In 2000 Henry Katamba was just a young man with a passion for music. He would walk from Kasubi to Kibuli on an empty stomach with the aim of learning music and musical instruments from Afrigo band studios.
Today, Katamba is a celebrated UK-based Ugandan artiste who is now more focused on his music after spending several years pursuing a career in human health.
Born in Masaka in 1983 to Margaret Nalukenge and the late Charles Ssemwogerere, Katamba got exposed to the stage and the audience at the age of seven, singing in school and church choirs.
Katamba went to Kasubi Church of Uganda for his primary before joining Kibuli Secondary and eventually London South Bank for his university studies, graduating in Health and Social Care.
A doctor now with the National Health Service in London, the multi talented singer still has strong passion for music and is focused to make it through.
The lyrics in his song Maliridde fill you with sweetness that you get the urge to approach the crush that you have been watching from a distance.
“Nga amazzi ku ttimpa amateefu, ng’empewo ku nyanja nga ekunta… bwondabikira… Oli mukkakamu naye muli munda sikkukuta… kagambeyo akagambo kamu bwekati baby nkufa….” Who wouldn’t be moved by this melody?
Katamba’s break through was in 1999 after his debut song Omutanda afunye omubeezi, a song that was congratulating the King of Buganda upon finding the queen.
Much as the song had made him popular and was played on almost all radios stations then, it did not stop him from pursuing his dream of becoming a doctor, a career his father wished for him.
Asked why he chose the UK over his love for music, the on and off singer attributed it to destiny.
“Life doesn’t always provide an easy way. It always puts you in its place. My dad was against music and believed becoming a doctor was the best thing for me. Much as I loved music I still had other dreams to pursue,” Katamba said.
Katamba first left Uganda in 2001, a year after the royal wedding. He returned in 2007 with two songs: Casanova meaning a man who dates each and every woman that he comes across and Abakazi tebakyakuula.
“I had a friend who was a womanizer so I was kind of counseling him,” he said about what was behind the Casanova song.
Katamba believes that music in Uganda has grown over the years.
“Unlike before, the industry today has direction. There are serious music schools that never existed in the past; promoters that move music from one media house to another. Music is online and there are many platforms one can upload his music though you have to invest in some good money for quality videos,” he said.
Spending most of his days in the UK has not stopped him from getting recognised in Uganda and earning from music here. “I have made friends and a strong fan base,” Katamba said. “Music today is so expensive so all one has to do is invest in it. Find something that can support your music financially. Nothing outbeats talent if you are a hard worker,” Katamba adds.
The smooth voiced artiste who shared international stages with artistes like Chaka Demus and Pliers, Diamond Platinum and the late Lucky Dube believes Ugandan music can only get better if unity is established among artistes, DJs and media personnel.
“Let us contribute money for audio studios and film productions to help upcoming artists from different parts of the country get access to good studios and quality video coverage,” he said.