Behind all the success lies loads of hard-work and a story that will inspire everyone. Today we crush on Sheebah Karungi, a woman who has struggled through her journey to the limelight.
Karungi ‘Sheebah’ Samali is the last born out of five children raised by a single mother. She has no memorable attachment to his father because he has never been in her life.
She was raised in Kawempe, Maganjo, in a single room where she stayed together with her mother, grandmother, cousin, and siblings. She describes her mother as a very hardworking woman who gave her all to raise her children alone. Working in coffee industries as a casual worker picking coffee husks.
Sheebah started working at the age of nine along with her family in the coffee industries. Her sister got married at the age of fifteen due to the hardships the family was going through.
The then student at Kawempe Muslim Primary School shortly joined Midland High School before she dropped out in Senior Two because of lack of enough funds to push her further. To add salt to the wound, Sheebah and her family were kicked out of the single room they rented.
That disturbed Sheebah a lot and she kept figuring out what she would do the make a difference for the family. She tried shots at different jobs. From tailoring, to vending, to being a shop attendant, among many other jobs. It all made little sense because she could not make enough money to make the desired difference.
On a fateful day, Sheebah’s childhood friend who was very passionate about dancing took her to Eden Pub in Bwaise to watch Karaoke Dancers perform. Sheebah enjoyed watching Stingers, the dance group which performed that night.
On returning home, Sheebah told her mother about it. She was eager to make a difference but dancing was looked at as a sign of prostitution.On hearing the path her daughter was set to take, Sheebah’s mother kicked her out of the house and warned her never to talk to her again.
Terrified and scared, with no where to sleep, Sheebah found solace at one of her friend’s house.She continued attending the Karaoke nights and her friend too chased her away from her house. That is when Sheebah started sleeping in difference church hallways, on the benches, and she had to always wake up early so that people did not find her since she did not have the permission to.
One of her family friends then would sneak into their home to find her some food until one day when her friend’s mother found out. Without any other option at her disposal, Sheebah returned to the Karaoke nights.
Backstage, she approached the leader of the dancers who performed that night after their performance and explained to her what she was going through and what her desires were.
Surprisingly she was accepted and invited to the trans-day show the next day. She appeared and then after their performance she was invited to join the dance group for rehearsals. To her, this seemed like that golden opportunity which she took with both hands.
That is how she started her career as a dancer with the Stingers Dance Group at the age of fifteen. They used to perform on top of trucks for sound drives and promotions, miming, backing up artistes around bars within Kampala.
They went ahead and actually started getting opportunities to perform in Kigali. Money started to come in and she managed to rent a room in Kyebando which costed UGX 30,000. At the time, she would perform for about UGX 9,000 each day, so she would save her expenses and pay rent.
One day when the group performed at Ceasor’s Place in Namugongo, the owner of the place appreciated the group and proposed a sponsorship deal for them. In 2006, Stingers got a deal where they would perform as backup dancers for the Obsessions music group.
Slowly, Sheebah realized her graph was on a positive growth because at the time, most girls desired to be part of the Obsessions. This was such a big opportunity for her. They started being fused into the group’s plays as well. One day when the group’s members left, Sheebah was called up as replacement.
Huge opportunity, but a challenge of sorts as well as she struggled to fit in such a group of celebrities. Sheebah was low on self-esteem, and even within this new group, she was isolated. She officially joined the group in 2007 and she vividly remembers her first time to step on a big stage was at the 2007 Street Bash in Ishaka.
Working with the Obsessions slowly developed Sheebah’s talent and confidence. She developed new beliefs that one day she would be such a relevant and significant figure in society. In her own words, the Obsessions group laid such a huge foundation for her as a performer.
In 2009 however, she took the bold step to start a solo career doing a few songs until 2013 when her hit song ‘Ice Cream’ introduced her to the big stage. From that time, everything else has been a smooth ride and she is arguably one of the big stars in East African music.
She is a music powerhouse and an inspiration to fellow artistes and many more to come in the future. Her contribution to Ugandan music can never be understated, and we celebrate her in many ways for all she has achieved through the years.
Sheebah will be holding her ‘Omwooyo’ album launch on 30th November 2018 at Hotel Africana.
Read Also: Sheebah Karungi launches official website