Endabirwamu yange Junior, nsaba okule mirembe
Lino lye ssanyu lyange muwummuza mwendabira face yo
Ggwe, wotoli kyekifaananyi, kyendabako nze
Sso ssirwakuba ggwe kitaawe naye Junior ndabirwamu
Those are part of the lyrics of Stella Nanteza’s song, Junior Ndabirwamu, who died of a heart attack over the weekend and was laid to rest at Masooli, Gayaza road.
Wife to the late Jimmy Katumba, Nanteza was one of Uganda’s greatest singers in the 1980s. A boda boda cyclist hit her car and she left the scene of accident without any injury or complaints. On reaching home, Nanteza, who suffered from a heart disease, reportedly started vomiting blood.
She was rushed to Mulago hospital’s heart institute but died as they attempted to see a doctor. The celebrated singer of generations leaves behind two children, Olga and Arnold Katumba, who both live in UK.
Nanteza joined The Ebonies in 1977 but left for America in 1989 where she has been living since. She will be remembered for songs such as Junior Ndabirwamu, Kkondo, Emitima Egirwadde Okwagala, Ssanduuko, Olugaggawadde, Kyakusubiza and African Woman. Others include Muyita Mulokozi, Omusaayi Gwa Yesu, Laba Bwe Yakola Emunyenye, Tumutende, Mukama Nkwebaza, and Wankola Bubi.
She returned to Uganda four months ago and intended to settle here and promote her new gospel songs. God had other plans.
Life of a celebrity
Nanteza lived a true celebrity life; she was never seen on the streets as everything was done for her. She used to stay at Platinum House, on Burton street above the Old Taxi park, but she never went to Luwum street on foot.
Mariam Ndagire remembers Nanteza as a person who could not even go to a shop to do her own shopping. She had helpers like a real celebrity does.
Iconic and motherly
According to Hassan Badru Zziwa, a director at The Observer, Nanteza was the biggest female musician of the 80s, and she kept her legacy.
“She never walked the streets of Kampala and this prompted people to always be eager to see her whenever they organised a show at their home, Theatre Excelsior now Bat Valley theatre,” Zziwa says.
Jimmy Katumba and The Ebonies used to stage a show for over three months due to the powerful voice of Nanteza. Ndagire, who draws her inspiration from Nanteza, says that she used to mime Nanteza’s songs while at Trinity College Nabingo. Ndagire was a student when Nanteza was at the height of her career.
“I didn’t see her behave in any demeaning manner. She was a decent dresser and that is where I copied that. To be a star, you don’t need to dress skimpily. It’s your products that matter,” Ndagire shares her recollections of Nanteza and how Nanteza’s ways shaped her.
Ndagire is saddened that she did not get the chance to send off her mentor.
“Why did they rush to bury her? Artistes needed to give her a deserving send off because she was a true icon,” Ndagire said, as tears rolled down her cheks.
The Ebonies’ Sam Bagenda aka Dr Bossa, who was a young man when he joined The Ebonies in the 80s, remembers Nanteza as a mother. They sang Junior Ndabirwamu song together on stage.
“She was so motherly and in her, The Ebonies has lost a descendant because it’s her talent that created The Ebonies. We are enjoying now and she has left behind a legacy as one of the best soloist with a unique alto voice,” Bagenda says.
Hajjat Nulu Bongole has lost a friend whose music was very articulate and straight to the point. Sarah Muge, who was her fan in the UK, says that she will always remember Stella as a music icon who could compete favourably with the likes of Mariah Carey.
Golden Production’s Mesach Ssemakula, too, was saddened and said that although Stella had gone, her voice and talent would live to inspire many generations to come.
Paul Jjingo of The Ebonies says that although Stella is gone, she will live on.
“Her body goes but the soul, voice and talent shall always stay with us,” Jjingo says.