Juliana Kanyomozi: Our Tooro Princess
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First published: August 3rd, 2007
Juliana Kanyomozi with Kanyimbe
If she is not the best female musician on the scene, then she is certainly one of the most nationally recognised songstresses of Uganda. Not only is she one of Uganda's most loved artists, a former Capital FM radio presenter, former member of the now defunct girl band I-Jays with fellow crooner Iryn Namubiru, but she is one of the most sought after hottest female showbiz icons in Uganda.
Juliana Kanyomozi, the sexy R n B/Soul singer is a first cousin to King Oyo of the Toro Kingdom in Uganda, a fact that many people in Uganda do not know of. Many people do not know that Kanyomozi's father and King Oyo's father are biological brothers and that she is actually a princess of the Toro Kingdom as well.
Since she went solo, and evolved from Karaoke singer, Kanyomozi has risen to become one of the biggest divas in Uganda and East Africa at large. She has won at least six Pearl Of Africa Music Awards (PAM); in 2004 she won Best R n B Artiste, in 2005, Most Inspiring Song, Best R n B single, Best R n B artiste, Best Female artiste and Song of the Year for her song Mama Mbire. She has collaborated with Bobi Wine and they came up with tracks like Taata Wa Banna Yanni (Who is the father of the kids). Kanyomozi also sang tracks like Say Yes, Nabikoowa (I got fed up) and Nkulinze (I am waiting for you) which shot her further into stardom and it looks like the gods are blessing her this year as well.
Kanyomozi who was once happily married to Amon Lukwago, and has a child with him, has had her own share of turbulences. From the never-ending media's affinity for her so-called beef with Iryn Namubiru, to the break up of her marriage, to being linked romantically to other artistes like Bobi Wine and all the speculation over her relationship with Ugandan boxer Kassim "The Dream" Ouma, she seems to have weathered the storms which would have incapacitated many others.
She is back with a bang. Kanyomozi has returned from her 2-year hiatus with a new 8-track album, which even includes a gospel track called Kanyimbe (Let me sing/praise him.) It is a song that deals with coping with the trials and tribulations of life. One of her other new songs, the new single Kibaluma (It hurts them) is an engaging mid-tempo Afrobeat song, produced by Henry Kiwuuwa and addresses the issue of nugu (jealousy/envy.) The song leaked onto the Ugandan club scene in July, long before the release date, much to the delight of many of her fans.
With the unprecedented popularity that Juliana Kanyomozi has; with her beauty, talent, vocal ability, drive, sense of maturity, tasteful sense of fashion, resilience in the face of hardship and challenges, and her spectacular and long-awaited comeback, it is only fitting that she is the lady who closes the curtains dramatically on UGPulse's two-week theatre of African Woman Week celebrations. The readers (and owner of UGPulse Peter Kigonya) have asked for her continuously. Well never known to disappoint, we finally have her here on UGPulse!
Juliana Kanyomozi with Mundeke
Jane: Juliana, you are back on the Ugandan music scene with a bang! What is new with you now? What can we expect from the new and improved Juliana?
Juliana: Juliana is definitely back and all new! It's been two and a half years without releasing anything new. I have just completed the brand new album and it feels great to be back. It's more mature and very inspiring. It's an 8-track album. The songs are Kanyimbe, Nkyanoonya, (I am still looking for him/her,) Mundeke, (Leave me alone,) Yiga empisa, (Learn manners,) Enkwanzi Yange, (My bead,) kibaluma, Wesigame Kunze (Lean on me,) and Malaika (Angel). On this album I have worked with some of the most talented people in the country. For example Silver Kyagulanyi wrote some of the songs and another upcoming but very talented songwriter called Oscar Muwonge wrote some. Producers are Steve Jean from Fenon Records, Henry Kiwuwa from No-End Entertainment, Ayde and Pato from Good-Enuff and Travis Kazibwe from Khan Records.
Are you related to Yonah Kanyomozi the politician?
No I am not. It's funny but I have been getting the same question ever since I was in primary school, from my class teachers, all the way up to my senior six. I'm actually a Mutooro and I understand he is a Munyankore.
How is motherhood going? How do you balance singlehood and your music career?
I am loving motherhood! It's got some challenges that come with it, like of course travelling a lot, and performing late in the night. That means I always miss the opportunity to tuck my son into bed myself. However I am glad he understands the nature of my job, which makes me feel less guilty. (Laughs) I think I am just consoling myself there. But at the end of the day like any other mother I do feel bad about having to go away for days, weeks, and months and leaving him behind. Sometimes I miss him so much that I cry.
Bambi, talking about him, how is your son Keron? As a celebrity are you sending your son to any special schools?
Keron is doing great! He just seems to learn something new every day. He also asks too many questions but of course that's a part of growing up. He is also going to school. It's a great school and it has amazing teachers and I think that is what my son needs. A good school that can give him a good education.
Do you balance his care with the dad, Amon Lukwago?
I take care of Keron single-handedly.
You are now back on the Ugandan music scene with some gospel music. Is it going to be the direction of your music career from now onwards?
Actually I call it inspirational. Kanyimbe is a song about my life. There was a time in my career when I was going through some mighty trials and I had to pick myself up and be strong. As a result I sang the song Kanyimbe. I call it inspirational because it's the kind of song that would lift up anybody when they are going through a difficult time, regardless of their religion. The rest of the songs on the album are about other topics; for example Nkyanoonya talks about patience when looking for a soul mate because I have learnt that it doesn't help to rush into a relationship before getting to know the person well. I've got some love songs on it as well.
At what point in your life did you decide that singing was what you wanted to do?
That was a long time ago when I was still a child. My love for music started way back when I was little and at that time I knew I wanted to be a singer when I grew up. Actually while my friends went to play with their dolls, I stayed at home to sing and listen to Madonna. We used to have this anthill in our compound so I would stand on top of it and hold something in my hand and pretend that it was a microphone and I was singing on a huge stage with fans screaming for me. (Laughs) Hmm... now if that wasn't love for the craft of singing...
How does your music define you as a woman and singer?
I sing about sensitive topics but most of all I sing about issues that touch our lives deeply. I sing songs that inspire others. I especially sing encouraging my ladies to have the confidence to say and do what's right for them and not feel oppressed in a relationship. I for example express that in my song 'Nabikoowa'. Some people thought it was a harsh song but I don't believe that. I believe that each one of us has a right to get up and make a move towards our own happiness especially when they feel they are not being given back the love and fairness that they deserve. I hope that defines me as a woman and a singer.
Juliana Kanyomozi with Nabikoowa
For your song, Nabikoowa some people seem to suggest that you were talking about the relationship between you and the father of your son. What inspired it?
Actually it was just a coincidence. I happened to record that song long before we separated but it's been difficult for people to believe that. However it is true.
You and Bobi Wine came up with the track Taata Wa Banna Yanni, a song that was popular in Uganda. How did you come up with the lyrics?
Juliana Kanyomozi with Taata Wa Banna Yanni
|Ugandan Musicians: Meet Bobi Wine
We discussed a concept and then wrote the lyrics. Bobi Wine is amazing when it comes to song writing and I realised that when we were doing that song. I was surprised with the success that came with that song but I guess that is what you get when you work with a very talented person like Bobi Wine.
What's your process for creating music? Is there a specific formula you follow?
Most of the time my songs are written for me but sometimes I do some co-writing. What I do first is to find a concept and which direction we are taking, then after that the song is written. The producer comes in after that and lays the track according to the melody. When the track is done, I start recording. It's fun really, especially when you have a wonderful team like mine.
Who do you give credit to where you are at today?
First it's my parents Prince Gerald Manyindo(RIP) and Mrs Catherine Manyindo for not stopping me from achieving my dream. Instead they encouraged me. I love them with all my heart! Then long time friend and producer Steve Jean because he discovered me in a small pub and didn't hesitate to give me the opportunity to be heard. My good friend Silver Kyagulanyi who is the man behind my biggest hits and of course all my good friends who have been there for me in one way or another. Of course I can't forget to give credit to the media radio stations, TV station, newspapers etc because without them I wouldn't be who I am today. So God bless them abundantly.
How would you describe your musical style?
It changes sometimes. I like to try new things every now and then but without changing too much. So you could say pop, African and R n b.
You have been linked with several other male celebrities, like for example Bobi Wine. Would you care to elaborate on that?
As far as Bobi Wine is concerned we've done great music together.
How are things going with Kassim Ouma? Is it just a rumour or fiction? Are you guys getting married?
Kassim is ok and that's all I can tell you because that's very personal and I prefer to keep it that way.
There are many rumours about you and Iryn Namubiru. What is the beef about that? You guys got along so well and split.
Like you said "rumours." I don't usually pay so much attention to rumours. I'm doing my thing, concentrating on what I love and that happens to be my music. Unfortunately I don't have time for beef.
Why did you leave radio? Did you leave radio to advance your music career?
I left radio because I felt it was time to move on. I also felt I needed to concentrate on my son and music career.
In 2004, you won the best R&B artist category at the Pearl of Africa Music Awards (PAM Awards). How did it make you feel?
Winning the first award in my career was a big break for me. But it also opened my eyes and I realised I had a challenge ahead of me. I had to prove to my fans that I deserved that kind of recognition.
Any memories of performances you want to share?
I have had a lot of great performances that come to mind. They are all special and I would not pick on any to be more special than the other, but I will never forget that the first time I stepped on stage. I was so nervous. I was shaking. I even forgot some of the lyrics.
Poor you! I can sympathize with you. Who are your role models?
My parents, because without their guidance and advice I would not be who I am today.
What books are you reading?
I don't read much. But recently I was at a book store in the U.S.A and I saw this book by Karrine Steffans called Confessions of a Video Vixen and I was so touched by her story.
What music are you listening to?
I listen to lots of music from reggae, to R n B and to Hip-hop and African music.
What can we expect from Juliana Kanoyomozi in the near future?
I have a big concert in October in Uganda to celebrate the years that I have been in music and to unveil my new album to my fans. I also have many other projects coming up that I will be telling you about with time.
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First published: August 3rd, 2007
Jane won the Miss Africanada beauty pageant 2000 in Toronto where she was also named one of the new voices of Africa after reciting one of her poems. In 2004, she was published in T-Dot Griots-An Anthology of Toronto's Black storytellers and in February 2005, her art piece Namyenya was featured as the poster piece for the Human Rights through Art-Black History Month Exhibit.
She is the recipient of numerous awards for her poetry, art and playwriting and is becoming a household name in Toronto circles. Please visit her website at www.nteyafas.com.