The first time I heard Irene Ntale’s love letter hit in January, I had it on replay for a whole day. I just couldn’t have enough of the song. There was something about that very husky voice that had me wanting more and more of that sound.
I had my first encounter with her late last year, when she was at a live performance with her band, Uneven, at a popular hang out in Kampala. The revellers went into ululations when she stepped off stage, and there was more euphoria when she hummed her way into their hearts. It wasn’t hard to notice how much love and praise she drew from the crowd.
Unlike the case with many of our local artistes, there seems to be little knowledge of how this 25-year-old former church girl made her way up the musical ladder, or even where she was before that. In one of the many conversations I held with a few friends many compared Ntale to songbird Irene Namubiru, who the starlet apparently takes much likening to.
Roger Mugisha, a radio personality, however, believes this comparison is farfetched as the two artistes are classes apart, with each having their own style. “The two are good and unique in their own way. They have different styles, so, I don’t see how these two can be compared,” he says.
I arrive at Swangz Avenue studios, for our appointment, and after a few minutes, she steps in. Her red hair is the first thing that I notice when she walks in. she has on her signature rock chic jewellery, which this time comprises of a pendant and crucifix earrings.
Ntale, who was born on January 30, 1989, grew up in Ntinda, with her 12 siblings. Unfortunately, her father passed on when she was one year old. She admits to having no clear memory of him.
“My 13 siblings and I were brought up by my mother, Robinah Kamya Ntale,” she shares.
She attended Kitante Primary School and later Kitante Hill for her secondary school. There after she joined Kyambogo University, where she obtained a degree in Procurement and Logistics.
She admits that as a child, she was rather reserved, and kept to herself most of the time. “I didn’t engage in so many activities like most children my age; not even singing,” she explains. So, I struggle to actually figure out how this girl, ended up in music.
She explains that her turning point came when she got born-again during her Senior Four vacation and joined Victory City Church, in Ntinda.
“I guess you could say my music career started from here. When I joined the Victory church the choir leader, Vivian Awil encouraged me to join, because she believed I had a very unique voice.
When Vivian asked me to join, I gladly took it up, and before I knew it, I was getting all major lead roles in the choir,”Ntale adds. Ntale was with the choir for four years.
While she loved singing, she admits that her mind was focused elsewhere; on instruments, particularly the guitar.
When she wasn’t singing at church, Ntale together with three other male friends at church, she started a band they called the Uneven. The group was comprised of Simon tamale, Tsabo David, and Steven crane, and Ntale.
“We chose the name Uneven because I was the only girl in the band we also wanted something catchy.
We would perform at weddings, events, and small parties, for free. We did this for a while, on a trial basis. And before long, people were asking us to turn this into something commercial,” she explains.
So, with the new band to deal with, it became increasingly hard for her to keep up with her church choir. After a while, she quit to focus on her band. At the time, Ntale was in her final year at the university. The death of one of the band members, however, brought the once promising band’s journey to a halt.
“Our bassist, the late Steven Crane passed away in 2012. He drowned in a swimming pool. We didn’t feel like having someone else replace him, so, we decided to take a break,” Ntale says, with sadness in her voice. However, with the extended break came the demise of the band, and this meant that Ntale had to find a way to keep her passion for music alive.
Soon thereafter, she began doing some back up singing for artistes like Jamal, Azziz, Grace Nakimera, Bobi wine, and many others, both on stage and in studio. Later, she was booked in to perform at Emin Pasha’s theme nights, after the hotel’s manager spotted her out while she was doing back up for Tchilla.
It was at Emin Pasha that Benon Mugulumya, a music producer from Swangz Avenue, heard her sing, and after talks were held, Ntale joined the Swangz family. “I spoke to my mother about taking on music as a career and she seemed okay with it.