Juliana Kanyomozi is one of Uganda’s greatest musical influences. She put scribed her mark on the music canvas. And she’s been consistent at it over the years, managing to stay relevant while keeping her originality. Ian Ortega of Great Ugandans takes off time to interview her, to get to know about those bits and pieces that make her an everlasting gem, the highs and lows and her life lessons. 

1. Who is Juliana Kanyomozi? How does she define herself? 

Juliana is a simple African woman from Uganda who’s crazy about music.

2. Tell us more about your childhood? When and where were you born? What’s the most vivid memory you have of childhood? 

I was born on November 27th 1980 in Kampala. As a child I remember growing up with my siblings in a small middle class family with very loving parents. I also remember being such an introvert. I still am!

3. How did you know that music is what you wanted to do? What was the reaction of everybody? How did it feel going against the mainstream views about music as a career at the time?

I knew right from the time I was about 6 years. I always stayed close to where music was and nothing else mattered in that moment. I wasn’t affected by other views as such, simply because my parents were the complete opposite. They were liberal and very supportive.

4. Which three musical personalities have had the most influence on you, how and why each of these?

Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Anita Baker among others. It was their outstanding voices.

5. Speaking songs. Looking back, what are those 3 songs that you’ve listened to over and over again? What’s the deep message about each of them that keeps drawing you to those 3 songs?

-Purple Rain by Prince. simply one of the greatest songs and artist of all time. Everything about it is just magical, not forgetting he (Prince) was a highly skilled guitarist.

-This Woman’s Work by Maxwell. I’ll play that song over and over and I won’t get enough of it. It’s music at its best.

-Till The End Of Time by Mariah Carey. From her vocal delivery to the arrangement. Just beautiful.

6. Speaking of loss. How do you handle loss? How have you healed in the course of Keron’s death? How would you advise others to deal with their own loss? 

You don’t heal from the loss of your child. It’s the most heartbreaking thing to go through for any parent. My world literally came crushing down. You only learn how to survive through each day by the grace of God. My experience has been a very painful and personal one. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Keron. I thank God for strengthening me.

7. You are a Princess. Yet so down to earth? Where do you get this humility from? 

I never really think about it like that. Lol. I’m just a normal person like anybody else, who happens to have been raised by wonderful very humble parents.

8. Speaking of parents. Who are your parents? What influence did each of them have on you? 

My dad Prince Gerald Manyindo . Him and I were the best of friends. I could literally tell him anything cause raising us, he’d taught us to respect him but not be afraid of him. My dad and I both loved music so much so we had a lot to talk about. I miss him everyday.

My mum Mrs. Catherine Manyindo is literally my pillar of strength and my inspiration. I’ve watched her throughout my life and she’s the definition of superwoman. She can do it all. She’s taught me so much about being a woman. If I could be half the woman that she is, I’ll be happy.

9. So you start I-Jay, popular group then you two disband it? Did you ever get scared that maybe things could not work out on a solo path?

Absolutely. It was very scary. I was young and didn’t have a clear musical direction. But we knew from the start that it wasn’t gonna be a long term thing cause at some point Iryn was going to move to France. So in a way I was mentally prepared.

10. If you lost everything you’ve worked for, what would you do first? How would you handle it? How would you rise back?

Interesting question. We all deal with situations differently. But in life, usually when something so tragic happens, most important thing is to surround yourself with people who love you and are not afraid to tell you the truth, stay calm, keep a positive mindset and trust God.

11. What is the biggest failure you’ve had? How did you handle it? What did you learn from it?

I guess I’ve made a few wrong choices when it comes to the people in my life whether it’s in my career path, friendships or relationships. Being who I am, I’ve learnt that sometimes people want to associate with me to fulfill their own selfish gains. But I’ve used each of those experiences to learn from it and move on. When you know better you do better. I have a better sense of judgment now. I keep my circle very small now.

12. Do you have a morning routine? What is it like?

First I pray and meditate, then a bit of TV or read a book, then exercise sometimes, then breakfast.

13. What purchase of $100 dollars or less have most positively impacted your life in the last six months?

Mmmm some of my books.

14. What scares you the most and why? 

I’m afraid of heights and water. It’s just a phobia.

15. Do you think there’s a purpose for our existence? Is it individual? How did you find that purpose for yourself and what is your purpose?

I believe we all have a purpose here on earth. To find your purpose You have to search within yourself and discover who you are. It starts there. I believe my purpose is to use my God given voice and position to inspire and touch people’s lives in one way or another.

16. What is the one thing that most people don’t know about you? What is the one assumption most people make of you?

I hate surprise birthday parties, or any other kind of surprises.

Also, people confuse my being introverted for being proud.

17. If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why?

An imposing image of a “super woman”. To remind every woman that that’s what we are. We can achieve anything we set our eyes on.

18. If you had this moment where you could talk to the whole world, the whole of humanity at once for one minute, what would you tell the world? 

I’d preach a message of love and tolerance. Imagine what the world would be like if we all just practiced that four letter word in its fullness. They’d be no racism, no rape, no terrorism, no murder, no hypocrisy etc.

19. What is an unusual habit or absurd thing that you love? 

My addiction to my phone. Not sure that that’s unusual tho… but ya

20. What is the one thing you believe that most people would disagree with you on? Why do you hold that belief?

While marriage is a beautiful thing, It can be ruined if it’s done for the wrong reasons. It should be a personal decision, and done when you feel it’s the right person and the right time. Rather than doing it cause you’re trying please your parents and relatives. It’s about you and your partner. But I know some people may disagree. Depending on their beliefs.

21. What is the book you’ve re-read the most and why?

Many, but one of them is THE SECRET

It’s got a lot of life lessons.

22. What books do you recommend the most and why?

THE SECRET and NEVER EAT ALONE

They will change how you see things.

23. What are bad recommendations (pieces of advice) you often hear in your music profession being given out to upcoming artistes?

That you have to jump on every trend you see on tv in order to stay relevant. Whether it’s a music style or dance. A trend is just that, a trend. It goes away. While there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s not sustainable. You have to create your craft and make it you, be original, don’t be afraid to be different that’s where your power is. That’s how you create a long lasting career.

24. What advice would you give to a smart, young driven University student about to enter the real world? What advice should they ignore?

That experience will be the best teacher for them, so they need to hit the ground running. The failures will come, but they’ll also be an opportunity to learn what not to do again.

You shouldn’t listen to anyone who tells you you can’t make it.

25. What is the on thing you regret in life and why?

I have no regrets in my life. Everything happens for a reason.

26. What is that one moment where you judgement failed you? What did you learn?

I collaborated with someone I won’t mention and later learned that this was not a very good  idea. The person didn’t have good intentions. I’m now very cautious before I collaborate with anyone.

27. What is the one quote that speaks to you the most? And why?

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”

It teaches me to be mindful of every action I’m about to take.

28. Did you ever have any hardships early in life? How did this hardship prepare you for future success?

Yes I did. Some direct some indirect. But I learnt a lot of lessons that prepared me for the future.

29. Do you have a life philosophy, life rules and principles? How would you break these down for someone?

-I don’t spend time dwelling on my mistakes. But rather, I get up, dust myself up and keep going.

-We have one life to live, so I enjoy it to the fullest.

-I don’t pay attention to negativity. It adds no value.

30. You’ve managed to keep young, how do you maintain your body and health? What are those little unknown secrets?

I try to maintain peace of mind. I don’t give people with negative vibes a chance to consume me.

I try to maintain a healthy diet, drink a lot of water and exercise.

31. Should people do what they love and risk becoming broke? Or get practical and do things even though they hate them as long as it pays the bills? Passion or profit? And why?

I think you should do what you love, because you’ll do it to the best of your ability, hence paying the bills. In my experience at least.

32. Tell me about those people you’ve worked with and one or two things you learned from each of them?

-My manager Eddie Ndawula- His ability to withstand certain people with a bad attitude in our line of work is admirable. I learnt how to be patient in extreme situations.

I’ve learnt many other lessons from other people. But we’ll be here all day. Lol

33. When you think of success, which names come to your mind? Why makes each of those names successful to you?

A lot of names come to mind, from different fields. But what defines their success is not that they are very rich or famous, but that they fulfilled their purpose and calling.

34. What is something you know you should do but have not done yet?

I’ve been wanting to do another Christmas song for a while now. But something always comes up and I don’t do it. Hopefully I’ll record it soon.

35. Who do you say are those upcoming gems, below 30 that the world is yet to notice in the music industry? Who do you think are those great artistes that Uganda and the world is yet to tap?

There are many.. from Ykee Benda to Vinka to Lydia Jazmine to B2C.. the list is long, but one thing for sure, Uganda is endowed with a lot of talent.

36. What legacy do you want to leave behind? When it is all said and done, how do you want to be remembered?

I’d like to be remembered as someone who gave 150% to her craft.

37. What is the habit you are most trying to change at the moment?

I buy more books than I can read in a moment and take long to read them lol. I need to work on that habit.

38. Where do you see the Ugandan music industry in the next 50 years? What are those bold predictions you can make about the future of the industry?

Judging by the pace at which it’s moving and the immense talent we have, it’s going to continue getting bigger and better. We are coming for the world stage.

39. Speaking of music? What would you rank as your best musical creation and why? What song of yours summaries all your life advice to the world? 

I love all my music. Each song is special in it’s own way. And specifically crafted with a special message. So love all of them.