- HIT MAKER. Made famous by her gospel hit Ekyombo kya Nuuwa, Gloria Nambi went into oblivion on her journey of seeking God.
- The much sought singing sensation of the early 2000s is now living in a rental at Kabuusu in Kampala after surviving a life threatening injury which has limited her movements.
- GEORGE KATONGOLE relives her golden days and her comeback plan.
It is just after 10 am on September 20. Gloria Nambi’s infectious smile welcomes me into her orange house at Kabuusu in Rubaga Division. Her afro hair still keeps her looking youthful.
She uses crutches to support her left leg, which has been swollen since she was involved in an accident. This happened when the Toyota Harrier she was in rolled over on her way to a friend’s wedding in Kigali, Rwanda last year.
In her heyday, the 39-year-old was likened to one of the greatest vocalists, late Kezia Nambi of the Omulenzi Omutoro fame.
She rests her leg on a floral pillow atop a black stool as she reclines on a black velvet sofa. Her ankle oozes some pus. To her right in the sitting room is a piano, she is learning to play.
She cannot speak about her music career without this traumatic experience that kept her between, Mulago, CoRSU and Rubaga hospitals for more than a year. She now spends her days penning music and reading prophecy books, as well as the Bible.
She has written more than 30 songs during this time with her favourite being Mbuulira, translated as ‘tell me’. It is about Moses in the Bible who ran away from the riches of Pharaoh’s palace to the wilderness where his mission was to save the Israelites from the bondage of Egyptian slavery.
After being one of the most sought after recording artistes by labels such as Kase and Kasiwukira in the early 2000s because of her beauty and voice, Nambi gave music a break around 2008. She is, however, planning a comeback.
Born to former Makerere University don, the late Joseph Musoke and Kevina Nalwoga of Namayiba in Mukono District in November 1979, Nambi, the last born of five, started singing while at Nakisunga Primary School.
“During the school speech days, my parents would buy me a party dress and impressed parents that would stuff money in it because they liked my voice,” Nambi reminisces.
“I sang for fun until I went to visit my elder brother at Uncle Bbosa Kabuuza’s, who liked a song he heard me singing and offered to record it,” she recalls.
This was while she was in Senior Five at Our Lady Consolata, Kireka in Wakiso District. Her parents had separated and her mother had bought a plot of land where they lived in a mud house, away from their father’s posh house where her stepmother now lived.
Earlier, Nambi aspired to be a nun always wanting to go to heaven but when Kabuuza told her about the riches in music, she looked it as an alternative way to afford her mother a decent life.
During this time, she joined Diamonds Production and performed with them at Bat Valley Theatre.
Her first song, Bamugamba, which she had composed for her husband Meddie Mugerwa was instantly appreciated though she did not get to perform it. Instead, it is Mariam Ndagire that enjoyed its national success.
“During the auditions, Mariam secretly recorded the song. A week later, it was playing on radio and I felt so bad, although she later gave me Shs200,000. It was from this time that I realised I could write music,” says Nambi.
In 2001, she produced her third album Gwakusinga. The more promoters and listeners interacted with her songs, the more the comparisons with the legendary namesake Kezia Nambi resurfaced.
“When people heard me, they were always shocked that Nambi sounded like Kezia. I took it as a compliment.”
Pride Ideal Sounds under the leadership of Charles James Ssenkubuge, formed a new band which was the offspring of Bakayimbira Dramactors built around the then 22-year-old songstress.
The beautiful and light-skinned young woman wowed audiences at the Pride Afrique Corner, Namirembe Road, and a then popular night-spot where this group performed. Her husband was also a vocalist and dancer.
Controversy or not?
Like most female acts trying to breakthrough, Nambi had her shares with male promoters that thought they could get their way around her.
“Most promoters wanted to marry me or have sex with me but I resisted the temptations. Also, I always felt I was supposed to be singing gospel and not secular music. I would get enough money, but I would go home and cry, which troubled my husband,” she says.
The separation of her parents after 10 years in marriage, made her loathe marriage and the more sexual advances she got from the opposite sex, the more she stuck with her husband whom she had met in Senior One while a student at Namilyango Convent. She says he is the only man she has known to date.
“Music fame comes at a cost. For most of the stars you see on TV, it is not about their talent alone but some do not mind the number of men they sleep with to make it to the top. They need a lot of make-up and some even take drugs to be able to perform. For me it wasn’t connecting.”
Earlier in 2000, she became a Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) yet she still carried on performing at secular shows.
When Eagles Production was born, she acted as Ronald Mayinja’s wife but something unusual happened when the band was set to make their first official launch at the former Happyland Theatre in Kibuye.
She used to run a retail shop with her husband in Ggaba where they lived.
“We were young and stupid. We used to close the shop at 2pm and go to the beach to eat chips and fish.”
But tragedy struck when Mugerwa’s sister ((Maama Sumayiya) who had started a business for them died. The business limped and died.
She was at this time interested in legalising her marriage instead of cohabiting. During the church’s annual revival camp meeting at Nanganda SDA Church, they requested to wed.
“The only thing I had was a party dress while Mugerwa had jeans. I was a star and people questioned my intentions of having such a wedding. When they learnt of my determination, the women at church hired bridal dresses for me while the elders gave Mugerwa a suit. The best man wore a different colour. After the ceremonies, we had no honeymoon as we both headed to our dormitories where we were sleeping during the camp meeting.”
Sadly, the wedding coincided with the day Eagles Production launch and thus Nambi did not show up.
Going out of church
After seven years in Adventism, she says her fears in the secular world returned, especially through dislike among Christian singing groups.
“Most of the sinning in church is done covertly. I too was feeling empty yet I always dreamt of going to heaven.”
She recalls two instances that started her self-discovery journey.
While they rented two rooms in Mukono, life was hard. A neighbour, she identifies as Ms Kabali was an Adventist too yet they never got along. An altercation at church had separated these neighbours for two years.
She had also refused to pay Ms Kaaya’s debt for roofing materials she had obtained on credit and used scare tactics whenever she was approached.
“My life was a contradiction. One day during Holy Communion, I sat next to Ms Kabali feeling guilty and shameful. I thought I was going to hell,” she recalls.
She started reading book like Ellen White’s The Great Hope, which in detail talks about the battle between good and evil.
Nambi says it was during this time that she got personal encounters with Jesus while praying. She then started spending nights on Besaniya Prayer Mountain in Mukono, praying and fasting.
“I realised that the time we spend on earth is equivalent to a moment in traffic jam. My desires changed when I realised that the only thing man needs in life is Christ,” she says.
During this time, she was excommunicated from the church with many thinking she had joined a cult but her struggles eased.
She reconciled with Ms Kabali whom she had accused of being barren and sought forgiveness from many other people she knew she had wronged her.
“I now pray, meditate, rest and read the Bible. These are precious moments.”
This year, she was re-baptised at Najjanankumibi SDA Church.
“The church needs to look for those that backslid because they could be having a desire to know God using a different approach.”
Her biggest life lesson so far from The Desire of Ages is that human greatness can never save a soul from death.
Times have changed after a 10-year sabbatical although not many have given up on her. Prime Radio presenter Moses Ssozi wants her to return big. She contests the notion.
“I don’t need a hit song but music that connects me with my God,” she says.
Her yesteryear hit Ekyombo kya Nuuwa, which talks about the wonders of Noah’s Ark remains her signature gospel sound but she thinks she has good music that can change the narrative.
With her sultry voice, Nambi has a couple of songs she has recorded with many others still on the book.
“I want to tell my story and not someone’s testimony,” she responds.
Ssozi concurs; “She is the best vocalist we have been at the moment. Either that, or I’m the victim of the world’s greatest fraud.”