Sarah Mutamba who goes by the stage name Tamba is remembered by many as the beautiful girl with a good set of pipes who used to sing with Qwela. Who Tamba is now is a fully fledged solo artist in her own right, making music that blends the finest of authentic Ugandan sounds into a fresh medley appreciated by all, both old and young.
Tamba, have you always wanted to sing?
I have always wanted to be a singer and I have always wanted to do more with music. Although I didn’t study it theoretically, from very early on my mom encouraged and almost forced us to sing as children. This explains why my brothers sing and write as well. In fact, Daniel, my brother wrote the song ‘Mamkambwe.’
So when did it become official that music would be your artistry?
I went through my early twenties thinking that music wouldn’t be something I did seriously, so I settled for singing at church or at weddings. I thank God that at that point I was in the group ‘SALT.’ But unfortunately salt dissolved, (pun intended) because some of the guys got married, or got demanding jobs including myself. But around 2006, the passion was stronger than ever and I knew I had to get into music professionally. I hoped that I wouldn’t be a starving artist whose work was only realized after I was gone. Shakespeare was broke for most of his adult life right?
How tough was it making the transition from ordinary day job to full time music career?
It was really tough. In 2007 I struggled to make it on my own so in 2008 I relaxed on the music and got another job. Then when I run into Joe from Qwela and we had the same vision as regards African sound and blending it into modern sound, I got back in the game. In 2010, I left Qwela and went solo.
Has the reception In Uganda to your solo branch out been welcoming or harsh?
Some have been extremely welcoming and some have been extremely harsh. I have met people who have said, “You know what little girl, you do not know what you are doing.”
That’s must have been hard to hear.
Very hard indeed.
So do you handle it all on your own?
No, I don’t. I am grateful that there is a difference between the creative and business side of the art. All day, I am writing songs or going to the studio or performing. When the day ends, the thought of having to call up journalists, or put the songs on air or online is another job altogether. Thank God I have a manager. If I handled it all myself, it would make my big break at age 60!
Who is your manager?
David Ogutu is my manager, and now on board is Enoch from Power FM, and a group called the ‘Usual suspects’.
How would you describe the genre of your music?
I like to mix traditional sounds. Although right now I am only familiar with the Kinyankole, Kiganda and Kinyarwanda sounds, I want to go up North and find a way to blend that sound. I like that some people describe my sound as the ‘African Enya.’ I don’t intend for it but I take it as a great compliment.
Which artists have you been influenced by?
Well, growing up, my dad used to buy the music he grew up listening to like Elvis Presley and the Isley brothers. I actually think we were a generation lost in the music of a different time. Michael Jackson was another influence not necessarily because of the lyrics but because of the way he captured an emotion and made you feel it too.
What is keeping you from swerving off the path of sanity like a lot of other artists?
You know, a lot of artists start out really young and they never actually get to experience life or learn to make mature judgment calls. Life and fame seem to move at a pace they can’t reach. I am now 32 and it is through my work and life experiences that I have become mature enough to make smart choices. It helps me not grasp at everything shiny.
What are your aspirations? Any five year plans?
Yes! I want my music to be an educator because music is the best means of communication. The universal language. It is the one thing that defines a generation and I want it to make a difference to people. I also want to help create a distinctive Ugandan sound. I hope 5 years is long enough.
Lastly the question every interviewer can’t resist, is there any special guy in your life?
Oh my goodness, I am the happiest single person I know. I used to date, but I am a terrible dater. I am uncomfortably comfortable with being single. Maybe God will change my mind when the right guy comes along. For now, I am in a good place.