Interview: GNL Zamba, Godfather of Ugandan Hip Hop, his Black Panther inspired Freestyle and forming duo NSIMBI with his partner

by Tom Nguyen

I met GNL Zamba and his partner, Miriam Tamar, outside a show in 2016, where they introduced themselves as being new to L.A. and thanking me for cluing them into the global music scene with my site. Little did I know that GNL Zamba is Uganda’s most well-known hip hop artist, and having never mentioned his background to me, my mind was blown 2 years later when he dropped this hot freestyle this past April!

So you know what they say…the real geniuses are the ones who don’t have to say much, but when they do, y’all better listen! And trust me, I’m listening now! Here’s an interview with GNL Zamba on what exactly Lugaflow is, how love led him to Los Angeles, and forming NSIMBI, a new duo, with his wife, Miriam Tamar.

EnClave: For folks outside Uganda and in LA who don’t know, can you tell us about Lugaflow and the hip hop scene in Uganda. How long have you been rapping and what got you started?

GNL Zamba: Uganda’s music scene is very vibrant and has been for a while but that wasn’t the case for hip hop. It wasn’t mainstream, with little respect and coverage. It wasn’t considered a favorite until 2008. That is when the game totally changed. I released an album called Koyi Koyi (Riddles of Life), which became the most colossal hip hop album in Uganda’s industry. The album was under the theme of indigenous pride (Lugafow), the album used traditional chants and which made the rhymes fun and relatable. I told stories of growing poor in Kampala. The genre got its new life from the Koyi Koyi album. I became a household name with fans of all ages and the sponsorships from corporate partners helped me cement Lugaflow (indigenous language flow) into an urban movement. My first concert that year had over 12,000 people at Kyadondo rugby grounds. Something that was unprecedented for a hip hop MC before. I was overjoyed.

EnClave LA: What brought you out here to Los Angeles?

GNL Zamba: Music, Film and a girl! I often reply haha! I met my partner in Uganda almost 6 years ago; she had been working to rebuild the post war community in northern Uganda. She had just ended her work and was transitioning into music when we met. We both loved culture and were both looking for a new voice to express ourselves and the community. We worked on edutainment songs for organizations under the ministry of health to sensitize the youth about safe sex and began performing on stages together.

We were in the middle of making a super band when a personal tragedy forced her to she move back to the states. I was hesitant to join her because I loved my Ugandan life and didn’t want to trade it. I visited often and saw her whenever I had a chance to perform in the U.S.A. Until I decided to get an 01 Visa and give L.A. a try. Now we are releasing our first project together as a hip hop world fusion duo in a few weeks. It will be called NSIMBI. Continue Reading →

Tinariwen returns to LA with New EP! Oct. 18 Moon Block Party and Oct. 25 The Luckman CSULA

tinariwen
Our Tuareg blues and soul brothers, Tinariwen, returns to Los Angeles with 2 shows! They are touring the West Coast this month, and will play the Moon Block Party on Saturday, October 18, at the Fairplex, Pomona and Saturday, October 25, at The Luckman at CSULA. Their music and shows are always a soulful, transcendent experience for me and if you’ve never seen them live, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to let them take you on a sonic journey to their desert home.

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