It runs in the family

The winner’s smile. Israella Chris with hosts of  ITV’s Good Morning Britain. Below. Israella poses with Pixie Lott, a judge who also asked her to perform on her wedding. Photo | Courtesy

What you need to know:

  • Big voice.  Few days after Christmas, a video of UK based Ugandan teenage singing protege went viral. The winner of The Voice Kids UK talks to Edgar R. Batte.

It is not every day that you meet a young person, with a music soul old and rich. Bolting notes she is yet to live and effortlessly giving those watching goose bumps.

And yet, in just a pink sweater, blue jeans and a pair of white sneakers… nothing fancy, Israella Chris, 2022’s winner of The Voice Kids UK got the world in awe.

Performing a rendition of Charles Ray’s Georgia, Israella’s voice was lush and easily filled the room, it wasn’t surprising that she got at least three of the four judges turn their chairs.

Black Eyed Peas’ founder Will. a judge on the show said she sounded angelic,  Danny Jones noted that she was so good and believes she may not know how good she is while Pixie Lott commended her range and the ease with which she delivers.

But that was the audition, earlier last year. Born to a Ugandan father Myco Chris and Gwendolyn Mukulu, daughter to playwright Ugandan Alex Mukulu, the Israella won the 2022 edition of The Voice Kids UK last week.

“Some trust in what they have but dad and mum taught me and my siblings to always depend on God because everything else fades,” she says.

Pushed by the dad

She was encouraged to audition by her father, a singer and songwriter known for songs such as Zino Ennaku alongside Radio and Weasel in the early 2000s. He says that  he thought the competition was an ordinary thing but there were moments it hit him that it wasn’t business as usual but rather something very special.

“I am very passionate about music and graced to always pay attention to detail and when I heard my daughter articulate some of the hidden beauties vocally, I was overjoyed,” he explains.

One of the life changing moments he cannot forget was when she was about six years old. She went home after school and told him that she wanted to record a song for her school.

At first he thought she was joking because he had never paid much attention to her singing. He promised to produce an instrumental for her as long as she wrote the whole song.

He guided her on the order of how the songs are written.

“To my surprise, she returned to me in under an hour and the song was not only beautiful but very detailed,” he recounts.

That’s when he knew then that she was born an artiste and all they had to do, as parents, was to water her musical seed to become who God ordained her to be.

Her mother is such a driving force and motivator and mentor who has done a very great and incredible job in seeing Israella become more and more in touch with her gift of singing.

Moment of pride

Her mother says, “It was a proud mama moment. It reminded me that God still answers prayer. Any parent’s joy is to see their children do well; my prayer is that Jesus Christ continues to be glorified through her gifts and talents. That many will be encouraged.”

The youngster says that being a winner means a lot to her because it is an opportunity to make a difference.

“I have always desired to touch people’s lives through singing,” she says.

When she was announced a winner, her nanny, Juliet Nyonyintono, couldn’t sleep all night.

“She was dancing and screaming, my aunties had to remind her she had other children!  It felt really nice to make her proud. I also had a lot of congratulatory messages from family, friends and from people all over the world. I feel so humbled and extremely grateful! I am so proud to make the UK and my motherland Uganda proud,” Israella narrates.

Her preparation for competition was not only vocally but through prayer and truthfully. She went to great lengths to practice her singing as many times as she could.

At some time, her father had to tell her to stop because she would carry on singing in the wee hours of the night. As such, her parents were very instrumental in guiding her and helping her stay focused.

“I can’t lie, the more I thought about it, I would get kind of scared but then I prayed, God helped me,” the teenager adds.

Not the first audition

Her motivation to compete was natural because, from the time she was little, her dream was to be a contender in The Voice Kids UK.

She gave it a shot and went for her first audition when she was five. She sang after which she was told her voice was still too young and everywhere. But there and then, she made up her mind to start being serious about her singing.

And with the commitment and persistence, she is elated that it has finally paid off. She excitedly adds, “Honestly I am so grateful that I got a chance to compete let alone win.”

Israella cannot put a finger on the very exact time she started singing because her mother and father are both singers so music has naturally always been a very huge part of her life.

“Even before I could speak, my parents told me I used to sing along with their songs and other songs that were played either in the car or at home. It’s kind of a generalisation to say I have been but I think I have been singing all my life to be honest,” she says.

Besides being born to musical parents with friends already in the industry, she is grateful to God who initially blessed and gave her the gift.

The finale

For her finale performance, she performed How Great Though Art, the Christian hymn originally written by Carl Boberg.

She joined a long list of pop stars that have covered the song such as Carrie Underwood, Allan Jackson, Vince Gill and Elvis Presley among others.

Her elder brother is gifted singer too, though takes his football career as the most important, and with support from both their parents.

“I believe that everyone has a special gift and purpose from God, some may have one or two whereas others may have five or six. I believe my gift is the gift of singing. I have been singing in church all my life and God has been so gracious,” the winner of The Voice Kids UK, adds.

On her wish list, is making a difference through her music. She would love to visit her motherland Uganda to extend a helping hand towards her fellow children through a foundation she plans on opening.

“I have been wanting to visit but I know in good time I will. I would like to help other young children who are gifted but can’t get the opportunities to showcase their talents to the world,” she reveals.

Israella goes to school at Bromley Academy School for Girls. Singing is her number one hobby. She also likes reading, writing and dancing during her spare time.

The voice

The Voice is a singing reality competition television series based on a Dutch TV show initiallly called The Voice of Holland.  It has in the past aired in the US, UK and of recent, an African franchise was launched.