By Andrew Ssenyonga
The music fraternity is mourning the death of one of Uganda’s best music talents of the 1980s and co-founder of Ebonies, Stella Nanteza, who passed away on Saturday morning at Mulago Hospital.
In her mid-50s, Nanteza, was formerly married to the late Jimmy Katumba aka Uganda’s Jim Reeves. She returned to Uganda three months ago after spending decades in the UK where she lived with their two children, Olga Katumba and Arnold Katumba.
Ebonies group spokesperson Dick Kasolo said she was rushed to Mulago Hospital on Friday after collapsing when the vehicle she was travelling in was involved in a head-on collision at Kyebando, a city suburb. Kasolo said Nanteza was not injured at the scene.
“She was rushed to Mulago after she passed out due to shock. She breathed her last on Saturday morning,” Kasolo explained.
New Vision could not access her post-mortem report.
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Nanteza’s sweet alto voice dominates a number of Ebonies’ songs. She sung some of Ebonies’ greatest hits such as Endabirwamu Yange Junior, African Woman, Kondo and Emitima Egirwadde Okwagala.
Andrew Benon Kibuuka, the president of the Uganda Performing Artists and Musicians Association, described her as the greatest singer of her times.
“In her day, she was Uganda’s leading female singer. She had a great voice that could not be compared to any other. The industry has lost a talent and a voice,” Kibuuka explained.
Kibuuka, an actor who heads Bakayimbira Dramactors, said Nantenza, who he has known for about 30 years, was kind, social and humble.
Nanteza was buried at her ancestral burial home in Buso, Namulonge, off Gayaza road yesterday.
“She was one of the most outstanding alto singers that I have ever heard. It was deep and she sang it in such a soulful way that made her songs really stand out. If you were to pick the most outstanding singers in the Jimmy Katumba and the Ebonies band, it was Stella Natenza and her husband Jimmy Katumba,” said music critic Joseph Batte.
“It is sad that she passed away. Nonetheless, her legacy will always live on in the songs she belted out so beautifully like Emitima Egirwadde Okwagala,” he added.
Today, the Ebonies, co-founded by the late Stella Nanteza, is a large group of talents
Mourners at her burial praised Nanteza for a courageous life she lived and her extraordinary humility for a person of her status.
“Nanteza was a selfless woman who spent all her earnings helping others and it is based on this fact she was training music to a number of young people including the Grace church choir,” said Pastor John Bazze of Grace Church Ntinda.
Bazze noted that the fallen musician was famous but that whenever he visited her in London, UK, she welcomed and treated him warmly – not because he is a pastor, but because she trained her children good character of not discriminating people.
He urged the family to continue with Nanteza’s legacy.
Sam Bagenda aka Dr. Bbosa, who is the group’s lead actor, spoke of the group’s beginnings.
“I met Nanteza decades back and she advised us to start a drama group because we all had the same dreams,” he said, adding that she invested a lot of time and energy to see that the group gains ground in the country.
“She was one of the Ugandan musical legends with years of professionalism in singing and musical performances. Originally an entertainment star, Stella was a complete package – with a singing voice that every young Ugandan female singer of her generation craved for.”
Arnold Katumba, Nanteza’s son, gave an emotional narration of his mother's love, saying that she lived an exemplary life.
“One thing we all know, mom loved us,” he said.
“She always told us the truth and not what we just wanted to hear. We promise we will continue with all her business plans she has had and fulfill what she has left pending.”
Nanteza was born in May 1956 to the late Josephat Ssembajje Kyeza and later attended Masoli Primary and Senior Secondary School before joining the music industry in 1977.
After the formation of the Ebonies in the early 1980s, she became the lead singer for the drama group.
She later left the country and lived in London, UK for 17 years.
She was a member of Grace Church located in Ntinda and is survived by two children.
The Ebonies: The Ebonies have lost one of the founding members, Stella Nanteza. Her sweet alto voice is felt in a number of Ebonies’ songs. It is a sad day for the Ebonies family. Stella’s death has left such a big blow. You have gone so soon but your voice will stay with us forever! Rest in peace dear Stella. Your voice truly defined the sound of music. You are our fallen soldier. We shall truly miss you.
Thomas Rugambwa: We are going to miss you but your voice will go on and on.
Maureen Mwagale: You will always be remembered for your songs such as Muyita Malayika.
Daniel Mwanje: Dear Ebonies members, sorry for the death of Stellah Nanteza. She will always be remembered for her song Endabirwamu and many others. From God we came and to him we return. RIP.
Georgina Nabagereka Kawere: We are going to miss you but your family will miss you more. Our strength comes from knowing that you are in Jesus’ arms. You fought a good fight and have left a mark. Rest in eternal peace and your sweet voice will live on with us.
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