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PROFILE: Deena the German rocking Ugandan music

Sabrina Herr alias Deena has gained popularity amongst Ugandan music lovers for her unique way of doing music in the country; she perfectly sings in the native Luganda language; something that has won the hearts of many.

Kampala, Uganda | AGNES E NANTABA | Deena released her first Luganda hit ‘Mumulete’ to mean ‘bring him to me’ in February 2015 with no expectations that the song could be a hit. Perhaps, as a visiting German at the time, the least she expected was fame in a foreign country. It also takes ages for even local artistes to break through in music.

But her song went viral literally overnight and by morning her management, Ruff n Ruff Records, was juggling lined up promotional interviews for her.

“That is when I realised that music could actually work in Uganda,” she says.  The song was jointly written since she did not speak Luganda then and had to rely on translators who explained the meaning of every single word.

“I had to know what I was singing about and whether I could identify with the music,” she says.

She followed up with more hits; including a collaboration with the highly rated Goodlyfe duo (Radio and Weasel).  Her latest hit `Hello’ features another local big name; Jose Chameleone real names Joseph Mayanja. She has released eight songs.

Deena first  came to Uganda in 2012 as a visiting tourist traversing the East African region on a one year programme as a volunteer social worker from Germany. She fell in love with the region and, even in Rwanda; she quickly grasped basics in the local dialect of Kinyarwanda to ease her work with kids. It is there that she fell in love with East African music.

“I had come along with my guitars to try and teach kids some music as well as learn from them,” said Deena.

“The kids also introduced me to the music industry but one of the songs they enjoyed most was `Valu Valu’ by Jose Chameleone”.

So one of her interests became meeting the voice the song ‘Valu Valu’.  She found Kampala to be fun and hospitable and stayed longer than planned. One of the events she attended was Chameleone’s birthday party at which she performed the `Value Valu’ song alongside the music star. She met her current manager there are he convinced her to try out music in Uganda. She is currently working on two songs in Kinyankore and Swahili which she intends to release soon.

But Deena has a long music heritage. Back home in a rural village of about 4000 people in Germany, she was playing the flute at the age of five and joined an orchestra doing small performances both within and outside school when opportunities arose.

“In school, I was always part of the choir and theatre plays but at 14, I acquired a guitar at home taught by my grandmother,” she said. Two years later, she started writing her own songs with her first release being `Rain’. She later applied to the Theatre music school just to know whether music would work out. All this while, Deena’s parents were very supportive until today even when they are bothered about the long distance between them and their only girl.

“They have visited East Africa so they have a feel of the life I am living here,” she says.

She is still bothered by Ugandan musicians who perform on tacks or CD’s yet world over, live performances take centre stage.


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