Evelyn Love: A true star who went down fighting

Evelyn Nakabira died on Monday after a long battle with a kidney disease. Photo | Courtesy

What you need to know:

  • Musicians often feel a range of emotions when they do not get an opportunity to perform on stage, and that was the case with Evelyn Nakabira, alias Evelyn Love. Her last attempt to serenade her fans on October 28 never came to fruition as she lost her battle with kidney complications, writes Gabriel Buule.

She effectively announced herself to Uganda’s music industry with unparalleled contemporary love songs often crooned in a beautiful contralto voice.

Like many, hers were humble beginnings. After starting out as a backup vocalist in a live band, Evelyn Nakabira would go on to be its face. Per singer Lily Kadima, Nakabira was often asked to perform even when there was no financial reward for her efforts.

In June 2022, Nakabira collapsed after she pushed the envelope whilst preparing for her show dubbed “An Evening With Evelyn Dinner Concert.” The show was intended to raise money to help piece together a kitty that would help her safeguard her health.  

Nakabira was a dogged fighter. This explains why she juggled careers in both the music and movie industries during her heyday. 

When her relationship with her South Sudanese partner hit rock bottom, she was quick to pick up the pieces. During an interview with this reporter, she asked to be addressed as Evelyn Love; not Evelyn Lagu. 

Lagu is the name of her erstwhile partner. In swapping Lagu with Love, Nakabira wanted to make it abundantly clear that love— the noun that connotes an intense feeling of deep affection—had been chosen over hatred.

Love was what Nakabira was hoping to be shown during a concert she had hoped to stage on October 28 this year. Battling multiple organ issues, Nakabira hoped the show would raise a sizeable kitty to help her clear a growing medical bill. The artiste had been in and out of hospital after complications left her requiring, among others, kidney dialysis.

A dogged fighter

When Nakabira lost her long battle with kidney and heart complications on Monday, she was widely celebrated for the dogged fight she put up. 

Friends, family and members of the public took to social media not to mourn but to celebrate Nakabira for her courageous fight. The Uganda Musicians Association branded her as an icon and a trailblazer who touched countless lives with her music and resilience.

In a previous interview with NTV-Uganda, Nakabira revealed that she learnt about her medical condition in 2019. She was on her way back from a music show in Kapeeka when two occupants in her car noticed something odd. Nakabira’s intuition had already convinced her that what ailed her was not just your average stomach problem.

Nakabira was diagnosed with a kidney problem a few days later. This was after she collapsed. She would undergo dialysis at Kiruddu National Referral Hospital before being referred to Nakasero Hospital. And so began her journey of receiving medication on a weekly basis.

Nakabira slipped into depression after she was falsely pronounced dead on social media. After that episode, she resolved never to let detractors drill chinks in her armour. She also found an inner peace that made her live longer than Isma Olaxes, alias Jjajja Ichuli, the social media pundit who pronounced her dead on several social media platforms.

Transplant that never was

Urged to undergo a kidney transplant, Nakabira’s search ended up with her son, Freddie Kasavu, being a match. The transplant was slated to take place in Turkey after a fundraising drive yielded resounding successes. But then the doctors in Turkey advised that Nakabira’s health could not allow a successful transplant. She could die on the table. They recommended that Nakabira regularly undergoes dialysis until she was strong enough to get the green light for a transplant. 

Nakabira was brought up by her father’s sister in Mityana following the death of her parents. After finishing her Senior Six at St Peter’s Busuubizi, Nakabira went to the Kampala suburb of Nakulabye where her friend Dianah Nakazibwe offered to house her in a single room.

Aged just 19, Nakabira joined Nakulabye-based Mastered Band as a backup singer. She impressed the band owner, a one Mr Mukalazi, so much that he took her back to school where she got a certificate in computer literacy.

Nakabira continued providing backup vocals when she joined Flash Band. The move brought her into the orbit of artistes such as Carol Nakimera (RIP), Halima Namakula, Ragga Dee, and Makoma. Not long after, one of her friends took Nakabira to South Sudan for band gigs. She would meet her partner, a one Lagu, there.

Nakabira shared that Lagu, who was a lawyer in South Sudan, asked her not to work again. He also asked her to return to Uganda where he would look after her. She then opted for acting in Zubayiri Family, a local television show. She performed the role of Mukyaala [Ms] Zubayiri with great distinction.

The acting brought Nakabira fame which she used to launch a solo music career. Mr Lagu was reported to have offered a lot of support. Her debut song, Ogumanga, was about cheating couples. It was highly acclaimed thanks, critics say, to its rich resonance with Ugandans.

Who was Evelyn Love?

She was born Evelyn Nakabira in Kalungu, Masaka, on June 1, 1982. Both her parents died when she was a child. When Nakabira was young, she was sent to Mityana to live with her aunt, who worked as a midwife.

Nakabira went to Aga Khan, Mityana Secondary School, Pride Secondary School, Mityana and St Peter’s Secondary School, Busubizi where she completed her A-Level in 1999.

Considered one of the finest singers and actresses on the local scene, Nakabira performed with Mustard and Flash bands. Some of her popular songs include Mbulila, Ogumanga, Kasita Bakuleka, I love you, Akalulu Mbeelawo and Wanjawulo.