For many years she struggled to make an impact on the Ugandan art scene without success. Then came WBS TV, and life has not been the same since. ABU-BAKER MULUMBA reports:If there is anything that changes Annet Nandujja’s ever smiling face, it must be a question about her age or marital status.
She is ready to answer every question but when it comes to ‘how old are you’? Her face changes; “Why do you ask and where have you seen it before a lady disclosing her age? Nedda ssebo (no sir) let’s leave that.”
She actually wonders why everybody asks her about her age and marriage. Well, we wonder why she would even wonder! A woman with her type of message in song and style of dance? Everyone would love to know who the lucky family is and how old she is.
“Do I look very old? And for your information I am not married – I know that is the next question – and not searching either,” she said.
The public only knows one daughter of Nandujja – singer Sylvia Namutebi – who is based in Sweden and was here last December to launch her album Nguo Ya Africa.
Nandujja spent more than 20 years married to Omulongo Wasswa, although she says that she does not count her children.
“Don’t you know that a Muganda woman does not count her children because even you are my child?” she reasoned. But friends close to Nandujja have hinted that Sylvia Namutebi is an only child. At least biologically.
Switching the talk to her career, she says that her troupe The Planets was started together with Kiyimba Musisi and Erasmus Ssebunnya in 1991 as a drama group, turning to dancing after the acting failed.
“It has not been easy; had it not been WBS TV we would still be struggling, but that song we did for the station made the public know that we exist,” she said.
Nandujja was one of the first artistes to benefit from businessman and WBS TV owner Gordon Wavamunno’s drive to promote local talent. In 2005, she recorded the traditional dance song, Eno WBS, whose video in no time had entire households up and dancing whenever it was aired.
In the song, she praised the TV station and the video featured prominent presenters shaking to the Ganda drumbeat.
Many agree, no one had quite ever shaken to the Bakisimba-Muwogola beat the way Nandujja shook her waist in that video.
Although she had produced other songs such as Ettooke (Kawomera) which was quite popular at weddings, she was still a wedding entertainer who earned no more than Shs 400,000 per gig. It was after the WBS song that she started selling as hotly as Juliana Kanyomozi or any other contemporary singer at a wedding.
Taught to sing and dance by Hajjat Lunkuse and Nnalongo Bayiga who is currently based in America, Nandujja has not looked back.
And this was evident at her album launch Muzaala baaki mu ndabada at Theatre La Bonita on Friday.
The theatre was filled to capacity with high profile patrons such as Buganda Katikkiro J.B Walusimbi, Andrew ‘Zzimwe’ Kasagga, Gordon Wavamunno, Ssebaana Kizito and former Vice President, Dr. Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe the chief guest. Some of the patrons brought in their parents as old as 70 and one elderly lady in the company of Asad Ssebaggala (brother to Meddie Kaggwa) said that was their day. But the crowd included many young people too. So in a way it was everyone’s day.
Outside theatre La Bonita, tickets sold out but hundreds of fans pleaded to be allowed in to sit on the floor. They were turned away.
Nandujja came on stage and did her favourites Ettooke, Muzaala Baaki, Obukadde and Endabada which marked the climax at around 11p.m.
Accompanied by artistes Mariam Ndagire, Mesach Semakula, Halima Namakula, Sophia Nantongo and others, Nandujja managed to accomplish a feat many artistes have failed to do: pull a big crowd and keep it lively.
“I compose all my songs and at times I am inspired by what I see in public, sometimes I dream and put my dreams into songs,” she said.
She is a highly sought after artiste these days, but Nandujja admits that however much she wants to give it all to her fans, she can only perform at one function at a time.
Having entertained kings and presidents, Nandujja is grooming talent to do what she does best: dance. She teaches dance at her home in Mutungo and is part of various anti-HIV/AIDS charity organisations.