Even in this digital age when artists thrive on self-promotion and self-distribution of their music via the Internet, it still remains the dream of every artist to be signed to a record deal especially by one of the major entertainment companies with a global footprint.
Ugandan singer-songwriter and guitarist Irene Ntale has become the first artist from her country to be singed to a recording deal with Universal Music Group Nigeria.
“This deal shows that hard work does not go unnoticed because opportunities come your way and if these opportunities find you ready then that is even better,” said Ntale while on a promotional tour in Nairobi last week.
Universal Music Nigeria is a division of Universal Music Group which is represented in more than 60 countries worldwide. Last year, Universal Music acquired a 70 percent stake in A.I Records and unveiled youthful rappers Ethic Entertainment as the first Kenyan group signed to the label. The Nigerian division was opened in July 2018 and has signed West African artists like Mr Eazi and a selected few from elsewhere in the continent, including Vanessa Mdee from Tanzania.
“We are excited to have Ntale join the family,” says Ezegozie Eze, general manager Universal Music Group Nigeria. “She is an extremely talented artist and her dedication to her craft has paid off in East Africa.”
Her deal with the entertainment company also extends into a partnership with U-Live Africa, a division of Universal Music Group Nigeria, that is her producing her annual concert Ntale Live.
It is not hard to see why Universal have invested in the Ugandan performer. Ntale is an appealing, multitalented artist representing the values of modern African music. Her sound has embraced a broad range of contemporary Afro pop: Soul, Afro beat, Afro House, R & B and even reggae
“I choose whatever vibe is nice in the studio at a given time because if you enjoy the sound in the studio then chances are that your fans will also love it,” she explains. Ntale says she is looking forward to learning a lot about the music business and working even harder after inking this new deal with Universal Music because it places higher expectations on her to produce music of an even better standard than before.
Her trip to Nairobi was also to introduce her first single for Universal Music, “Nyamba” a Luganda word that means “help me”, that was released in August. She worked on the song with a largely Nigerian cast, co-songwriter Osi, producer Blaze Beats while the recording took place at Universal Studios in Nigeria.
“This is a love song about a woman telling her lover to reciprocate the love that she’s shown him,” she explains.
“It also has beautiful melodies so you can dance to it, you can listen to it in different settings and still have a great time.”
Born Nassuna Irene on January 30, 1989, Ntale began singing in her church choir and during this period also learnt to play the guitar, an instrument that is essential to her performance to this day. She released her first single “Nkubukinze” in 2013 which was the first of the several singles that introduced her to the Ugandan and East African music market.
Ntale released her debut album in 2016 “Sembera”(Come Closer) in 2016 containing 23 songs which was a collection of work that she had done since 2013.
Among the songs were collaborations with some of Uganda’s top performers including “Easy” with Jose Chameleone that was released in 2014.
“When Chameleone called me and proposed the song, I was shocked but we recorded the song and shot the video and I was happy to work with someone that I had looked up to,” says Ntale.
She also recorded “Love Letter” with Bebe Cool and “Bikoola” (the love I feel for you is more than the leaves on trees) with the duo of Radio and Weasel.
Her music has won her a host of awards in Uganda. She was named Best Female Breakthrough Artist in 2013 and more recently Best Female Artist at the TUMA Uganda Awards in 2017. This year has been a great one for the singer who was only among the two artists from Uganda (along with Bebe Cool), selected to join a star studded line up from across the continent for the ‘Africa To The World” music festival in Texas, US in March.
Ntale has also used her status to champion social causes like the Red Card to Drunk Driving Campaign that promotes responsible drinking and is currently a Wild Aid Ambassador championing animal conservation against. She is also the Ambassador for Safe Swim Uganda, an organisation advocating water safety.
“If Universal Music can sign me then it opens the doors not just for Ugandan artists but other East African artists too,” says Ntale.
“Being signed by this entertainment giant is the beginning of a new journey as we plan to take over the world.”