Computing at Kampala University. which I finished and concentrated on Music.
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