Uganda: Josephine Mugerwa - From Child Dancer to Music Icon

Kampala — Josephine Mugerwa also known as Phina Mugerwa Masanyalaze is a Ugandan musician and dancer. Mugerwa captivated Ugandan revellers and in 2006 was nicknamed 'Uganda's Shakira' after Colombian singer, songwriter, dancer, philanthropist and businesswoman Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll. Her stage name Masanyalaze relates to her first single 'Masanyalaze' and her energetic performance.

Mugerwa says she chose and stuck to such energetic and audience engaging performance to cut through the competitive music industry.

"Many Ugandan musicians could only manage to sing and hire queen dancers to spice up their performances', says Mugerwa.

"Pursuing it was in one way of proving to some people that a musician can also be a good dancer"

Growing up in the slums of Kawaala in Kampala city, Mugerwa was exposed to many opportunities of dance. She developed a love for musical performances. Her mother appears to have spotted the young girl's talent and took her to trade shows and promotional events that featured musical performances. Her mother would raise the hand as soon as MC's called for volunteer dance competitors. The little Mugerwa was guaranteed to thrill while her mother collected any promotional goodies on offer.

She says, "The gifts kept pushing me to get back".

She did her gigs outside school time; in the evenings, over the weekends or during holidays to allow for focus on school. That would be the schedule until Senior Six Vacation when Mugerwa failed to make it on government scholarship and her parents could not afford private sponsorship at the university.

There was an opening at Diamonds Ensemble for dancers and Mugerwa was among the few selected to join the group in late 1990s. The role involved her dancing along in plays and musical performances for different artistes. But she yearned to pursue her dream of music and dance. Her mother helped her money for the first recording.

"I didn't just want to record any song but do it with the professional producers," says Mugerwa, "I booked with one of the producers who fixed me within recording breaks for well financed musicians in the wee hours of the night".

Mugerwa finally recorded her first song 'Masanyalaze' in 2006 and she has since never turned back. The Pearl of Africa Music Awards (PAM) were an annual national music award event held in Uganda that recognised efforts of musicians, producers and others for their record efforts to promote the music industry. Mugerwa emerged winner in the category of 'Best New Artiste'. The boosted her profile in the music industry.

She says, "PAM awards were still a big thing for Uganda's music industry and it was the right time for me to shine".

Her next project would be featuring in one of Bobi Wine's songs in which she re-awakened the once popular Calypso dance leap. That meant exporting her talent across borders. For the greater part of her music journey, Mugerwa has been a solo performing artiste. But, until 2014, she was signed to Fusion band of Water Front Beach.

Mugerwa is the fourth of the five children of Francis Kiwanuka and Annet Komugisha born in 1984. She went to Namirembe Kindergarten and Namirembe Infants Primary School for primary education before joining St Andrew's Kaggwa and Daniel Secondary School and Springfield College for Ordinary and Advanced level respectively.

Her latest release 'Tonooba' literally meaning 'don't divorce' is a totally different style of music something she says rhymes well with her age and role as a mother.

"Everything comes of age and so is music," she says.

Josephine Mugerwa's Liteside

Any three things that we don't know about you?

I am an open minded person; when I realise something about a friend or colleague, I openly tell them. I am a straightforward person and I hate hypocrites. I am a workaholic something that even one of my sons has complained about. I don't lie back until I get something.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Happy moments with my mother and children

What is your greatest fear?

Losing my parents; I have been disappointed by friends and have since been left to lean on my parents. I fear the thoughts of having to lose them.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

I get impatient; especially with dishonest people or liars who don't deliver as promised.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Laziness and being slow; I don't like it when we set out to do something and others take their time to deliver.

Which living person do you most admire?

I admire fellow Ugandan musician Joanita Kawalya; she is my other parent; especially in the music industry. At her age, she is still a very good performer.

What is your greatest extravagance?

I spend a lot on my children; I can fail to buy anything good for myself but not for my children.

What is the greatest thing you have ever done?

Becoming a star despite my poor background. The journey wasn't easy but I am grateful that the highs and lows in life had pushed me to become stronger day by day.

What is your current state of mind?

I am happy and contented but still working towards achieving my dreams.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Curiosity and fair-mindedness; we spend too much time finding out about how other people conduct or carry themselves and at the end of the day, it doesn't help us much. I love to associate with people who concentrate on carrying forth their vision as opposed to wanting to pull others down.

What does being powerful mean to you?

Power is relative and dependant on circumstances. It is an inner feeling that amounts to caring for others knowing that our destinies are different.

On what occasion do you lie?

I don't tell lies and I teach it to my children.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

I like myself and appreciate God for everything about me.

Which living person do you most despise?

I don't hate anyone because we are made different. What you may despise about someone may be making him or her happy. I appreciate the difference amongst us.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

God fearing.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

God fearing.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My sons and parents.

When and where were you happiest?

2011 and 2018 when I gave birth to my sons. I was also happy the day my husband made a traditional visit to my parents in 2017.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I am too good to change.

Where would you most like to live?

I am an African and I love living in Uganda.

What is your most treasured possession?

I treasure my relationship with God because He is everything.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

If there was a choice, children should live under the care and support of both their parents. Single parenting is very challenging and I wouldn't wish it for any woman.

What is your favorite occupation?

I love marketing because it introduces me to different people. I also enjoy speaking to people.

What do you most value in your friends?

Trust and knowing that I have their back just as they have mine.

Who are your favorite writers?

I only got interested in Harry Potter after my son requested to buy him a series of his books. I am just learning to read and have realised that they are the bestselling books.

Who is your hero of fiction?

I love Mel Colmcille Gerard Gibson; he is unpredictable and keeps the audience guessing.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Nelson Mandela was very strong and determined; it only takes people with such character to fight temptations and reach the peak.

What is your greatest regret?

I don't have regrets because I believe that everything happens with God's plan.

How would you like to die?

Silently in my sleep in old age when I have accomplished whatever God set me out to do.

What is your motto?

Never give up because you never know your turning point.

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