Unplugging Priscilla Kalibala: A pastor's daughter swimming in secular waters
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First published: October 10, 2007
"I work at my own pace. In fact, I only sing because I love to. I would not, for instance, perform at a show for whatever amount of money if I did not feel like performing. Award or no award, I will continue to sing for as long as I feel like it. I like singing. It is my life," Priscilla Kalibala.
It is hard to put charming, affable and sexy Priscilla Kalibala into words. Her passionate voice... her body moves... one cannot help but get hooked instantly. She has an infectious, outgoing attitude towards anyone and everyone. Her captivating looks are underlined by a killer smile. One of her fans once remarked, "It is hard not to fall for her, whether you are dealing with the musician or the person." This is what I found out when I interviewed her.
Eunice: I have failed to decide on whether I like your dancing or your singing better. Help me out. What do you think you do better?
Priscilla: I used to think I was a better dancer in school but now I do not know. What I know, however, is that I prefer singing to dancing. I do not go to nightclubs anymore, unless it is after I have performed at a show or my friends have implored me to. I sing anywhere, everywhere, at any time.
I know I can dance to all your songs - at least the ones I have heard. Would I be right to call the genre of the music you specialize in dancehall?
Not dance hall really but pop, which in Uganda we call afro-pop.
Why this type of music?
My voice is good for pop and besides, I hate boring myself. Therefore, I make music to which I can shake, at least a little.
Other than the shaking effect, what else do you try to achieve with your music?
I want to make Ugandan music big, bigger than East Africa. Today, almost everyone in Uganda can sing. However, what about performance? I want to be a good performer as well as a musician. I want to be able to produce music for which I can give splendid performances too.
And how far have you gone in achieving this?
I know I am big in the UK, although no promoter there has called me to perform yet. My music enjoys a lot of airplay among Ugandans and people who understand it in Chicago and Boston where Gumikiriza seems to be a favorite song. I guess, because they are out there, some of them away from their loved ones, they identify with the song. It works for them. The people who love to dance in the UK prefer Mwana Ggwe.
Priscilla Kalibala with Gumikiriza
You have not been recognized for your music in the form of any award nominations, let alone actually winning...
No, I have not. Not yet. Nevertheless, I am positive. May be soon...
Don't you feel you are pressured into working towards being recognised?
Not at all. I work at my own pace. In fact, I only sing because I love to. I would not, for instance, perform at a show for whatever amount of money if I did not feel like performing. Award or no award, I will continue to sing for as long as I feel like it. I like singing. It is my life.
Gumikiriza was your first song, as far as the public understands. Tell me about how it all started.
I did Gumikiriza in 2004, during my last year in school but it didn't pick up then. I went home and kind of forgot about it. After some time, around last year, it became such a hit that everyone wondered who the Gumikiriza girl was, and where she had disappeared to.
Did you write it yourself?
Actually I didn't. I used to perform karaoke when I was still in school. One night I sang Whitney Houston's "Where do broken hearts go" at Sabrina's Pub and Robert Segawa spotted me. He invited me to his studio where he wrote Gumikiriza and started to produce it for me. I dropped off the music radar due to some personal problems before it was completed. It was, however, taken on and completed by Joy Tabula who later released it. I made a video for it with Deddac. I did Mwana Ggwe afterwards, which also became a hit, turned into my lead single and the title for my first album.
Priscilla Kalibala with Mwana Gwe
How much have you sung since then? How many albums have you compiled as we speak?
This is only my second year since releasing Gumikiriza. I am having a concert in September(2007) to launch my second album called Nakwagaladda. My first album was called Mwana Ggwe - the title of its lead single, which I also think Ugandans have favoured most among all my songs so far. Personally, however, I like Gumikiriza better.
You make it sound like getting recognition on the music scene in this country was easier for you than it is for most local artists.
Actually, I have not had to suffer a lot to reach success, unlike most Ugandan artists I know. I just woke up one day and I was up there. My music was playing and people loved it. I guess I was just lucky.
Dancing, Yono, Gyetwasookera, Gumikiriza, Mwana Ggwe and many more. Have you written any of these songs?
No, but I provided the themes for my songs to the people who wrote them. This is, of course, with the exception of Silver Kyagulanyi who only needs to look at an artist or think about his fiance to write a song. Joseph Patrick Kizito wrote Dancing and Gumikiriza. Dennis Racla wrote 'Tukyuuse Mwami'.
And you base your themes on...?
What I see around me.
Anything about love you mean? All your songs, to the best of my knowledge, are about love.
They actually are about anything. I have a song called "Lets pray for Africa" on my first album, which I want to re-do for my second album and add some more zeal. It did not do so well because I did not push it. However, I am sure it will be successful because it contains a meaningful message. It is about how we Africans should rise up to our plight and not wait for handouts from foreigners all the time. The idea for the song was born while I was watching a programme on LTV about kids in war ravaged African countries like Somalia. They really looked terrible!
Did you study music at university?
No. I studied business administration at MUBS (Makerere University Business School).
There are times when you disappear from the country. Is that when you have gone away to attend to some business administration job then?
I go out of the country for holidays, not work. I have never traveled out of the country on music business. I would like to get another job really, but it is not possible for a musician to hold down another job efficiently, unless it is within entertainment circles. Music renders you unstable.
So then, you sing for survival?
Not really. I do it more because I like it. Unlike our colleagues in neighboring countries like Tanzania, in Uganda if you sing for survival you get frustrated. There is a lot of manipulation, especially from intermediaries in the business and there are no strong laws governing the music industry in Uganda.
Who manages your music?
Elvis Sekyanzi a.k.a R.S.Elvis. He is a hardworking, down-to-earth man who has helped me a lot with my music. He does not look down on anyone. As long as they are willing to try, he will give them a chance.
In the past, you had your songs produced in various studios: No End Entertainment, Goodenuff, Homeboys (Kenya) and B.K. Why don't you stick to just one of them?
For reasons of obtaining variety in my music. When you produce your music in the same studio, it sounds the same, no matter how many songs you churn out or how good they are. I need to change environments and get different views, feels, opinions and talent working on my music.
How do you make money from the music?
Mainly at album launches. There seems to be no other way of doing this in Uganda really, due to lack of an effective copyright law. There is a law in place but its enforcement is weak.
Who is your greatest fan?
She doesn't mind you dressing skimpily and gyrating away before huge audiences?
Not at all. She is a pastor but is very liberal. When I am going out, for instance, she will look at my skimpy clothes and jokingly tell me not to tell anyone that she is my mum. Then she may tell me; "You are smartly dressed, though."
Are you as cheeky and crazy off stage?
Off stage? It is hard to imagine that I am capable of doing what I do on stage. I rarely go on nights out, unless I am pushed by my friends. I like to watch Nigerian movies. I am scared of water, so I cannot swim. Nevertheless, I love to watch other people swim.
Have you been like that since childhood?
Oh, I do not know really. I was a jolly, chubby kid who loved singing and dancing. I used to be the lead singer in school choirs. I loved to play with my two sisters and brother. I also grew up in a family of very strict parents. My mum was not as hard as my dad was though. They are now divorced and I chose to live with my mother.
Your mother... She must be dead gorgeous then. Is she as petite?
Oh, people in my family are wide boned. I eat one meal a day because I have a good idea of how big I am capable of growing if I feed otherwise. When my friends advise me to put on some more weight, I tell them; "I own an international modeling figure. In Uganda people might prefer fat but it wouldn't work for me elsewhere."
Where are you looking to be 10 years from now? Will you still be singing?
I am not sure it will be singing. All I know is that in future, I want to settle down and raise my kids the way my mother raised us.
What is the most challenging thing about being a musician in Uganda?
Hypocrisy. People in Uganda can be good but they are usually hypocrites. No one wishes you any good. Even when they offer to help you, it is because they think they will benefit somehow. It makes cooperation and unity difficult, yet I think we need to work well together to develop as musicians.
Okay. I am sure you know what question I have not asked yet that everyone who reads this will be looking out for.
(Laughter)I was wondering when we would get to that because I knew it was coming. Okay, I know the media alleges that every male they see me with is my boyfriend but I actually do not have a boyfriend. Rather, I have a husband (shows her engagement ring and wedding band). He does not want me to mention him in the media since everyone has always tried to guess whom I am going out with. They do not know about him or even believe that I am married, no matter how hard I scream it out. I wedded last year in June.
How come it was not anywhere in the papers?
I did it outside the country. In Canada. He is Canadian. I met him when I was 19 in 2000 in my senior six vacation through a sister of mine who lives there.
What about Qute Kaye?
Qute Kaye with Ginkeese
(More laughter) I know everyone has been saying we are dating since we performed that duet (Gyetwasookera) but we are not. He is a really nice and friendly person, so people are bound to think that he is dating every girl he hangs out with. We are friends and he is a good songwriter. He wrote our song and my 'Nakwagaladda'. We are just friends really. I don't even know anything about his private life.
Okay air cleared. I hope you can be believed this time. How come you do not use a stage name like most other artists?
I love my name and think it is enough representation of me anywhere.
Any last word?
I love my fans.
Priscilla Kalibala with Dancing
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First published: October 10, 2007
Eunice Rukundo is a graduate Journalist and public relations practitioner with Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. She is a talented writer who enjoys working with people.