5 female artists redefining the Ugandan music scene

All over the continent, Africa is blessed with amazing female talent. The East African nation of Uganda is no different; here too there is no shortage of successful and influential female artists.

Ugandan artist Rema Namakula. Photo: www.xclusive.co.ug
Ugandan artist Rema Namakula. Photo: www.xclusive.co.ug

Fresh new talent is emerging regularly, as new artists seek to stake a claim of Uganda's vibrant and diverse music industry. While many of the country's female artists started in groups and tend to sound similar, there are still plenty of distinct female voices that bring a breath of fresh air to the Ugandan music scene. Here are five of them...

Angella Katatumba

In 2011 Angela Katatumba made history when she was chosen as the first artist to accompany the police, army and prisons bands by singing the Ugandan national anthem in front of 13 heads of state. She made her debut in 2005 and has so far released two albums: Peace and Glad I'm Alive. She is currently working on her third album, Supernatural Girl, and has collaborated with other Ugandan artists such as Keko. Angella is more than just an artist. Besides working in her family’s hotel business, she is heavily involved with humanitarian works. With the Angela Katatumba Development Foundation, Angela ran the ‘For You Gulu' project with the intention of using music to raise awareness of the plight of Northern Uganda after 21 years of war. She has also been involved with the 'Let’s Go Green' campaign that sought to enlighten the Ugandan public about climate change. Angela performed at the first ever United Nations World Humanitarian Summit between on 23 and 24 May in Istanbul, Turkey.


Phina Mugerwa

Singer and dancer Phina Mugerwa first emerged on Uganda’s music scene in 2007. After completing high school she heard of an audition being conducted by Kato Lubwama, She auditioned with about 300 others and was among the final three to be chosen. On stage she is famous for her energetic dancing as well as her singing. Her singles such as ‘Fundukululu’, ‘Gyobera’ and others have made her a household name in Uganda.


Jemimah Sanyu

Jemimah Sanyu, known as the 'stage gladiator' among her music fans, embarked on a professional music career in 2007 when she joined Grace Records. She quickly became a fan favourite because of her wild live performances and powerful voice. With the release of her single 'Ziba Amaaso' in 2010, Sanyu earned further attention and respect in the Ugandan music scen, scoring widespread radio airplay and embarking on a national tour. Throughout 2011, she was the lead singer in one of East Africa's biggest bands, Bantu Band. Nowadays Jemimah performs with her own band, named Unit 446. Her debut solo album Amaaso Go Googera achieved considerable success. Learn more about her in this interview.


Tshila

Sarah Tshila - or simply Tshila - first got onto the music scene in 2005 as a member of the pioneering Ugandan hip-hop group Bataka Squad. She started out as the group's female MC, then later began to explore a solo career as an 'Afro-fusion' artist. Tshila gave up a promising career in computer science in the USA to dedicate herself to music. From opening for Jaqee (a Berlin-based jazz artist) on her first unplugged show in Kampala to singing with UK group Kinobe, Tshila quickly made a name for herself as a versatile musician. In 2007 she participated in the BBC World Service talent search called The Next Big Thing, in which Tshila was named one of the 20 best unsigned artists in the world. Her music was considered by one of the judges as being “a perfect soundtrack to nice summer day".


Rema Namakula

Rema Namakula is one of the most most talented female artists to emerge from Uganda in recent years. Her musical repertoire is full of uplifting songs celebrating life and love. Rehema 'Rema' Namakula began her music career as a backup singer for Ugandan star Bebe Cool in his Gagamel crew. They parted ways in 2013 and Rema embarked on a solo career, releasing the single 'Oli Wange' that year to much acclaim. Since then she has released singles consistently, including the 2015 hit 'Katonotono' that further expanded her popularity in Uganda.


Of course this list does not claim to be exhaustive; Uganda is blessed with many other talented female artists other than the five listed above. For example, Juliana Kanyomozi, Judith Babirye and Iryn Namubiru are some of the artists that cannot go unnoticed among Ugandan music fans. Kanyomozi in particularly has done exceptionally well to promote her brand beyond Uganda's borders. Others like Irene Ntale, Sheebah and saxophonist Maureen Rutabingwa, popularly known as MoRoots, are some of the other female artists helping to keep the Ugandan music scene vibrant.

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