Sheebah Karungi is now one of Uganda’s most successful music stars, with a string of awards and hits to her name.
She even had a role in the film Queen of Katwe alongside Hollywood actors Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo, as well as the young Nikita Pearl Waligwa, also from Uganda, who sadly passed away this week.
But, as she told me in a very frank interview for This Is Africa, Sheebah’s journey has been a tough one.
She is the child of a single mother who worked to feed her five children by sorting coffee beans.
Sheebah left school at 14 because there was no money to pay for fees:
I grew up needing everything so for me at 14 I started feeling bad, she [her mother] was crying, they were chasing us out of the house, I’m like you know what, I need to break this curse of poverty”.
Sheebah managed to become a dancer with the group Obssessions, and through sheer determination taught herself English, learnt to sing and released her first record, Ice Cream. It became a hit, and she was on her way up.
Who is your biggest inspiration to be a powerful woman, I asked her. “My mother” she told me. But Sheebah’s mother doesn’t really understand or approve of what Sheebah does:
She does not get it, she does not want it, it’s painful because you want your mum to be your cheerleader, but you have to respect her if she does not want to.”