Musician Lilian Mbabazi talks music, life and relationships

She’s one of the finest East African singers, and just when we think Lilian Mbabazi has had it all, she keeps proving us wrong by being bigger and better. “The more you sing life, the better you get at it. It’s like a work out,” Her fruity voice echoes through the phone during an interview.
A young Lilian Mbabazi a few years ago. / Courtesy photo.
A young Lilian Mbabazi a few years ago. / Courtesy photo.

She’s one of the finest East African singers, and just when we think Lilian Mbabazi has had it all, she keeps proving us wrong by being bigger and better. 

“The more you sing life, the better you get at it. It’s like a work out,” Her fruity voice echoes through the phone during an interview. 

 

The lessons from the girl group blu3 are what the Ugandan-based artist, says have shaped her into a consistent and professional artist that we never get enough of.

 

“We learnt so much because we had good management when we were still blu3 and we learnt that we need to be professional at all times, and keep humble, because nothing lasts forever and the work ethics.”

 

The former blu3 singer embarked on a solo career in 2010 after members of the group decided to go solo. It’s the only thing she wishes would reverse if all wishes were to be true.

“If I would turn back the hand of time, I would not change anything otherwise I would not have the lessons that I have had along the way. All of them have changed me into who I am. Maybe I would change the fact that blu3 broke up because we had a great career going on.”

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Courtesy photo.

She has gained ground as one of Uganda’s best female artist under Deuces Entertainment Group because of her rich, soulful, and powerful vocals. Her musical style described as a cross between R&B / Soul tinged with African and Western musical influences has had a successful experience. 

“It’s been ups and downs but through it all, it has been amazing because finally people have accepted who I am as a solo artist without having to tag me with the Blu3 thing the whole entire time,” after I inquire about her experience as a solo artist.” 

She was also able to start her own band, the sundowners and although moving from band to band, was a daunting experience to some; this she says is something that has greatly impacted her career.

“The sundowners have impacted my sound so majorly. It is all about managing and respecting everybody’s time, she says”

To her, managing time is what has kept her on her feet as single mother with a demanding singing career. She advises women to do the same.

“The pressure that comes with maintaining a music career is hectic which is why I have to find balance and whatever free time I have, I spend with my kids, or hang out with my friends or spend time alone reflecting on certain things.” 

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Courtesy photo.

She admits to being a TV junkie and a ‘sleep lover’ as she will jump into bed, at any chance she gets. She also loves swimming with Manzi and Zuba, her kids that she got with Ugandan musician Mozey Radio before they broke up.

After I ask her if she has plans of walking down the aisle, her answer comes with a belly laugh as if to suggest how ridiculous my question was. She chuckles at every answer.

“No. Not at the moment. If the right person comes along, maybe. But it is not where my head is at the moment. My head is in music and my children.”

Her ties with Rwanda

East or west, home is best, and Lilian proves this right. The 32-year-old is often times referred to as Rwandan-Ugandan music artist thanks to her Rwandan roots. 

She will be jetting into the country to grace the next edition of the Kigali Jazz Junction on at Serena Hotel, where she will be the lead act. Popular Neptunes Band will also perform at the event.

Not for the first, second or third but a couple of times.

“Rwanda has many memories for me because its home. My parents and siblings all live in Rwanda and I was raised there.”

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Courtesy photo.

As a matter of fact she used to do gigs at the former Mango pub and Hotel des Mille Collines performing with legendary musician Kidum before she joined Makerere University, where she graduated with a degree in Social Sciences. While at campus, she rose to stardom after the Coca Cola Pop star competitions that led to the formation of Blu3 in 2003.

I ask her why she didn’t return home even after the group split.

“Being where I was in terms of my career, is because I was in Uganda and there are opportunities that keep me here like getting access to different artists, song writers, and my band. Basically most of my work is here.”

She however has plans of expanding her music boundaries back home.

“Home is always the best and I would love to do more gigs in Rwanda next year. It’s something that’s already in the pipeline although I’m still based here at the moment.”

Judging the artists from the two countries, she believes Ugandans are better in terms of cutting across. 

“I think Rwandan artists are amazing and are doing great but Uganda is rich in terms of their music cutting across. Working with different artists and using the right artist is important because every artist you work with is going to give you the push.”

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Courtesy photo.

She has so far collaborated with various artists like the Goodlyfe Crew, Navio, AY, P-Unit and Rwanda’s Kitoko and released some hit songs such as Vitamin, Kankutwale, Kawa, Yegweweka and Memories. 

So which other Rwandan artists would you prefer to work with? I ask:

“Mani martin, Kitoko, I have worked with them but I wouldn’t mind working with both again. I also wish I could team up with some older musicians and do some Rwandan classics like Massamba, and Samputu.”

She has never thought of quitting I know music is going to be part of me even when I’m 70 years old because it didn’t just happen, it’s been part of me since I was a young girl.”

“When I feel stressed out I take a break for few months and come back. So it’s going to last with me forever.”

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