Ugandan singer, songwriter, and guitarist Irene Ntale will perform in Kigali for her second time on February 23 where she will headline the Kigali Jazz Junction. The 28-year-old’s music is a blend of R&B, reggae, and acoustic soul and is known for her songs like Sembera, Gyobera, Stay with Me, and Love letter. Sharon Kantengwa caught up with the singer who shared her musical journey and plans for her presence in Kigali.
For those who don’t know you, who is Irene Ntale?
I’m a 28-year-old singer and songwriter. I come from a family of 13, four sisters and eight brothers. I was raised by my mother single handedly. I love music and making friends.
What exactly is your genre of music?
My music is not limited to a specific genre. I try to be versatile as much as I can. I do reggae, afro zouk, jazz because I try to challenge myself.
What musical instruments do you play?
I play the guitar, the drums and I am learning to play the keyboard.
When and how did you discover your musical talent?
I was 16 years old in a church choir. Off course when I was younger I sang in Sunday school but I didn’t think it was anything serious. In high school I joined the church choir and people encouraged me. I started developing my talent and I had the passion to learn the instruments and that is how I settled into music.
What inspires your music?
I mainly sing about love. I love singing about happy music and wonderful moments.
What are your fondest musical memories?
When they played my first song Nkubukinze on radio. I don’t think I can ever forget that feeling. I called my mother and sisters and had to turn up the volume. To me that was the most special thing because I always dreamed about having my songs play on the radio.
How has singing been like for you since you left Swangs Avenue last year?
In the beginning it was a bit challenging, leaving a record label and having to do things by yourself. Luckily I got a management team of four, including my sister, but it was overwhelming in the beginning and the first six months were about learning how things are done and we are now familiar with the dynamics.
Which famous musicians do you admire and Why?
I admire Beyoncé’s work, to me she’s almost perfect which is very hard to attain, and I like how she separates her work from her personal life. I also like Lauren Hill and Alicia Keys because they are one of the people that inspired me in the beginning. In Africa I love Sauti Sol for their acoustic sound, Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade. I also love Charly & Nina because of their amazing voices and Yvan Buravan.
What are you looking forward to the most at the Kigali Jazz Junction?
The first time I was here I was doing club performances with playback but I’m excited about this one because I’m going to showcase my ability. It’s going to be an amazing experience because I can’t wait to feed off the energy of the crowd and also give them some of my energy. I’m just excited to play with Neptunez Band and also play my guitar.
Is there anything else you’d like your audience in Kigali to know about your career?
The Jazz Junction is just the beginning because I am going to definitely come back. I came with a song and I am going to record it here with a Rwandan artiste but I won’t say who. I am also going to shoot a video on Saturday with Meddy Saleh in Gisenyi, so I’m really excited about what’s coming.