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Sandra Suubi mixes music and art

Kampala, Uganda | AGNES E NANTABA | Most people know Sandra Suubi as the girl who won the Airtel Trace competition 2015 and went on to launch a fledgling music career. Not many know that Suubi combines her music with art.

She is an eco-artist whose work has featured in art festivals like the Bayimba 2013 back drop in Kampala, the laba 2014 headphones, Boda-Boda helmet, and the concept of the bird during the Kampala Art Festival. She does sculpture and installations from waste; mainly plastic bottles.

“My art is a space to explore; just like the music,” Suubi said.

“I take people on a whole new experience and manifest my thoughts into actual physical things to allow the people also experience it”.

She maintains that her visual art is also an opportunity to speak to young people and inspire them to know that they can make it if they put in extra effort and focus on achieving success.

She is working on her maiden album ‘Anthems of life’ through the ‘Nsiimye concert’ which will be launched next month.

It is another opportunity for Ugandans to savour the vocalist with a voice that often brings the house down with the sheer power of her sweet strong vocals. It is that voice which pushed her through the needle’s eye to emerge the winner from over 5.6 million entries and into the limelight.

Interestingly, she was goaded into it by her father. He encouraged her to enter the competition.

“He was my first teacher who approved the entry,” says Suubi.

She says from the Airtel Trace Challenge, she realised there are so many young people out there that are very talented and gifted and also the importance of focusing on one’s strength in order to break through. In her case, her strength was her voice.

She has experimented with numerous music genres through songs like African woman, Amazing love, Togwamu Suubi and others.

Suubi comes from a musical family that is strongly Christian family and, as often happens, their prayer session always featured singing. Suubi is the third born of the four children of Paul and Sarah Kasule and the family boasted several vocalists and an uncle who did the conducting of the music. She says although her father always treated it as a duty for the children to sing, they thoroughly enjoyed it.

She went through Greenhill Academy in Kampala for her primary. But, she says, it was when she joined Gayaza High School, also in Kampala, that her music budded.

She recalls how, as a new senior one student, she was asked by a fellow student to sing to a crowd of senior two students.

“In Gayaza, almost everyone sings because the heart of the school is the chapel where so many activities rotate,” she says, “the environment inspired me to sing.” But her performance was not ordinary. Even after she finished, there was a long moment of silence, then excited clapping, and expressions of amazement from her audience. She became known by almost all students and staff as a songbird.

In her senior six long holidays, Suubi was introduced to doing studio jingles. She also sang with the Novel Band which played at public functions. She recalls grabbing every opportunity to learn from the professionals. Then, together with other young songstresses, they formed XABU in 2010 and experience which taught her more about singing together and what it means to harmonise.

She juggled music and school until completion of her bachelors and Master’s degrees at Makerere University.

Sandra Suubi’s Liteside

Any three things that we don’t know about you?

I talk a lot but thank God that music is one way through which I communicate and so it helps to limit the words. I work to inspire someone such that every time, they speak to me, they are encouraged. My name means `hope’ so I keep working it to the world. I really like sweet things even when I know that it might be dangerous health-wise.

What is your greatest fear?

Not living up to my potential. This has taught me to at least give it a try because I believe that as individuals we are fully stocked and move from glory to glory. I don’t want to create room for regrets.

What is the trait that you most deplore in yourself?

Because I work mostly with waste, I like to keep everything around me because I believe that we can put everything to use. Sometimes it irritates others but I just don’t like to waste stuff.

What is the trait that you most deplore in others?

Being negative and not offering solutions.

Which living person do you most admire?

I look up to so many people for different reasons. For instance my parents Paul and Sarah Kasule are people that I really look up to as a big inspiration. There are several other people who have walked with me in my visual arts and music journey.

What is your greatest extravagance?

I definitely always have to rehearse every day, exercise, and eat healthy as a lifestyle that is good for a vocalist. I spend most on continuity of my work.

What is the greatest thing you have ever done?

One of the greatest things is still coming up and it has to do with my maiden concert. God has taken me through a lot and with the imagination I have for the day, I believe that God will make wonders.

What is your current state of mind?

I am positive.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

The failure to plan is something that we really suffer from. I am teaching myself to incorporate planning in everything because it allows us to follow our vision to fulfilment and take on the most effective strategies.

What does being powerful mean to you?

Knowing who you are with your strengths and weaknesses. As a Christian, it comes with knowing what God has in store for you and putting it to full use.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

In the past, I thought I had a very big butt but I’ve learnt to take it as a positive that God gave me in abundance and it calls for celebration.

Which living person do you most despise?

I don’t despise people because I’ve learnt that everyone has something to offer so I don’t take anyone for granted.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Kindness, honesty and respect for self and others.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

Knowing what he wants, having a vision and looking out for opportunities to equip themselves.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My family but God comes first.

When and where were you happiest?

It was really nice winning Airtel Trace in 2015 with the whole experience of having all my friends and family around was an awesome moment. I was also happy accomplishing my Masters within two years and witnessing how much joy it brought to my parents. There was a show where we performed as Quella Junction Divas; the whole process of coming up and the performance was a moment of walking forward in life.

Where would you most like to live?

It is good to travel elsewhere, explore and share experiences but I love home to the fullest. Uganda is currently at a place where we need to grow it into what we want although we can also misuse it and take it to waste. As a person who is interested in new landscapes, this is the best place for me.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

The feeling of having nothing else to offer and seeing no reason to live.

What is your favorite occupation?

Music and visual arts complement and feed into each other.

What do you most value in your friends?

Honesty and their time.

Who are your favorite writers?

I read more things about how to make better my music and arts.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

I really liked Whitney Houston for a very powerful voice.

What is your greatest regret?

Having not learnt instruments much earlier because it helps to articulate ideas better.

How would you like to die?

Not anytime soon and after impacting on other people, I may just swing to heaven with the angels.

What is your motto?

‘Live full die empty’ and ‘Trust the process, don’t take shortcuts’.

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