Angella Katatumba is a fixture on Kampala’s entertainment scene. Though she might not be as flashy or notorious as many other musicians and celebrities she has found a way to remain relevant as times change – which makes her difficult to forget.
For Katatumba, being well-known as a musician on the Kampala scene is not the most important thing. For about a decade, the sultry-voiced musician has set her own standards. Apart from being known as a rhythm and blues musician Katatumba was made a name for herself back in 2005 when she went beyond the media lights and was outted in newspapers as being – a philanthropist.
In 2007, Katatumba teamed up with another Kampala musician, Halima Namakula, to support needy children in northern Uganda. She even penned a song, For You Gulu, to go with the campaign. “I would love to see my music inspiring, motivating and educating my fans,” she says. “I want to influence them positively and leave a great mark that will last for generations to come.”
For her, she makes no real distinction between her fans. She admits that for a while, she thought her music appealed to a certain class of listeners because she sings mainly in English while many musicians in Kampala sing in the local Luganda. Then, she realized that her listeners range from corporate to working class; from students to housemaids. “My fans were mainly corporates, I thought. But every day I am pleasantly surprised by my fan base on Facebook and when I go out to different places.”
Katatumba started singing professionally in 2000 as the lead singer in a live band. They had gigs at a place called Ponana’s on Cornmarket Street in Oxford in the United Kingdom. In Uganda, she started out by recording the songs she had done professionally in 2005.
While not singing she’s also a hotel manager, formidable businesswoman and continues her philanthropy. “Away from music I get quite busy running my NGO, the Angella Katatumba Development Foundation,” she says. The NGO has two main projects, the ‘For You Gulu Project’ and the ‘Let’s Go Green Campaign’. Also, as the Managing Director of Hotel Diplomate, she is involved in the daily running of the hotel.
The humanitarian efforts have been getting media attention for some time now. With the For You Gulu project, she collects money and anything in kind and ships it to those who need it in northern Uganda. “I am constantly campaigning for the rebuilding of the war torn north’s schools,” she explains. “I keep on reminding people that as much as the war in the north is over, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to rebuild the area and its traumatised people. The collection point is Hotel Diplomate in Muyenga.”
The Let’s Go Green Campaign focuses here in Kampala. “Recently, I was in Kakajjo Slums in Old Kampala where I partnered with Kampala Pharmaceutical Industries to treat over 1,000 people and to also plant NEEM trees that help prevent malaria that is rampant in slums,” she goes on.
She is always available for a gig, she says and is busy preparing for her music release but she is always on standby, a phone-call away for a performance. The last song Katatumba released is Supernatural Girl, a song she wrote based on a past relationship she had in the United States when she was a student. That relationship, she says, almost destroyed her but she found the strength to survive.
She says she is working on a new song and that will be the main programme for her for the next three months. “If I am organising a trip to deliver collected items to Northern Uganda or to the schools and communities to plant trees, then that is what I will focus on for that month.”