Last week Rehema Namakula (Rema) released her fifth single, Atuuse, a song that brings out her musical prowess and ability to fight for the top spot on the Uganda music charts.
The song has proven that she is not just another of Bebe Cool’s backup singers, but potentially one of Uganda’s most gifted female musicians. Rema, 21, who wishes her parents (Mukiibi Ssemakula and Hamida Nabbosa) were still alive to see her put smiles on people’s faces, doesn’t remember when she started singing.
“By the time I started understanding I was already singing and even as early as baby class, I was already leading the choir,” Rema said in the wee hours of Saturday morning, after a show in Kasangati.
She recalls that she realized she would be a singer when she joined St Balikuddembe SS, Kisoga, where under the watchful eye of renowned choir master Paul Ssaka, she featured in songs such as Ntambula Ngaludde and Ddembe. But her turning point came with the duet Sambagala by Bebe Cool and Halima Namakula, on which she featured.
Halima, who is also her guardian, recommended her to back them up and it was there that Bebe Cool realized her potential.
“Bebe Cool used to pick me from school whenever he had a big concert. He started picking me on Wednesday and drop me back after a Friday show,” recalls Rema, who says she enjoyed the moments, because she became big in school, being associated with a big music star.
The Masaka-born rising star says this inspired her to read extra hard and when the A-level results were released, she had performed beyond everyone’s expectations. See, even during her final A-level exams, she continued performing at concerts like The Return of the King show at Lugogo.
Despite all that, Halima who wrote her first two songs, Maama and Abstain, refused her to sing about love until she made 18 years.
“She refused me to sing about things I couldn’t elaborate on if asked, but now that I am past that age, I have no more worries,” Rema says. And her ability to capture audiences with her love songs couldn’t have been better demonstrated than her 2011 release, Oli Wange.
She also has songs such as Taala Yange, Gimme De Paper, Fire Tonight, and two duets with Bebe Cool (Cease and Sekkle and Missing You). On all songs – more so Cease and Sekkle and Fire Tonight – Rema’s strong dancehall vocals leave her fans stunned. Oli Wange, on the other hand, shows the softer side to the cheeky dancehall beauty.
“I thought I was going to be a behind-the-curtains backup singer for long, until luck broke through and [Cease and Sekkle] lifted me up to where I am now,” says Rema, as she praises Bebe Cool and Halima for their guidance.
When Cease and Sekkle first hit charts last year, everyone was wondering about one thing: Whose is the smooth voice accompanying Bebe’s?
It didn’t help matters that Rema was also not one to flirt with the media. Convincing her to sit for an interview is a story for another day. According to Bebe Cool, Rema has a very sweet strong voice that will take her places if she does not let fame get the best of her like it has most upcoming musicians.
“If she goes on like that – very understanding, persistent and patient – the sky will be the limit,” says Bebe Cool, who is Rema’s boss at Gagamel.
Her colleagues at Kyambogo university, where she says she is pursuing a degree in Administrative and Secretarial Science, could not believe she was the Rema, because she keeps such a low profile.
Ideal man: Honest and understanding.
Number of Children: Two; a boy and a girl.
Hobbies: Singing (duh!) and swimming.
First Crush: Craig David
Admires: Angela Kalule and Mariah Carey.
Dream country: Saudi Arabia.