It was not common in the past, let alone these days, to find artistes from western Uganda singing in their native languages. Most of them sing in Luganda while a few in English, but Charity Kyobutungi, commonly known as Sister Charity has defied this and is now among the artistes whose songs are easily identifiable even by children.
Born to Enos Buriita and Elivaster Kobuzare in Rweibare, Kyangyenyi in Sheema District, this singer did not at one time dream of being a popular artist, as her childhood dream was to become a doctor.
“I had already been admitted to Masheruka Girls School to do sciences, but my parents could not afford the school fees,” reveals Kyobutungi. “I had been studying at Rwibaare Primary and Secondary schools respectively which were near our home. Our mother taught us pottery and that’s how we used to earn a living. We would vend these pots in all sizes and people would either give us money or beans in exchange for the pots. In the process, we would find ourselves with sacks of beans which we would take to school as fees payment,” she reminisces.
After such a difficult and hard way of earning fees for her primary and O-Level studies, Kyobutungi joined Train the Youth (TYE) group, a music band led by a one Rasta Charz. She thought she was joining the group just to while away her Senior Four vacation. It was in this group that Sister Charity began realising that music was her true calling.
“I had always been singing in school and actually in my primary school, my teachers nicknamed me ‘Mothers’ Union leader’ and I was made the lead vocalist in the drama group but I did not see myself as a singer until this level,” the diploma holder in Accounts from Mbarara Business Institute explains.
“Rasta Charz did a great job in bringing out the singer in me. In fact, he wrote and helped me record my first song, Grade. We recorded the song at Kassajja and Sons Studio, in Nakivubo in December 2002, now known as Namex Studio on Rubaga Road,” narrates the budding singer.
Sister Charity did not even think the song would be such a success. She was overwhelmed by the massive airplay the song received on local radios and at the reception she often received whenever she performed the song to a live audience. It was such a humbling experience whenever the audience would scream and throw money at her while performing. This is what changed her self-perception and she started viewing herself as a potential music diva.
Kyobutungi says her most memorable moment was when she performed at the Radio West Annual Music Festival in 2003 at Lugogo. This festival gave her her first ever biggest live audience. After waiting with much anticipation, the audience ululated when she got onto stage. What thrilled her most was the fact that even Prossy Kankunda, a more popular artiste than her at the time, lovingly cheered her and complimented her on her smooth voice.
“This inspired me to continue singing especially in Runyankore, since most artistes we had from western Uganda usually sang in other languages like Luganda and English. I wanted to prove even music in Kinyankore can sell,” boosts the singer.
Sister Charity has five albums so far, with 30 songs all in Runyankore except Guntawanya and Zambuura which have a mixture of English. She records songs at different studios and sponsors most of her recordings. Her friend, Alex, who owns Ark Menz video and City Rock audio studios in Nansana sponsored her Zanbuura song.
“Music has changed my life and taken me to a level I did not expect to reach given my family background. I am earning a living out of it, building a house in my village and have even bought myself a car,” she reveals.
Sister Charity further intimates that she can now ably take care of her two children. She also got a job with T.V West where she presents the morning programme, Sisimuka. The singer is grateful for the fame the industry has brought her. “I have rubbed shoulders with several “big” people in the country. I have met people like Kahinda Otafiire, Ephraim Kamuntu and Richard Kaijuka. Sometimes they invite me to entertain their guests at their homes,” she says.
Much as everything turned out to be in her favour, the singer says there are challenges in her career. She expresses lack of support and recognition from people in the western region.
“Someone goes for musicians from Kampala to entertain them at their parties here leaving us who are nearer and even cheaper. Even when they invite us, they pay us peanuts! Supporting us would help take our music far and also promote our culture and language,’’ says Kyobutungi.