Ndagire’s music has changed the face of sickle cell disease

By Vision Reporter

Added 13th January 2014 07:40 PM

Until recently, in most communities, the cause of sickle cell anaemia was thought to be witchcraft. This often pitted families against each other for the alleged crime.

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trueVision Group, in association with Twaweza Initiative and Buzz Events, is seeking to recognise artistes whose compositions advance society. Today, Gloria Nakajubi brings you Mariam Ndagire, a musician who has gone an extra mile to compose songs and stage campaigns to promote awareness of sickle cell

Until recently, in most communities, the cause of sickle cell anaemia was thought to be witchcraft. This often pitted families against each other for the alleged crime. Those who knew it was a medical problem would set the lifespan for the patient with this condition to 17 years and below. However, if one survived past 17, then they were given only a few more years to live. Well, in any case, due to the lack of medical care and management facilities, many would die early without reaching the 17 years.

However, this traditionally mysterious disease has been unmasked, thanks to the awareness in communities by artistes like Mariam Ndagire. Back in 2003 Ndagire composed a song that was a theme for the awareness campaigns that saw the revamping of the sickle cell clinic at Mulago Hospital.

Many more people joined the fi ght against this ailment that takes its victim through excruciating pain. One of her songs, Tudde Eri Abaana loosely translated as let’s get back to the children, off her album that was released in 2003 is a highlight of the plight of the African child.

The song was done in collaboration with Bella, a dancehall artiste. In the song, they call upon the leaders to make children a priority because the continuity of the nation lies a happy and healthy young generation.

Ndagire says having been born and raised in the city, she has seen street children and one vivid image that has never left her mind is that of a young boy, who used to stand along Entebbe Road during her early years and he had turned his begging into a song, which everyone who passed along that street could easily sing along. “I have always wondered what became of this boy and the many others who were on the streets at the time and now what will happen to those that are currently on the street?” she pounders. She adds that knowing her big fan base, she would use this niche to change their attitude and infl uence the way they look at street children.

“It does not make any difference when you drop a coin or two in the palms of this begging child, but rather there is a need to advocate sustainable systems that can ensure that children are provided with safe homes other than the streets,” Ndagire notes.She adds that around 2003 when she released the song, the numbers of street children had more than doubled and these were mainly from Karamoja region forced out of their homes due to the insecurity at the time. Maama the title track of her 2003 album, is a song that highlighted the experience most mothers go through raising their children especially children with sickle cell anaemia.

She says this song was inspired by one mother Nnalongo Kaaye (sister of Sarah Kizito commonly known as Lady Charlotte) who had fi ve children with sickle cell anaemia. “One time one of the children passed away and yet another one was sick, but through it all she kept the faith and didn’t give up the fi ght,” she says. Ndagire adds that children with sickle cell anaemia suffer a lot of pain and their mothers suffer too as they watch them cry in pain.

She says these two songs have been pivotal in creating awareness about children’s rights and protecting vulnerable children. In 2013, together with the Uganda American Sickle Cell Rescue Fund that was founded by Capt. Lukiah Mulumba, she organised the fi rst annual sickle cell conference in Kampala and this drew crowds from across the country. Ndagire adds that she believes, little is being done to prepare the young children for the future that they ought to take on and this is a danger to the nation.

Who is Mariam Ndagire

Ndagire was born in a family of four children to Prince Ssegamwenge Kizito and Sarah Nabbutto and grew up on William Street in the heart of Kampala city. She went to Buganda Road Primary School, Kampala High School for O’level and Trinity College Nabbingo for A’ level. Later she went to National College of Business Studies now Makerere University Business School Nakawa for a higher diploma in Business Studies. But, while in her second year; she also joined Makerere University at the School of Music Dance and Drama.

Mariam Ndagire is one of the multi-talented Ugandans the industry has had for she is not just a singer, but also a fi lm writer, producer and actress. She is also a proud mother of one son currently in Primary Seven vacation.

Joining music

Ndagire says she never looked for music, but music looked for her. Her passion being drama, she would be assigned singing roles during the acting.

She adds that this is the reason she never does music for money, but only when there is something she wants to push forward. And her theme as she explains is celebrating love in its varied forms. Ndagire’s other song Tomutulugunya that was released in 2005 is another that has had impact on social change. It’s a call against domestic violence as it highlights its dangers on the family.

What others say about Ndagire’s music

Enock Kusasira, the public relations offi cer, Mulago National Refferal Hospital, says Ndagire’s music and campaigns have had a great impact on the improvement of the infrastructure at the hospital to manage sickle cell and now there is a clinic dedicated to manage this condition. “Her campaigns have helped in averting stigma against those suffering from sickle cell anaemia and people can now come up to seek medical attention and specialised care,” he says.


Angello Mukisa, a seminarian Children are the future leaders of tomorrow so they need guidance to make it possible. Parents should always welcome government initiatives like immunisation to have healthy children. Religious leaders should preach love and responsibility; all Ugandans are equal and should be treated equally. So Tudde Eri Abaana is a well thought-out song

Imelda Nakanga, a medical officer, I am very grateful for the campaigns Ndagire has been engaged in using her music and we as mothers, feel proud to have someone who has stood up to fight for this cause even when she doesn’t have a child with this condition.


Do you know any musician who has composed/sung a song that is creative and at the same time carries a message that positively influences society? Nominate him/her for the Musicians Making a Difference award. To qualify for nomination,

❑ The musician must be a Ugandan

The song must:

❑ Be original and not pirated

❑ Carry a message advocating positive change

❑ Mobilise the masses to demand accountability and service delivery

❑ Highlight societal ills like corruption, poor governance, poor service delivery, oppression and human rights abuses ❑Motivate people to reflect on issues that affect them and their community

❑ Carry the message that all people have what it takes to better their lives and those of the people around them

❑ Carry a message to leaders; e.g., political, community, religious, etc Send your nominations to features@ You can also nominate via SMS: Type MUSIC (leave space) name of the musician (space) song, and send to 8338 Alternatively, write to the Features Editor, P. O. Box 9815, Kampala or drop your nominations at any of the Vision Group offi ces countrywide. NOMINATIONS CLOSE ON JANUARY 15, 2014.




Ndagire’s music has changed the face of sickle cell disease

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