LEISURE: Tshila sings of unity and healing

Friday August 09 2019

Tshila absorbed in her music. PHOTO | COURTESY


Tshila’s album Sipping from the Nile was released in 2007. She was named by the BBC as one of the 20 best young unsigned artists, and she attracted a number of performance invites on the global scene.

Pep Sounds, a record label, called for her signature. The girl from one of Uganda’s pioneer hip hop groups Bataka Underground was blazing a trail.

And then...silence, for 11 years. That is a long time to wait for a follow-up album.

World in Crisis was released on December 1, 2018. Tshila says, “Many musicians shy away from political issues, but I became a musician because of politics. I wanted to be an underground rapper/poet who makes social commentary.”

“It all began after I recorded a song called Revolution Now, and I realised the issues I was singing about were the main thing I wanted to highlight as an artist.”

The 36-year-old musician has cultivated a self-reliant approach. “I am not a puppet whose job is to look and sound pretty.


Everything I do is a statement from the bottom of my heart. Not only do I create all the music I make, I also design my outfits, my album artwork, I shoot my own music videos and edit them.”

Tshila may not be prodigiously productive, but she can never be accused of not being in the world. She is a keen student of what is going on around her.

“I am truly concerned about the world that the young ones and their children will inherit. The motto of modern man has been self-enrichment at all costs. I see music as something that can be used to change that.

It takes a mango tree years to grow, and the person who plants it knows full well they may not eat the fruit of their labour but they plant it anyway.

We can go from individualistic thought to wanting to leave the world in a better state than we found it.”

Sipping from the Nile’s follow-up could have come much earlier, but she had lost her way. Though that is not how she may have looked at it at the time.

She got married and realised that marriage was a mistake and it took years to untangle herself from that mess, recover her emotional and creative spark.

You can hear echoes of this time in her life in her song Not Alone on the new album.

The Gishu girl from the foothills of Mt Elgon who sings defiantly of the need for revolution now needed her own.

Starting over in 2018, she went back to her core belief. “Music was always meant to bring people together. During hard times, and happy times, music is there. When the world is divided, music can bring healing.”

The 12-track World in Crisis is Tshila’s offering to humanity at a historical moment of struggling against the pulls of globalisation and insularity.