Believe me or not: For the past two years, singer Nina Kankunda, alias Nina Roz, has been prone to controversies with several reports attributing her character to drug abuse. However, her woes have not stopped her from shining in the music industry. Nina caught up with Gabriel Buule to discuss her music career and a bit about her social life.
The last one year has seen you make headlines over several issues, including management, drugs and marriage. How have you managed to keep cool through it all?
True, I have been in the media for wrong and sometimes right reasons but resilience has been key in my life. It is not my style to explain to everyone about what is going on in my life. However, with everything that happened to me, I was affected in a way but I never lost focus. My magic has been a combination of God and my fans who have given me a reason to stay on top because of their unwavering support.
The music industry is a people-driven trade and this implies that as an artiste you can always be a victim of judgment but life goes on.
We have seen stories of you linked to drugs. Have you struggled with drugs at any point in your career?
Drugs? I do not know how many times I will explain myself but the truth is that it sounds like organised propaganda to tarnish my image. Those allegations are unfounded and there is no proof.
I am a law-abiding Ugandan who does not deal in anything illegal and above all, I am a Christian and drugs are not Godly.
But we have also heard that many musicians use drugs. What advice would you give those who use drugs then?
Drugs can threaten careers and lives. I have heard allegations that some artistes use drugs to enhance talent but there is no scientific research to back up the claim.
To my fellow Ugandan musicians who are using drugs, stay away from wrong company and endeavour to seek help from doctors and people who care about you.
Above all, for those battling to quit addiction, it is never too late for you to redeem your life and seek God. Finally, if you feel depressed, let drugs not be the solution – talk to someone before it is too late.
Let’s talk management; how did you conclude with your distributor, Black Market Records and what is the status of your contract and YouTube account?
Well, Black Market Records and I had a few issues to resolve and I believe that bloggers and the media somehow misreported the matter. We resolved all the misconceptions around the contract and currently we have a healthy working relationship.
In a normal society, conflicts are always bound to happen but that does not mean that life stops. In a civilised world, we agree to disagree and life goes on.
You have tasted the waters, do you think record labels are important to Ugandan musicians?
It is a new culture that we need to embrace but I advise artistes to understand the trade before entering into any transaction. A record label is a real deal if the musician understands the type of relationship they have with the label.
Now that you have resolved issues with Black Market Records, what is the way forward?
My focus is on digital distribution and making more good music for my fans. It is hard for the audience to reject good content and for digital distribution, it is a much more reliable avenue to popularise my work both locally and on a global scale.
You have had a lot of hits over the years. Which song stands out the most and why?
Hard question for me! However, for us creatives, we treat all our projects like our children. I love all my music because I invest 100 percent in each project that I get to work on.
Art is a story of parent and children; you might act differently with one but at the end of the day, they are all your children and you have to love them.
Should we expect an album from you?
For years I have been purposely releasing singles and it has been a learning process. Currently, my team and I are working on a couple of projects and an album is among the many things that we are working on.
I have a new song called Kikole and an international collaboration with Kenya’s Mbuzi Gang and both are doing well on all streaming services.
What do you think is making Uganda lag behind countries such as Nigeria and South Africa?
A couple of questions: What does the Ugandan music industry stand for? What is our target and where is our focus as an industry? Many questions are yet to be answered but I believe it is the inability of all stakeholders in the music industry failing to work together.
The Ugandan music industry has a lot of division and clusters led by people with no clear vision and agenda for it
What challenges have you faced in the music industry?
Initially, I got frustrated by the many doubting Thomases who kept disapproving me and my works but I never gave up. Earlier when I was starting, not everyone thought I would make it, hence facing hindrances in promotion of my music.
Another issue is the struggle to get airplay; it takes a lot to get songs played on airwaves and television.
At one point, I remember even pushing for the promotion of my song Oli Mekete on boda bodas, walking around town just to make sure my music is on the airwaves.
Why are you in music?
It is my greatest passion and the best way to express myself to the world. It is sad that society forces people to do things they do not wish to do and that is why we have very many people doing wrong jobs. Music has been my thing and it is all I wanted to do; it gives me peace of mind to enjoy while earning.
What does it take to do music with you?
It is all about the quality of the project, the vision and the purpose. If we strike a common goal, you can then reach out to my management and team and we will be good to go.
Which artistes would you like to work with in Uganda?
Any artiste with good music. You know it is not about the name but the quality of the end product.
If someone wanted to book you, how much do you charge locally and internationally?
It would depend on the terms and conditions of the different events.
You have attempted several styles of music, which genre do you want to tap into now?
I think I would love to maintain Afropop and attract the international community to fall in love with it.
Where does the name Nina Roz come from?
Nina is my real name and I get the Rose from a lady who inspired me a lot; Amber Rose an American model, recording artiste and actress.
What do you detest most?
I would say backbiting. If you have an issue, come and tell me so we sort it out and bury the hatchet rather than defaming my reputation. It shows no respect at all.
How far did you go with school?
I went to St. Steven Church of Uganda then joined Kakungulu Secondary School and Kibuli Secondary School and finally International University of East African in Kansanga for a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Unfortunately, I dropped out in the second semester of my second year.
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