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Mitchy Dalen: Urban planner on paper, passionate about singing

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Mitchy says much as band music exposes you, it does not pay as much. PHOTOS /COURTESY/AGANDY & A KA DOPE STARS

Before joining university, Michelle Esther Tumuhaise, alias Mitchy, was a choralist in a church choir in her home area in Bunamwaaya, a Kampala suburb. She never saw herself as a fully-fledged musician, even when Joshua K. Mugabi later recruited her to the Uganda Martyrs Choir, an all-girls Christian choir.

Her dream was to become an urban planner, a profession she pursued at Makerere University, earning herself a Bachelor’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning in 2020.

She shares that during her initial time at the university, she applied for several jobs within her profession, but she was never successful, a situation that prompted her to reignite her career in music.

Mitchy says her attempt at music came with instant money after getting recruited into band music.

“I immediately started earning and I started funding part of my bills at the university,” she explains.

As a girl, she recalls performing in schools and church, which prepared her for a future in music. She shares that her passion for music led her to participate in the famous Coca-Cola Rated Next, a TV talent search show aimed at developing the local music industry in Uganda.

During the Rated Next contest, Mitchy made it through the Kampala auditions and went on to compete at the national level.

While at university, she joined the Milege Afro Jazz Band and started performing professionally. She has since performed with several other bands, including Davis Ntare and his band, Code 9 Band, Jemimah Sanyu and Unit 446, Band Cindy, The Gang Band, Fauti Band, Iwera Band, 316 Ug, AKM, among others.

To date, Mitchy is a popular figure among Uganda’s music bands as a lead vocalist, where her prominent melodic voice can easily be noticed. Currently, she is known for her captivating performances alongside her band at various venues, ranging from bars to weddings and corporate events.

She shares that she is currently constantly exploring new artistic avenues to become a soul alternative star, venturing into a number of genres, including Afro-soul and fusion.

Mitchy notes that her success as a musician is attributed to her vocal ability and aggression to learn new skills and adapt to new techniques and technologies continuously, and all that has to be complimented by constant self-marketing.

“Music is a business that requires commitment to strengthen the skills that one has, practice, and learn in order to attain maturity and progress,” she explains.

Journey to a solo career

Mitchy says whereas band music provides day-to-day employment, there is a real deal in producing original music. She notes that band music thrives on performances alone, yet original composers have an opportunity to enjoy digital loyalties and other shares in the music value chain.

“Singing covers can help you gain recognition and build a fanbase, but the recognition is certainly not overnight. You can earn, but the most important part is to use that space to build great social visibility,” she explains.

She explains that content generated from band covers can help a creative build YouTube, Instagram and other social media, but it cannot be monetised.

“The truth is that many successful musicians started by sharing covers of popular songs and gradually gained a following. However, becoming an artiste often requires original music and a unique artistic identity,” she says.

She adds that it is important for musicians to find their own voice and create original content to stand out in the competitive music industry.

Mitchy Dalen released her debut single Tugende in 2017 at Pearl Rhythm Studios. The song was produced by legendary producer Jude Mugerwa.

Mitchy Dalen has recently released other singles; Take Me Back and Experience You. both produced by JC Muyonjo and mixed and mastered by Abaasa R.

She says she is yet to release more music this year as she has embarked on her journey to become a solo artiste or singer to get her music on streaming services.

In 2021, Mitchy’s talent shone brightly as she emerged victorious in the A ka Dope Stars Singing Competition, solidifying her rising status on the Ugandan music scene.

Her collaboration with the A ka Dope Band resulted in the soulful track Lies, further showcasing her musical prowess. Mitchy continues to collaborate with esteemed bands, enriching the music scene with her unparalleled talent and passion.

Her captivating vocals have graced stages at esteemed events such as Shorts na Lesu (2017), SoFar Sounds Kampala (2018) and Jazz Safari (2019).

Mitchy’s talent has led her to collaborate with celebrated instrumentalist Steve Keys, singers Mercy Bero, and Benon Mugumbya for Unicef’s 75th-anniversary track, For Every Child, in 2021.

She has further showcased her musical talent in Uganda’s film industry after her music got played in the miniseries Suubi (The Shattered Dream) in 2021. She is also credited for her voice-over efforts in the series courtesy of Topowa Youth Mentoring Uganda.

Not an easy road

Like most budding creatives, Mitchy shares that music is a financially-draining venture due to the fact that her budget fails to accommodate her wishes, which frustrates her creativity.

“Getting into the studio to record music requires money; recording videos requires a lot of money too. Getting airplay can be very difficult, especially if you do not know anyone or have no connections,” she explains.

She opens up that, usually,  some media personalities do so whenever there is money involved. In a similar manner, she shares that musicians without management or music labels find it difficult to achieve their artistic dreams.

She painfully reveals that she has definitely experienced sexual harassment on and off stage as a live performer, which she finds stressful.

“Dealing with drunk people in bars and some arrogant and disrespectful people is annoying because you are just a girl singing on stage,” she says.

Mitchy, however, says she has always had the tendency to keep her distance when on and off stage: “I am keen on who is getting close to the stage either to tip or suggest to dance with me so that I either step back or signal that I am not interested.”

Cruising to the soul

For whoever follows Ugandan music, soul musicians are often differently gifted and it is hard to identify them with a particular song, as is the case with Mitchy.

Talent is what identifies her Afro-soul genre, with most of her songs speaking to a specific audience. Her music performances are usually flawless and always leave listeners wanting more.

Take Me Back is one of her most popular songs, though not widely known. Besides the excellent production, the bilingual ballad is a piece of work one could listen to over and over again.

She says she is looking forward to cementing her position in Afro-soul and other genres and is looking forward to working with artistes such as Naava Grey, Joshua Baraka, Maurice Kirya, The Mith, Azawi and Kenneth Mugabi.