The last time Sabina Ddumba, was in Kampala in 2006, she was only twelve years, a footballer and not really thinking about music as a career path.
Like her parents, she had her sights on more traditional and scholarly aspirations like becoming a doctor; “they just couldn’t see how things like music could work out and you get to understand where they were coming from with the sentiment,” she tells Tsup Ug in an interview adding that any Ugandan parent in Sweden will always want a sustainable career for their child.
A Swedish born Ugandan, Ddumba is one of the sought after emerging pop artistes from the country that has in the past given us artistes like Ace of Base, Neneh Cherry, Roxette, Eagle Eye Cherry, Robyn, Avicii and one of the world’s most successful pop bands, ABBA among others.
Her family moved to Sweden at the time Uganda was facing a political turmoil, the same time the country was nurturing talents of legends like Frank Mbalire, Sammy Kasule, Hope Mukasa, Philly Lutaaya and of late, Maddox Ssematimba.
Ddumba confesses that besides Lutaaya’s music, she has not interacted with music by the other artistes that started out in Sweden, in fact her biggest musical memories of Uganda start with the kids rhymes she easily sings in the interview to the songs that were hits the first and last time she was Kampala like Blu3’s Nsanyuka Nawe and the Obsessions’ Jangu.
Her sound is a hybrid of soul, pop with influences from her six years with the Tensta Gospel Choir, it was with the choir that the 23 year old found her singing vocation.
But her journey to the stage wasn’t an obvious one, for instance, she knew her parents wanted her to get a ‘real’ job besides music and thus, she studied, graduated and waited until she couldn’t stay with the music.
Last month, Ddumba was a lead performer at the weekly Jam Session at the National Theatre, unlike the usual shows where, the sound, light and other details are barely attended to, this show, in conjunction with Selam, Bayimba Productions and the Swedish Embassy became one of the best to be hosted on the Monday themes.
Compared to Mary J Blige and aptly referred to as the Swedish Lauryn Hill by their local media, Ddumba made it to the stage in what seems to be her signature look, the Hillary Clinton pantsuit, she cuts a posture of confidence as she talks about being happy to see us.
In the past years, Ddumba has gained a lot of momentum on the Swedish pop culture as a result of different events, for instance, in 2012, she participated in the X- Factor and later contributing vocals to Walking On Air, a single off Katy Perry’s fourth studio album Prism.
Though, it was after her first single, Scarred for Life that she was signed to Warner Music in 2015, she would release, Effortless as her debut single with the label – the song has since been certified platinum in Sweden and Ddumba has too gone on to achieve bigger things like performing at the 2016 Swedish Grammy Awards and bagging the New Comer of The Year at the P3 Gold Awards the same year.
During her show at the National Theatre, Ddumba performed with just an acoustic guitar impressing many for her vocal range and delivery, while on another hand, annoying others that imagined she was coming with a full band.
“I think her music is so heavy when you listen to it on YouTube, it’s unfair that she’s playing all of it in an acoustic form,” complained a reveler.
In her defense though, Ddumba says she couldn’t wait to perform in Uganda for many reasons, for instance, the National Theatre was one of the last places her father was at before fleeing Uganda for Sweden, thus regardless of whether she could afford to come with her band or not, she knew she was supposed to make the concert happen.
“We had to work with what we had and I said to myself that I would rather perform acoustic than have a DJ,” she said.
Ddumba was on a mini comeback to Uganda, much as her stay was short, she made sure she performed on Monday, activated a music workshop on Tuesday and later hanging out with fans that showed up at Embers bar on the seventh street in the Industrial Area.
She says that her comeback to Uganda is only the beginning; “there would be no point in me coming to Uganda and never showing up after, I will keep coming back, I will collaborate, this is just the start.”