The return. 2013 was the last time Juliana Kanyomozi held a concert. Nine years later, Juliana returns to her last concert venue, Kampala Serena for her Boundless Concert. Isaac Ssejjombwe catches up with the artiste
What has Juliana been up to?
Growing, and being a mom. I have been thinking about the direction I want to take musically and basically I have been reflecting on my life.
What is that direction that you want to take?
Generally I just want to be a better human being not just to myself but to others as well. I want to be of service to society, a better example to those that have grown with me. I want to be happier. I mean as you grow, you see your colleagues dropping, especially the past two years. It was such a lesson how easy it was for people to just die and this reawakened my need to be a little bit selfish.
What has life taught you?
Not take anything for granted because you can lose it anytime. Life has taught me to value people that mean the world to me, they are not easy to find. Life has taught me to be smarter financially, when I was younger, I never thought about money like that but after Covid-19, I started thinking about my discipline and as such I went ahead and got financial advisors so I no longer spend without planning.
What do you think about the current music industry as compared to your early years in the industry?
I feel like the current generation is missing out on some things but in certain ways it is not their fault, the world has changed. When I think about the concerts we had, performed every weekend, the places were always be filled, I feel the current generation has not enjoyed their fame and hard work to the fullest. We didn’t have social media yet, so unlike them, we hustled, always at the mercy of radio and TV stations. Today, there are options so the ground is softer. We used to sell albums and even before the album was made, Kasiwukila would call with an offer. Awards were popular, every year, you worked towards getting a nomination at the PAM awards,those things motivated us. I don’t know what motivates artistes today, maybe YouTube numbers. The way music is released has changed, these guys can release a song every month. I, however, love their new sound. I would be interested in collaborating with a producer from this generation, guide them and teach them a few things.
How are you going to do that considering that people believe you’re unapproachable and inaccessible?
The people who say that don’t really know who Juliana is. The reserved Juliana is not the singer. People tend to mix these people up. There are a number of projects I am working on, some were actually slowed by the lockdown. Within these projects, there will be mentorship for new artistes. You will see the Juliana who wants to mold a new generation of artistes based on her experiences.
When you speak about molding and mentoring artistes, should we assume you are going to start a record label or something of the sort?
The reason why I said it like that is because I don’t want to give details on how I plan to do it but I will definitely share more details when the right time comes and that will be very soon.
What has prompted you to do this?
I get many random calls, messages from upcoming artistes and parents who believe their children have what it takes. I don’t want to be random, I want an organised space.
According to you, what makes a great artiste?
A good artiste knows what they want to sound like. They know how they want to execute, they listen to those who are better than them. They surround themselves with people they can learn from, and they are humble. A good artiste knows that music is not about a current hit song but must aspire for longevity.
What is good music?
Music has no rules, it is like fashion, you create what comes to mind. However, there are things that are very important such as originality and production. In my opinion good music should give me goosebumps.
Where do you think Nigerian artistes beat us?
Their music is well produced. I was reading somewhere and was shocked by the experience of some of their producers. Some have worked with some of the biggest artistes in the world. You imagine the kind of skill this person is bringing home, a Grammy award winning producer collaborating with a fellow Nigerian.
Lately we have had more than seven Nigerian artistes performing in Uganda and no Ugandan performing in Nigeria. What are we not doing right?
I don’t want to be misquoted as being selfish but we just have to put ourselves first. I don’t know why in Uganda people think something is better because it is not Ugandan. It has gone from fashion, food, vacations and now to the entertainment business. If an artiste is not Ugandan, they are automatically better than Ugandans.
Nigerians put themselves first. We have so many Ugandan artistes more talented than Nigerians but they will put themselves first before anyone else. I wouldn’t have a problem with Nigerians, Congolese, Tanzanians and South Africans performing here but I would like to see a balance and that has to start with our promoters, deejays, radio stations because at the end of the day what you choose to feed the public is what they will go with.
The moment we start putting our own people first, Ugandans will support them. Why should you put a Nigerian artiste at Cricket Oval and give them all this huge sponsorship and yet you can’t do it for a Ugandan artiste?
Bits and Pieces was your last body of work in 2018, why don’t you release music more often?
Bits and Pieces came out before I left to have my baby, by the time the baby was born, we were in the middle of a lockdown. I don’t necessarily have to explain myself and as an artiste you are not going to find me releasing an album every year. That is not my style. People are used to this generation of artistes yet I’m not that kind of artiste.
Do you miss the Juliana of the early 20s?
She was young, inexperienced and just a young girl growing up but I don’t miss Juliana who was all over the place. I guess it is part of growing up.
What do you put into consideration when you are making a collaboration? Not that they are many anyway?
Who I collaborate with matters. I can’t just jump into a studio with anyone. We have to connect on a musical level. I have been in a situation before where I collaborated with someone but we were on different career paths and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. We have to share a certain level of togetherness if I am to work with you.
There is this rumor that the late Mowzey Radio wrote a song for you and you turned it down. What really happened?
That story has been twisted, Mowzey Radio had written for me Nkwagala but what I didn’t realise when I was buying that song was that he loved it so much. I did it and it was so beautiful but knowing how I am and taking time to release music, I remember him asking me a few times when I will release that song and honestly I had no answer because I hadn’t yet decided. I think he got tired of waiting to hear my version and went ahead and recorded his version of the same song.
That was copyright infringement.
I wasn’t mad at him because I knew who he was. I don’t know why but I never took it personally. When I heard the song I just laughed. I chose not to release my version out of mutual respect.
Did he make a refund?
I trusted that we would work it out and we talked and he apologised and asked me if he could write another song for me. That is how Twalina Omukwano was made.
Will you ever release your version of Nkwagala?
Now that he’s not here, I probably wouldn’t but if he was, maybe we would talk about it and see how to release newer version.
Now that the local film industry is making strides and your background in acting together with Laura Kahunde your sister’s influence, is acting something you would consider?
Definitely. I actually have two projects that have been sent to me through her. It is just that I haven’t got a script that speaks to me. Again like music, you have to like the character that someone wants you to play. So when I come across a project and I like the story and fit in the character I will definitely jump on it.
Why decide to do a concert now and what is so special about it?
I get to reconnect with my fans in a special way. We get to celebrate music that has stood the taste of time. We get to celebrate the beauty of music. The Juliana of 2022 is so different from the Juliana of 2013 when I had my last show. It’s very humbling for me to have been given the opportunity to sing for this long.
Some of your fans feel left out because of the shs150,000 ticket price. Do you have any plans for them?
This concert is one way of Juliana telling you she is back to entertaining and we have a plan to have other concerts all over the country. This is just one of the concerts. This is going to be an intimate moment with my fans. During my first concert, I charged shs100,000 and it was a lot back then.
This concert is happening on the same day as B2C’s concert which has created a lot of tension on social media. Was it intentional?
Those who love B2C will go and watch them and they won’t be distracted. The mentality of ‘I have to be alone’ is a small mentality. The dream is big enough for all of us. If there is anyone who is passionate about young talent it is me. The thing people forget is that by the time you announce a concert, you have been doing preparations months ago, venue booked, service providers paid etc. We are both going to receive the love we deserve on that day. During my last concert, Rema also had hers at hotel Equatorial and we both sold out.
Have you guys sorted the misunderstanding with Tshaka Mayanja over the Jazz safari picnic event that you failed to perform on?
This was never personal. I have a lot of respect for him. It hurt me that I had to make that decision with my team but there was no way out of it. If there is one artiste who respects clients it is me. I had never cancelled anyone’s gig and it broke my heart that I had to do that. It was just unfortunate it happened.
Are you willing to work with him in the future?
Absolutely. It was just one event where thing didn’t go as planned but like I said its’s not personal. I have no anger towards him and I still see him the same way I did before and if there is an opportunity for us to work together in the future, I would be willing to so long as we understand each other and respect each other better.
Any new music lined up?
Of course. It is not a single for sure. I have been in studio for the last few months and it will be sooner after the concert. We shall start with an EP.
What is your favourite song among those you have done so far?
I don’t have a favorite song. However, I get emotional when I hear songs such as Kanyimbe and ‘Nabikowa’. They are deep and emotional.
What legacy do you want to live?
Professionalism, honesty, integrity, one who served people and society the best way she could, one who shared her gift to inspire and educate.
Last message to those artiste who look up to you?
Keep doing what you doing, you are going to find some huddles along the way but keep pushing because your determination will get you to the top. It can’t be a smooth road all the way but most importantly, believe in yourself and do not accept any discouragement from anyone. Be willing to learn and open minded.
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