Music

Young singer living the dream

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Priscilla Zawedde, commonly known as AZAWI, a Ugandan singer and songwriter. PHOTO | POOL

Summary

  • A young singer from Uganda is living her dream after being selected among a global group of artists of Black heritage for a career development programme.
  • Kenya’s top pop band, Sauti Sol were in the inaugural YouTube Black Voices Class of 2021 along with other stars like Sho Modjozi from South Africa and Nigerian Fireboy DML.
  • Azawi was signed to the Ugandan label Swangz Avenue on which she released her debut recording, an EP titled LO FIT in February 2020.

A young singer from Uganda is living her dream after being selected among a global group of artists of Black heritage for a career development programme and enjoying the privilege of her debut album beamed on Times Square Billboard in New York, one of the most visited locations in the world.

Ugandan singer Azawi whose debut album “African Music” has just been released is taking it all in stride when asked to describe the feeling of the high-profile international attention she has been receiving.

“The feeling ever since I released the album is great and I am so honoured and thank my incredible team for making it all happen,” she said during a virtual interview with BDLife.

The young singer from the Naakulabye neighbourhood of Kampala, whose real name is Priscilla Zawedde, is the latest among a fresh generation of artists who have emerged in East African music and aiming for global success. “The person you see on stage is the same person you see in person. I love being natural and original.”

The visibility that she is currently enjoying in some of the biggest cities in the world is thanks to her selection for the YouTube Black voices Artist Class of 2022. The announcement made in October described the selected musicians, who are as diverse as an artist from the Aboriginal community of Australia, a Cuban funk singer and a UK singer of Caribbean origin, as those at the forefront of “pushing the boundaries of music.”

“Being chosen among artists around the world is a milestone in my career because it provides a platform for my content to be available to the world,” said Azawi. YouTube Black Voices is a programme that supports black artists from across the world.

The programme is part of the larger YouTube Black Voices Fund, a global programme, launched in 2020 a $ 100 million fund to equip Black musicians with resources and support to enable them “thrive and invest in work that amplifies the voices, perspectives and stories of all Black artists around the world.”

During the six-month scholarship period, the recipients undertake training in music production, engineering, songwriting, mixing, music business and other aspects connected to the industry.

Kenya’s top pop band, Sauti Sol were in the inaugural YouTube Black Voices Class of 2021 along with other stars like Sho Modjozi from South Africa and Nigerian Fireboy DML. Azawi started as a member of Kampala’s Kika Dance Troupe in 2005 and eventually started singing with the help of a friend who mentored her as a singer-songwriter.

She has since written songs for some of Uganda’s top stars including Lydia Jazmine, Vinka Nina Roz and Eddy Kenzo, the latter with whom she has collaborated on a song from the new album.

Azawi was signed to the Ugandan label Swangz Avenue on which she released her debut recording, an EP titled LO FIT in February 2020, including the hit song “Quinamino” which became an Internet sensation.

Her first full-length album “African Music” is a collection of 16 songs and follows the release of singles like “My Year” and “Slow Dancing.”

She describes her sound as Afro-fusion because it is a combination of different influences, both from Uganda and other parts of the continent. “The inspiration is that I am representing my African roots because the album is characterised by African rhythms and sounds,” she says. “I want the music to be part of the journey of the music that comes out of Africa hence the title,” she adds.

According to her, it is no accident that the lyrics float effortlessly between English and her local dialect. “Growing up, this is how I have always spoken so when it comes to writing my songs, I followed the same formula mixing Luganda and English,” she says.

She dreams that the promotional push and the skills learnt from the YouTube Black Voices will be a launching pad to collaborate with the global community of artists and to take her music to the world.

“I want to cross the boundaries of Uganda and East Africa, spread my music over Africa and move across the world so that people can get to hear and understand what I am all about,” she says.

"Kenya is just like another home to me and I am looking forward to connecting with many more artists and producers over there," she concludes.