When Sheebah Karungi Samalie held her maiden concert that attracted multitudes of people to Hotel Africana People’s Space arena, it was a dream coming true for the 27 year old and the culmination of 12 years of struggling to prove to doubters she could not only dance but also sing.
“I have been rejected ever since I was young,” she says. But instead of bending her, rejection appears to lead Sheebah to work even harder to change her life into what she wants it to be.
At the concert, Sheebah launched two albums in one: ‘Nkwatako’ and ‘Twesana’. That was on December 2, 2015.
It was also a moment to reconcile with her mother, Edith Kabazungu, with whom she fell out after dropping out of school at only age 15, to join a dance group. It was a painful decision because she was the last born in a family of five and the only child of her mother and father.
The family spent years in the Kampala city suburb of Kawempe where her mother worked as a casual labourer in a coffee factory and she attended Kawempe Muslim Primary School.
Sheebah recalls how her mother used to take her and her siblings to the coffee factory to pick coffee and earn an extra Shs2000 per clean bag.
“We needed every penny,” she says and it was the frustration after frustration that led Sheebah to drop out of school. She says she wanted to do something that could change the face of home. She was just two years into secondary school at Midland High School in Kawempe when she quit and started living with friends.
The fall out with the family was so big that even when she was in an accident that saw her bedridden in hospital for months, her parents did not visit her. Only her sister did.
I felt hurt; having no one besides me yet I had a family, she says especially about her mother. “But I later came to terms with the insecurities she had with my career path”.
She watched a lot of entertainment TV; listening to music and watching videos and practicing dance moves. When she thought she was ready, she joined the ‘Stingers’. She says it was tough and only passion kept her going until the group started performing in night clubs and getting paid.
At 16 years, Sheebah was fending for herself; renting a house when ‘Obsessions’ a local dance group launched a search for extra dancers and she was accepted. She says it was a dream come true. She had always yearned to join the group because “they wore nice costumes and had unique dance styles”.
But with her low level of education, it was hard for her to fit in the group that had seven years to make a hit. Even during TV appearances, Sheeba would only be given an opportunity to say her name for fear of embarrassment. Such rejections pushed her to teach herself English. Two years after, Sheebah took a bold decision to launch a Solo music career.
In 2010, she released `Kunyenyenza’, her first official single followed by `Bulikyekola’. It was when she released “Automatic” that her career swung upwards. Soon her songs were getting massive airplay and positive reviews.
In 2014, her first musical project titled `Ice Cream’ – a 5-track Extended Play (EP) which had her hits like `Ice Cream’ and `Jordan’ that helped win her Best Female Artist at the 2014 and 2015 HiPipo Music Awards. She had hit the big time. With three albums to her name, Sheebah is currently in studio working on her next project which is a remix of “Nkwatako” in collaboration with Solid Star from Nigeria.