The list of good female voices in Uganda is endless, and depends on what one wants to hear, after all, beauty is in the eyes of the gaze… but we are not gazing, we are listening!
In the 70s, when Jimmy Katumba and the Ebonies were rocking, the struggle might have been between Stella Nanteza, Jimmy’s then wife, and Vicky Kabali Kaggwa, but today is very different.
One is hard-pressed to make a choice. Still, there’s got to be one voice that makes the grade, one that will have the aesthetics, the versatility, the expression and language, the consistence to make it the top female voice in Uganda!
For one school of thought, it is important that the voice is saleable! That it can be marketed consistently and sold to the audience all the time!
Juliana Kanyomozi and Jackie Chandiru
Question is, can a voice be valued at a market? I say no; what would the price of Carol Nakimera’s voice be, for example? Carol Nakimera is the voice that sang the original Omusujja, and Genda Omungambire. But she is no longer with us, so why bring her up? Because if anyone really wants to evaluate female voices in Uganda, that, is where one begins. She is the very standard by which one might measure a ‘top’ Ugandan female voice. She sang the blues, jazz, lingala, Luganda and everything in equal measure, with utmost talent.
One could never exhaust the list of Ugandan female artistes today. Not one person could ever even begin to compare them at all because they are all very individual, the best, I mean, are all very individual. Juliana is Juliana, though one may very well think the IJ connection.
Mariam Ndagire is in a league of her own, but one might attribute the Eagles Production women’s voices to her! Joanita Kawalya has her own Afrigo voice with an influence from her dad.
Samali Matovu epitomises the church influence in secular sounds, though, of course, Judith Babirye takes the popularity. Then there is Blu*3, Angela Katatumba….hmm! Grace Nakimera brings to mind a forcefulness that only Bella can compare with.
Then you have the likes of Naava and Lyton Namubiru whose deep voices can quickly fool you. Irene Ntale is a great voice (in a wrong place) that might have stayed closer to her guitar, just like Jackie Akello of Amari, who has stayed close to her voice, both of whom are very promising!
There are voices like Sanyu Jemimah, spectacular but dampened by the wrong forum and Sarah Zawedde, who remains Sarah Zawedde.
For better or for worse, Lungfishman Lwanga is joined by Dennis Asiimwe, both musicians and music critics, to make their choices of Uganda’s top female voices.
Lwanga: Now there is a great voice! A voice that can be saleable, as some people may want it to be, but a voice that whatever it sang, it would sing well! She ranks very highly with even the voices of old because her voice is just as it is, very good!
Asiimwe: She has a fresh sound, because she has not had any major influence from other singers. Many Ugandan singers tend to sound like each other, but Halima Namakula made sure she has good technical and voice training, she is basically un-clichéd.
Lwanga: She is spectacular not just because she just knows how to use her voice to express a sentiment exactly. She takes a song and makes it her own and expresses it to the point.
Asiimwe: Extremely naturally gifted, but probably spent too much time doing karaoke. She also tends to take her voice for granted so is not as technically advanced as she should. But possesses that X-factor you find with singers like Dionne Warwick. Once you hear her sing, you know that is Juliana. In terms of talent, she is up there.
Lwanga: She has a great voice, great expression and very strong memorability for her fans!
Asiimwe: Talented, but her greatest strength is her surprising ability to learn. The time she spent with the band Nujeli in Paris did a lot for her. She may not be as naturally talented as Juliana, but technically she is a lot better.
Asiimwe: She was the most talented of the Blu*3 girls and realised it early, and will go from strength to strength. She is uniquely multi-dimensional, but her extra-curricular activities might eventually cost her.
Asiimwe: She has a lot of personality, which probably makes up for her just above average talent. She has chosen to go dance-hall, which works well for her. She has that sassiness that makes her stand out.
Lwanga: Above all, and beyond every Ugandan female artiste that I have mentioned, in all honesty, there is one voice that can be set in near comparison to Carol Nakimera... Kalule has proven, without doubt, in recording and on stage, what she can do with her voice! It does not matter what genre, style, beat, language or expression.
Kalule has over a long period of time, with great aesthetics and versatility, with consistence been a voice above all!
Asiimwe: She has a huge amount of experience that has been a great help to her. Her exposure to quality talents like Moses Matovu and Frank Mbalire,both musicians has been very helpful to her, and she has used that to transition to modern music.
Asiimwe: She has a ridiculous amount of talent, although her lack of exposure to the other genres (she has a church background) limits her. But the time spent in the Tusker Project Fame might just be what she needs to complete her. But her talent is unmistakable, a combination of Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston.
Asiimwe: She has found a sound that works for her, something like Tracy Chapman. Her main strength is she plays the guitar and she is very technically competent. She is uniquely talented, although she is limited in her versatility.
Rachel Namubiru & Esther Nabaasa
Asiimwe: The former Tusker Project Fame contestants are fantastically gifted, but they choose to sit on their talents. I have no idea why.
Lwanga: Her voice is not as memorable as her lyrics and messages, perhaps because of her background in stage drama. But she is still a ‘voice pioneer’ in her own right.
Asiimwe: She is gifted, but limited by her genre and lack of versatility. She has mastered the Afro-pop genre, though.
Asiimwe: Her strength is her creativity, not that talented, but has the ability to do extraordinary things with ordinary songs. Kind of like Madonna, who is a Grammy winning artiste.