Uganda’s Songstress – Successful singer & business woman with a generous heart
By Phillip Corry
Her pretty looks, and powerful singing lungs, belie the fact that there is more to Uganda’s songstress, Angela Katatumba, who is graced with a big golden heart. Those two virtues have enabled her to blend music and charity together, a rare commodity in this small, land-locked country where artistes first think about their stomach before even considering others less fortunate than themselves.
Brought up in a giving family that had generously helped the needy for as far back as she can remember, the desire to do the same is inherent in Angella. During 20 turbulent years of war, she has been giving enormous help to the people of Northern Uganda.
“I have used my NGO, “For you Gulu”, to raise awareness of the suffering that the people of Northern Uganda have faced, and it has been a great success. “However”, Katatumba said, “that alone has slowed down my music career. People have been very generous giving items like clothes; some have offered medicine, food and even money for the cause.”
After 20 years in exile, the career-driven singer returned to embark on helping the displaced people in Northern Uganda. “When I look at the whole situation, I believe the people in the North need us more and we must help them in any way possible,” she said.
“Seriously traumatized by the war and with no where to go for 20 years, they have been staying in IDP camps. Where do you expect them to start a new life when they don’t have the basic things like utensils?”
Recently, this Ugandan singer and her team, together with Lira Municipality MP James Akena, his mother Maria Kalule Obote and the help of Angella’s sponsors, Kampala Pharmaceutical Industries, treated 1,000 people in IDP camps.
There has been this notion that musicians use their cause to help others in society as a public relations gimmick, but don’t even suggest that to Katatumba. “It is very draining for me to run this NGO, and I cannot do it alone. I have to be helped but it’s worth it because these people need us more than we need them,” Katatumba said. “I have sacrificed my music career in order to help the needy people in the North.”
She held several charity shows while in Lira and also opened up a hot-line which well-wishers call and donate whatever they can.
“I travel with a group of journalists and other people so that they can see that all the work that I do is very transparent,” Katatumba stressed.
“People will say all sorts of things such as that I am manipulating the situation, but how can I, when I am doing a noble cause of helping people in need who have been homeless for 20 years?”
Her work hasn’t gone unnoticed and the international media are taking keen note of her charity work. She has appeared on Voice of America and CNN’s Inside Africa. “This has opened opportunities for me internationally”, but she admits that her charity work has taken a toll on her music career.
“It has showcased me to the international media and I have received the necessary recognition, but that has not helped me because I should have been concentrating on my music career,” Katatumba stressed. “My love is music and eventually, at one point I want my NGO to be self-sustaining so that it can generate its own money. That way, I won’t need to run around looking for funds to sustain it.”
Katatumba has not just shared her work with Ugandans, but continues to explore other parts of the East African region. She has raised funds with music shows in Kigali (Rwanda) for Rwandans to help heal the tragic memories of the 1994 Rwanda genocide. “I would also like to go down to Somalia or the Darfur region to help the many people have been displaced in camps,” Katatumba said. “I would happily take on the challenge although I know it’s not easy. I would first have to do my research before embarking on this mission.”
Her latest breakthrough came in 2005 when she released several songs. Since then, her fast rise to stardom has had a major impact on her career.
Katatumba considers herself truly blessed that the Ugandan entertainment market took to her music in her capacity as an A-Class distinctive performer, even though her true desire was to conquer the C-Class, not only for their true sense of loyalty, but because they are in the majority.
Immediately, she realized that this would involve singing in Luganda, which she knew would be an uphill task. It is a local language she didn’t even speak, but thankfully, Angella is not a girl who hides away from strong challenges. She professes it was hard work singing in Luganda but it paid off with the massive success of “Sikyetaaga”, a duet she did with Bebe Cool who had originally approached her to record it as a duet because he loved her voice.
Her other songs including I live for you, I surrender, For You Gulu, Success, Peace, Let Me, One Minute Man, Twebonyabonya, and her new release Forgiveness have been given rare reviews on Uganda’s airwaves.
“I am working on my first album and it’s going to be in English which I enjoy doing,” Katatumba said. “I have done singles and duets, but not to my liking because they have been in Luganda and Swahili, both languages I don’t understand – I feel more comfortable singing in English and it attracts a wider audience.”
The singer has also gone into the lucrative real astate business, and is Managing Director of Uganda Real Estate in Kampala which she recently started.
That aside, the ambitious singer has started working on her first 12-track album that will be inspirational with its slow ballads in English.
The never-ending media attention is always hard and challenging to deal with, especially for a lady who isn’t altogether accustomed to it, but Katatumba is a person who conducts herself with maturity and reservedness beyond her age.
Whilst she is fun-loving and open-minded, Angella Katatumba is also an extremely respectable, private and sensitive person.
You can contact Angella Katatumba and her NGO For You Gulu on +(256) 0782551341 or email her at:
P.O.BOX 6968 Kampala, Uganda