Ugandan singer Lily Kadima ready for world music stage

In August 2016 Lillian Nazziwa Birungi, popularly known as Lily Kadima, held a concert to officially unveil her solo career at the National Theatre in Uganda. 

Ugandan artist Lily Kadima. Photo: Lily Kadima's Facebook page
Ugandan artist Lily Kadima. Photo: Lily Kadima's Facebook page

With her eyes set on the world’s music stage, Kadima’s music continues to gain traction in her home country. Recently she released the video for the song 'Tonkutulanga' (Don’t Ever Let me Down). Music In Africa spoke to the artist, whose musical career started in the halls of various churches. She says that music has always been her calling. 

 “I did not understand why I always fantasized about singing to big audiences. Growing up, I always dreamt of performing on big stages across the world.”

This dream has started to manifest itself. Kadima is one of the outstanding acts lined up to perform at the Pearl Rhythm Festival, which is slated for 29 October. “I believe it is a matter of time before I get on other festival stages, it is an honour to appear at this year’s Pearl Rhythm Festival.”

The artist says that singing has always given her the freedom to express her thoughts. 

“Even though I was a very shy child and often got bullied in school, I found peace in getting close to music,” Kadima says.

Venturing into music

While her mother’s wish was for Kadima to pursue a career in medicine or accounting, the artist had to hide the fact that she had other career plans. “It was very hard for me to let my mother know that I was practising music. I made up many fake stories.

“I would tell her I was working in a hotel as a supervising manger on night duty, while in reality I was singing with bands every night and sing karaoke at Alligators’ – a night spot in Kampala.”

In her third year at university, she started singing at jam sessions. It was during this time that she met Franco Mpamizo, who owned the well-known band Bantu. The band used to play Monday through to Sunday at the Grand Imperial Terrace. Mpamizo liked her voice and offered her a place in the band.

After a short stint with the Bantu Band, a friend introduced her to the Rock Shield Band in South Sudan. The band has recently rebranded and is known as the Fusion Band. She worked with the band for six years. It was during this time that she released a folk pop hit single ‘Akuloga’. “The song is sung in Lusoga, a dialect of the people from Eastern Uganda. Literally the song means love is blind.”

Kadima says the single has continued to gain popularity throughout Uganda and across East Africa. The song was awarded for the Best Eastern Song organized at the 2013 HIPIPO Awards.

 Challenges of a solo career

Having performed as a solo act for the last three years, Kadima says that there are challenges but she is determined to succeed. “Unlike a band where you can share responsibilities, a solo act has to shoulder more responsibilities and the decision-making.”

While she has made fair progress as a solo artist, Kadima says it has been an uphill task to sell her music and get more platforms to expose her talent. “My music, which covers various genres, including a mix of folk, soul, rock, reggae as well as Afro-beat, sounds new and different to the market and requires lots of effort to expose it out there.”

However, Kadima says her previous experiences with bands have adequately prepared her for a solo career. She notes that one has to be consistent. The opportunities she has gotten along the way have enabled to push herself out of her comfort zone. The pop singer says that avenues such as karaoke nights and jam sessions are platforms that artists who are starting out can use to explore their talent.

Music business

Acknowledging that she has not learned a lot when it comes to developing solid music business plans, Kadima says she is trying to learn as much as she can. “I did not learn much about the business side until around September 2015, when I got to meet experienced men and women kind enough to enlighten me about the music business.”

She is thus determined to learn more as she intends to set up her own music label in future. 

Currently Kadima is working on her yet-to-be-titled album. She says the album, which will be her third, is expected to be released next year. She is also planning to hold a major concert next year.



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