|Article by Ogova Ondego and Cynthia Atamba
Published December 5, 2006
London-based Ugandan singer-songwriter, Beatrice Byakika, is set to release an album in Lusoga and Kiswahili towards the end of 2006. OGOVA ONDEGO and CYNTHIA ATAMBA report.
Byakika was born in Brighton (Britain) but grew up in Nairobi (Kenya) where she was exposed to a wide variety of music styles. The sample album of 18 tracks that she sent us is predominantly in English with only one track in Kiswahili and none in Lusoga, her first language.
Describing herself online as “a shy little girl” who always “had an inner strength that would one day give her the confidence to build a path from nowhere and create her own blend of musical sounds”, Byakika–who goes by the name Beatrix–says her initial path was to be a writer. She gave up her dream, she says, when her entire manuscript of short stories was taken away from her and “I did not have the heart to start the collection I had worked so hard to create again.”
Later, she says, one of her best friends known as Esta Atuuse, influenced her into taking up the pen again. Only that this time round she chose to write music. The result is the debut album this article focuses on.
“I am making a transition into world music from a pop/soul background,” she says, adding, “By adopting an acoustic style I have created an interesting and unique presentation of music.”
Although she was all set to release the 18-track album, Byakika now says this will be a little delayed as she prepares more songs in Lusoga and Kiswahili following the feedback she has got from listeners who have heard her songs.
She tells UGPulse.Com about the song: “Nilizaliwa is an expression of insecurity and inner conflict. You believe you have figured the path to happiness, you have understood the joy in living then somewhere along the line this feeling of certainty begins to falter. The plans you make do not work, your life is a mess and you begin to wonder about your self worth. You look around and others seem encased in constant bliss. You begin to have negative feelings towards the life that is yours and wish for another’s. What is left unsaid in the song though is we all look at each other thinking the other is better off, wishing to be the other but in reality each one has their own inner turmoil to endure.”
The writing genres of Byakika are RnB, World, Pop and Soul.
Jane Musoke-Nteyafas describes Byakika on ugpulse.com not just as a musician who cannot be boxed into a musical style, but that “There is a sweet, syrupy, sensual, pure innocence to her voice, which has one pressing the repeat buttons. Whether she engages her deep sexy throaty voice or girly voice, Byakika is definitely the kind of singer, and there are few of them, who can sing without musical accompaniment and still dazzle a crowd. With a little more experience and exposure, she will be a force to reckon with on the Ugandan music scene.”
Byakika tells Musoke-Nteyafas that she has always toyed with music. “I spent a lot of time singing and a friend suggested I try my hand at songwriting. After a couple of hits and misses I finally got a hang of it and spent a year with my keyboard playing around with songs. I finally met Ivan Anchant through his ad in the Loot magazine. I sent him a demo of my songs and he was willing to produce my music. I tried to find a singer within my production budget for the demos but it was quite expensive so Ivan decided I sing them myself.”
She recorded her first demo album in 2002 and passed it round via many companies before meeting her American producer, Stephen Burns.
As to how she creates her music, Byakika tells Musoke-Nteyafas, “The writing process is varied depending on the song. Certain pieces fall together automatically like Goodbye to You. You feel the emotion, the melody and the lyrics just fall together like silk. Others require a bit of work and you start with the hook line and start playing about for months on end looking for the rest of the song. Sometimes you write a whole list of lyric lines and for every 6 horrible lines you find a good one. The beauty about this process is that the song grows and you begin to go where the song takes you. The most important thing though is that inspiration usually strikes at the most inappropriate times so it’s always essential to possess a notepad, pen and if possible a tape recorder because melodies do sometimes come with the lyrics and it is extremely difficult to capture on paper unless you have a strong music background.”
She says observation, listening and thinking are the driving forces in writing lyrics that, she says, “come easy when you invest time in thinking, reading and listening to people’s play on words. Songs either tell a story or express an emotion thus they are different ways of dealing with writing the lyrics. Sometimes I write as though I am talking to someone and I really want him or her to listen to me, not just hear but also listen…I usually use simple lyrics and melody lines that are easy to listen to.”
Byakika, who admits to reading at least 10 copies of Mills and Boon ‘high school’ romance novels per week, creates music with alliteration and rhymes, making it easy for listeners to sing along.
In the song, “I believe” she repeats the same sentence and it acts as the chorus.
There is an appealing harmony with instruments marrying well. She has used the piano, guitar and drums which coordinate well with her sultry voice.
The singer’s love songs not only describe how she falls in love but also the people who have deceived her over time and those she has bidden good bye. Further on, she cautions men against associating with bad women.
At first the songs in this album lulled me to sleep. This could be due to the serene atmosphere created by the songs. On the second hearing I paid more attention and discovered it was also educative. I can easily relate to the self realization in her introductory song. Over the years she has undergone trials and tribulations and trying to measure up to other people’s expectations, but in the end she realises there is still more she has to learn.
Each song in this album evokes a different emotion. There is sadness, love, hatred, romance, desperation, self realisation and caution.
This album will go well with the contemporary society that can easily relate to the issues highlighted in these songs. In future I would vouch for the use of an ethnic language in her songs and thereby a more natural voice. Among the songs that stand out on the recording are Hold Me, Nilizaliwa, I Believe, Thankful, Certain Wishes, and I miss You.