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WCW: Naava Grey, The Soul Music Queen Of Africa

Written by on December 22, 2021

Talk of Ugandan female artists who have hiked the soul genre and her name will ring quickly in the first thought ― She is Naava Grey. So talented that she could write a super love song while nursing a terrible heart break!

For a musician we know of her today, her musical journey was first publicly trodden on when she contested in the 2008 Tusker Project Fame where she climaxed as one of the semi-finalists.

Prior to the contest in 2006, Naava says that she dreamt while on the Tusker Project Fame stage and that people were cheering her on. When she awoke, she questioned herself whether that would eventually come to pass.

To actualise this dream kept itching her wits and in 2008, her family urged her to step up to the competition. Right away, she passed the auditions, which to her was surprising and at the same time shocking for she had never sang to people outside her family before.

Her failure in the contest never at a time ruined her ‘Move On’ thoughts. She hoped that thereafter she could progress on with school but fate took its course and she couldn’t further her education on.

“I was like OK, I didn’t win so, let me just go and carry on with school and everything. But because of that stage, I got in touch with so many producers; so many artists wanted me to help them with certain songs,” she told a local radio station.

She received a heavy musical training during the competition that by the time she got out, she knew how to write songs and thus, embarked on her career.

But before she could embark on strengthening her career, she met Music producer Steve Jean, through GNL Zamba. There was a concert where she was backing Zamba, and Steve Jean happened to be around.

One day, Steve Jean gave her a call inviting her for a voice check at his studio and perhaps they could start working together. She was introduced to producer Michael Fingers, who had just come back from the UK and wanted to start a production house in the country.

“I sat down with him and he played me a couple of beats he had made and there was this one he had called the New Day Beat and that became the Nteredde beat. In the morning I went to record the song. It was just the chorus and after listening to it, Steve Jean could not leave the studio. Everyone was like this song is already a hit. I went back and wrote the rest of the lyrics and everything worked out,” Grey said.

Ever since, she has never looked back. Grey has songs like Kangume, Ndi, Aliba Wani, Kyuusa, Sokhalame, Fumba, Omukwano (Ft Aybrah), Taata Twaala, Alib ‘omu, Nkwetaga, Ndi wano, Ngibambe, Aliwa (Ft Bruno K), which have given her a musical recognition unique in the Uganda Entertainment industry.

She was nominated as the Best Songwriter, Best RnB Song ‘Alib ‘omu’, Album of the Year in the HiPipo Music Awards 2016, Best International Act in Fifth Annual BEFFTA Awards in London, and Special Effects Category ‘Ninga Omuloge’, New Comer and Video of the Year ‘Nteredde’ in the Club Music Video Awards (CMVAs).

Her lyrical prowess that is enshrined in her rock and pop music (mostly-love-themed songs) has in the recent years to date bolded her name in the music markets. She has also proven outstanding in her live performance experiences nailed by her vocal ability and a dramatic performance approach.

For instance, as it is a norm for listeners to request for songs they love to listen to on radio, when her song is requested, it blows her mind away. “It is an honour. It is like a dream come true. Before I began music, I never thought people would like my music because I was writing it for myself,” she said.

Despite her musical stand, many people say that she is one of the underrated Ugandan artists and she nods to it in agreement. She thinks that unlike other artists who put their private life out in the open, she doesn’t.

Still, it is evident that most people know her songs but can’t pick her out of the crowd. She attaches this to the environment she comes from and how she was raised. Grey says that she and her siblings were not let out of the house and if they were found outside, it would be a serious beating. There were certain boundaries and a sense of protection.

Growing up in a family most dominated by music

Grey is born to Prince Mulondo and Princess Tracy Ndagire (both deceased). Her mum’s father was half Irish and half Muganda. Grey is the last born of five.

Her father was a good artist, though he was a businessman. He used to draw and paint. The mother was a nurse. Grey’s siblings include their firstborn who plays cricket and doctors whose love for music is as strong as soup.

What happens when you are passionate about something that your parents are opposed to? Grey says that her father always thought that music would get them (the children) nowhere and always discouraged them.

 

“He was like, ‘Go read your books.’ It is only mum that invited the singing because she liked to sing,” She revealed. Grey says that of all her siblings, she used to lower herself in matters of music.

“I used to look up to my older siblings. I thought they were better than me because they were multi-talented. When it came to music, they were perfect. I could take a song to my sister and she would be the first to criticize that it is lacking. So, I thought I was not as good as they were; I couldn’t place myself with them. In school, we used to sing but I was afraid to go out and sing,” narrates Grey.

Actually, her name, Grey, came about when she was looking for a name on Facebook. During the search she remembered Grey’s Anatomy and just like that, she embraced it because she used to love Grey’s Anatomy. She is originally Aisha Naava Zziwa.

Because she is the lastborn in her family, she always moved with her mum as her siblings were in boarding schools. She thinks she needed her mum because she was so vulnerable and there was no way she could leave her anywhere.

She went to a range of schools including Buganda Road Primary School and Kibuli SS.

When motherhood kicked in at a tender age of 18, this experience gave her a sense of independence and realised that she could do so much by herself. She has only one child of 13years.

Her daughter used to sing when she was younger. But now she likes to speak more. She started to love Journalism. She is an artist, because her father is a painter. She loves to draw, dance and play piano.

Once in a while, she does family businesses, real estate besides music. She is always singing to herself. She says that she never plans music but it just flows naturally.

“Ninga Omuloge, which is like the listeners’ favourite, came in like 2009. There was a song that was playing by Mafikizolo and it had this specific instrumental that led me to Ninga Omuloge. I remember I was cleaning around the house and then I wrote it. I completed it in 2012, went to the studio and the song was recorded at 2am. People keep asking me, were you in love when you wrote this song? But it was actually during the time when I was facing a crazy breakup with the father of my child,” she revealed.

Grey is a kind of person who likes being alone. She doesn’t want to be around strangers though music has helped her to adjust in a way. Her favourite dish is chicken, but she loves cooking her own dishes. Ahead of time, Grey plans to build foundations, run advocacies and continue with music because she can never depart from it ― it’s like a person and their shadow.

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