Moving on: She enticed us with Quinamino, a groovy Afrobeat song talking about a lover that was doing everything right. In a snap, there was an EP and that Roast and Rhyme performance. Azawi did not rise steadily like many local artistes, she emmerged and conquered the scene with a Majje of lyrics and beats
She of the Majje. Born Priscilla Zawedde, singer Azawi is a likeable simple artiste with simple lyrics which are easy to sing-along to. Her music star is on the rise. She is in concert, her maiden one slated for tonight. Edgar R. Batte and Isaac Ssejjombwe reveal what makes her tick.
How would you describe yourself to a stranger?
I am a person who doesn’t do much to prove a point. So, simplicity is an element about me. I am a musician; I like to make music and that is my job. I am also into travelling.
I like having conversations with random people about anything, I love people but sometimes I can be an introvert but then there is always a point where I feel I should socialise.
Two and a half years on the music scene, don’t you feel the concert has come soon?
When is the right time to have it? I feel this is the right time for me to have it. I have the music and it is the right time for me to meet the fans. We lost a lot of time during Covid-19 so I’m trying to compensate for the time we lost.
In a short time, you have an EP. An album, a deluxe album and now a concert. You have been quite busy
Of course as a brand, we are always looking for much bigger things. We are looking for bigger shows, festivals and collaborations.
What do you mean by bigger things?
Working with major brands, collaborating with big companies, working with big African musicians. So we are hunting for bigger things to elevate the Azawi brand. Bigger festivals like I would want to be at the Wireless, perform at the Coachella and we are going to try to pursue them.
What is that most important thing about protection of your image and brand?
Without my brand, I am nothing. I can’t be anything. Building a brand takes several bricks to get it to that level where everyone appreciates, but something small can tear up work you have built for years and years.
So, I am very sensitive when it comes to my brand. The way people see me and the way I talk, the image I projectt it must be well thought out because I don’t want to do something that is going to damage me and the hard work of the people behind me.
I have people who put in so much, so, I take them and my brand very seriously. There is nothing I do as Azawi that is half baked. I always commit and take it seriously.
What is the worst that has happened to you, and you felt it should have been a bad dream?
As Azawi, I really hate bad sound on set, and I have done a couple of shows where sound is (really) terrible. That usually throws me off because I always want to be on set with good sound.
You know bad sound can make you look like a mediocre. So, for the times I have always had bad sound it pains me a lot. Even when I am off the stage, I am like ‘what the heck was that’.
What is that song you perform and you feel your creative energy is up there?
Apparently, ‘Majje’ is up there. A lot of people relate to it and the moment it starts to play, the energy goes up drastically and everyone sings on top of their voices.
This is a song you did with FikFameika and its video was bankrolled by Guinness, what has it taken you to have such endorsements?
Discipline and consistency and the way I present myself or I am represented. I have that Afrocentric character within me. I like African clothes, instruments and Guinness is about supporting African creativity at the moment.
So, the Guinness tribe thought I could sit well in that campaign because I was about Africanism, not doing thoseflashy things from the western world so that’s why they came on board and gave me that endorsement.
Tell us about Azawi the African and what inspires her?
This goes back to when I was still a child in Primary Five. We used to go with my mother and watch traditional dance shows and around that time there was a traditional dance group called Ndere Troupe.
We used to go to Kigoowa and watch their Sunday shows and the performances I saw inspired me to want to be a part of such an amazing thing one day. I remember the first time I went there; I watched a girl dance and sing while carrying 12 clay pots on her head.
That was enough for me to get inspired, and when we got home, I told my mother that ‘you know what, I want to be a part of them’, and asked her to help me join the group.
Good enough, she had a friend that knew someone in the group. However, around the time some of the directors in Ndere had decided to breakaway. So, I joined a break away which was headed by Kaddu Yusuf.
I was with this group called Kika Troupe for some time and it is from here that I learnt a lot of traditional folk songs and dances. I learnt to play almost all traditional instruments and dances from different parts of the country.
So, that element of traditional music, dance and drama has been a foundation to my creative process because it is very hard for me to do a song and I don’t incorporate an African instrument. That is why people say I come through differently because my background has also been different.
There are a lot of expectations from you among Ugandans. They believe you are bringing Uganda’s first Grammy award. What is your take on that?
I’m really honoured and blessed to have such compliments and I’m happy that people believe in me to that extent and I’m going to work so hard so that we achieve what we can. Of course I would want a Grammy, I would want a BET, I would want to sell-out the O2 Arena but at the end of the day it has to start with the work and I’m trying hard to align myself in that direction.
How would you say signing with Swangz Avenue changed you as a person and professional?
It has really had an immense impact on me. Before joining Swangz Avenue, I was just a girl, singing. I had a lot of music. I could write and record my own music and I could also write for other artists.
Right now, the only thing I must worry about is making music only. I don’t have to worry about promoting it or think about what to dress and eat. I only have to concentrate on music.
So, working with a label such as Swangz Avenue, makes work simpler because everyone that is part of the puzzle has something they do that builds the Azawi brand.
Run us through the musical journey of the Deluxe album…
We wanted to add more songs but felt like people had not yet absorbed the album so we gave it a few songs just to extend the album and also the collaborations and music I had was to be released at this time.
What are your thoughts about the African Music album compared to your earlier EP?
For the African Music album, I was much more deliberate. Even when I was creating the records, I was prepared and I had to portray that in the music. It was more intentional because we knew we were going big and we organised how we were going to layout the tracks, which track will follow which one and which one are we going to promote it? I think that planning and organisation made it easy to be a successful body of work. I have had enough records that are hit songs from the album. Songs such as ‘Majje’, ‘Slow Dancing’, ‘Bamututte’. It was more deliberate from creation, mind-set, mixing, and instrumentation while for the EP, we just collected songs and compiled them together.
Why those particular four songs for the deluxe album?
First of all, Craving You Heavy had its own power so we felt we had to revamp it more, which is why we did the remix with Chike. The extra three songs connected with the vibe of the album. The album had Party Mood with slow vibes so they were blending in so well on the album. I tried out something different, a funk punk on Envision. I tried to tap into other markets with this deluxe.
Why Chike and DJ Neptune and not Wizkid, Burna Boy, etc?
They were the people I could access at the point and actually for DJ Neptune, it was through Mr Eazi. He is a big fan of my work and has been very fundamental in providing me with contacts of people I need to work with.
You’re releasing several music videos when other artistes at Swangz are releasing one at a time, do you think you’re getting special attention?
Honestly, I don’t think so because at Swangz every artiste has a plan for the whole year of how things are going to be run and each act you see is running according to plan.
There is nothing that is done and is not intentional. I think Swangz is trying to exploit and take advantage of the opportunities that have come with me. They have not had an artiste like me who releases an album that sells out.
Why would you say this album is a success?
It has elevated my name as Azawi. The credibility it has given me is immense because no one can come out and say Azawi is a one-hit wonder. Everyone now knows my power. It has given me an apex thumb position in this industry.
Do you have an idea of how many songs you have written thus far?
Honestly they are many and I have written so much music that includes about four albums that are not yet released.
Are you still into music writing for others?
I had taken time off and if I am to do it, I do it for free but because I’ve been so busy it’s been hard for me. However it is my thing and will always be part of me.
Your fashion label, Ghetto showcased at the recent Guinness Bright House, what is the inspiration behind the brand?
Ghetto is more about embracing yourself, who you are, where you come from and your background. I live in my own truth because I cannot be anybody else. I can only be Priscilla Zawedde.
The youth should be confident and embrace their own greatness and talents and go for what they want to achieve in life. They should not be afraid. They should pursue their dreams without being afraid.
Where can one find and buy your fashion outfits and items?
Swangz Avenue is the only place.
Would you say you are the biggest artiste in Uganda right now?
I don’t want to name myself because my job is to do music and it’s for the fans to decide. I know I am good and I am grateful for everyone who believes in me.
What are you going to do differently at the concert from what you have been doing?
This is more like a production. It is going to be like a story. I will be telling my story from where it all started so people should expect a movie. We have arranged the whole production and made sure we give people an experience they will never forget. From the lighting, the band, breaks, graphics, sound. I want someone to leave the venue saying this girl made my year. We have prepared for it, invested a lot of money. If that show sells out, of course we will have more people bargaining.
What next for Azawi after the concert?
I’m going to be recording more music and definitely more growth. I have been doing this as a fresh talent so after this concert I want to unveil the other grown part of me. My next content is going to be personal and intimate.
What is on your wish list?
I want to sell out Namboole at some point, have big collaboration with big artistes and have big endorsements with big companies to let people know that anything is possible and that you can come from Nakulabye and do big things.
Who are these big artistes?
Burna Boy, Wizkid, Rihanna and Bobi Wine.
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