During the period 2001-2009, otherwise known as the ‘noughties’, the Ugandan entertainment scene saw the emergence of several girl musical groups. They were the rage everywhere and extremely popular.
Some started out as dance groups, but metamorphosed into singers. From the Obsessions to Blu 3 to the Dream Girls, they ruled the airwaves. But almost all of them have since died out. What happened, and where are the girls now? STEVEN ODEKE went to find out.
A combination of factors ranging from the difficulty in keeping a group of girls happy together, to a change in the musical tastes of the public was responsible for the demise of most girl groups, according to pundits.
“Tastes changed,” says Eddie ‘Aydee’ Dumba, of the group Ngoni and once a producer for three girl groups. “Like live bands faded at some point, time came when girl groups were not working in the market.” Emma Carlos has the dubious reputation of having managed more girl groups than anyone else.
The Chilli Girls in their hey days
“The problem is some girls got so excited with all the attention they were getting and lost it,” he says. Carlos explains that most came from karaoke groups, so when their egos grew bigger, it was hard to control them. “And as a business, girl groups were no longer earning us anything,” he adds.
Shebah Karungi, formerly of the Obsessions, says: “In girl groups, you do not grow as an individual. When I joined Obsessions, I was 17. There is a lot of drama in a group and unnecessary competition among girls. I had to find a way out and grow as a musician. Now, I feel I have my journey in my hands.”
The last most of us heard of Viva Stars was when they struck a three-year deal with Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation. Founded in 2008, they are best remembered for songs such as Koona Endoongo, Talikuwa Nsuuta, Namatimbo, Kantambule and Gwe Nsonga. Viva Stars still exist, but mostly perform up country.
“We get more shows and invites up country than Kampala, so we are always on the road. All is going well
with the group,” says founding member Vianney Kushaba.
The group is made up of Jacky ‘Swing Swaga’ Katushabe, Sarah ‘America’ Nangendo, Sauda ‘Toto’ Nakato and Racheal Nakasaga, who replaced Sara ‘China’ Baku, who is in the US for studies.
They were one of the more popular girl groups, known for their debut hit, Omulungi Yoono, and had a female
manager, Judith Namazzi. Unfortunately, the group collapsed when Rao Mohan, who owned Universal Entertainment under which the group was managed, called it quits in 2011. He was the sole provider of the group and felt the pinch to invest in them unbearable. First, Namazzi was fired as manager, and then the group disbanded.
Like the Chilli Girls, this group was also managed by Universal Entertainment and their stint ended when Rao Mohan closed shop. ‘Aydee’ says issues such as low resource distributions cost these groups.
“Some members would feel cheated in pay yet they felt they did more than the others, and that would deflate their egos,” he says.
The group had Esther Akankwasa, Lisa Namubiru and Prossy Bulyaba, and is remembered for the song, Jangu Eno.
Emma Carlos, the group’s boss, confirms it is no more. “There was no business in it. The group could not last the race as those girl groups in Britain,” he says. Started in 2003, the group won a Pearl Of Africa Music Award in 2004 and did songs such as Genda Okole, Nsaanuka, Weekend and Jiggy.
It broke up when members Leila Kayondo and Renah Nalumansi left to pursue solo projects in 2007. “It was not my dream to be in a group,” says Leila. “I wanted to learn from others about performing.”
One of the first groups to metamorphose from a dancing group to singers, it initially had male dancers as well. Initially made up of Cleopatra Koheirwe, Brenda Nambi, Sharon Nalukenge, Jackie Tusiime and Hellen Lukoma, the group attained quite some success.
Their highest point came with the song Jangu, Jangu. But first Koheirwe left in 2007, and was followed by Nambi and Lukoma, who formed another group HB Toxic. Sheba Karungi, Daisy Muber and Fatuma Gulam would later join the group, but eventually they also left, leaving only Nalukenge and Tusiime. Nalukenge would later feature in Big Brother Africa.
In 2007, Hellen Lukoma and Brenda Nambi left Obsessions to form HB Toxic. They released songs such as All I Need featuring Tanzanian AY, Toxic Ragga and Kyeninawo and had mind-blowing stage performances. But they did not get much success. Nambi started a fashion house, B’ambi, while Lukoma became an actress and featured in the first season of the local television series, The Hostel.
The two would not comment much about what happened beyond Nambi saying “… yes we ended it, we grew up.”
Wafagio Not much was heard from this group even before it was officially disbanded in 2011.
In fact, it is the death of former member Edith Mutoni a few weeks ago that reminded us of Wafagio. Kalyn Atwoo says she left the group because it was not her calling. But former manager Emma Carlos says “conflicts and tension” led to the group’s collapse.
You remember Binyonkondo and Sunda songs? Krystal Babes did those songs. This group also collapsed when Universal Entertainment shut down. These were formerly Wafagio members, who had parted ways with their manager, Emma Carlos.
The most successful girl group in Uganda, it was formed as a result of a talent search in 2004. For four exciting years Jackie Chandiru, Cindy Sanyu and Lillian Mbabazi were the talk of town and ruled Kampala, but then Cindy went on holiday at the end of 2008 and never went back to the group.
She was replaced by former dancer Mya. Then Lillian went on maternity leave in 2010 and also never went back, effectively marking the end of Blu 3 as a group. But we will forever remember songs such as Hitaji, Burn, Frisky, Tomalaako, Nsanyuka Naawe, Ndibeera Nawe, Nkoye and Where You are.