Fast-rising musical sensation Ivan Tonny Kizito alias Sama Soja is renowned for his poetic lyricism. He is revered for his depth as a wordsmith so much so that his penmanship while composing songs has been likened to the legend of Mowzey Radio. So much, so that he was nicknamed; the ‘Lyrical Senator’.
And yet he is so much more than that. He wears quite the number of artistry huts. He is a singer, songwriter, producer whose true potential has, up until 2021, been deliberately hidden from the Ugandan musical audience. If statements from his Record Label, Red Zone Music are anything to go by, Sama Soja has been serving snippets of his gift to the Ugandan entertainment industry.
“Like a good meal, the serving of Sama Soja’s music ought to be seasoned gingerly. So that the outcome is a parade of masterpieces,” explained Nancy Kitaka, one of the directors in Red Zone Music.
Songs like Akade, Akaama, Money among others are already enjoying airplay, and are featured on almost all the Ugandan music countdowns. He is also renowned for writing songs for great music outfits and music labels such as Swangz Avenue, some of which have become hits.
We hunted him for an interview. And the appointment was set at Masters Studios, in Ntinda.
Sama Soja was born to the very religious parenthood of Kizito Charles Mukisa and Irene Nakato, deep in the navel of Mubende, in a place called Kikandwa. His passion for music started at a very tender age.
“I always thought I was special. Because I felt it, I knew I was. Special. Cool. Even big, inside. I just felt different and cooler than my peers. Not in a boisterous way. But in that sort of way that made me realize that I had a gift I had to explore,” Sama Soja recounts his childhood.
His musical journey started at Victory Life Restoration Church. He got inspiration through participating in the church choir, and no wonder, later at his primary school, he was the lead singer in the choir when he was only in Primary 5. Back then, Abdu Mulasi was a hit singer. And he was the first source of inspiration for Sama Soja. And yet later, with more exposure to entertainment came more ambition. He got introduced to music from entertainment powerhouses such as Chameleone, Chagga, Bebe Cool, and Bobi Wine. At schools such as Mubende Parents where he sat his PLE exams and Mount St Henry’s Highschool Mukono where he sat his O and A level, the ambition to create music. He was a permanent fixture at all entertainment avenues of the school as a performer. But his family was very religious. They wouldn’t let him fully explore his potential. So after his senior 6, he ran away from home to pursue his career.
Coming Of Age
His decision to leave home was the proverbial leap of faith, yes, but a leap too risky he landed in the furious furnace of life outside school. He had saved 100k from performing at school MDD functions, that he hoped would help him record a song. And yet it was only enough for him to eat a few meals, and starve on the streets of Busega where he was staying. A friend, Charles Malunda picked him off the street and started staying with him. Then later, he started leaving with Mzeyi Saad, a friend, who he shared a one-roomed house. When his roomie, Saad, however, picked up a girl one of their nights out, they started leaving together and Sama had to leave because it seemed he was inconveniencing the couple in the one-roomed apartment, for the streets.
How the Streets Changed Sama’s life.
The street living journey started afresh from Arua Park.
“We used to set up cardboards on random shops and sleep. But the more time I spent there, I grew fonder of the people I met there. It was a real family, perhaps thicker than the blood relatives. Because you were out there with them, sharing a blanket. Scouring the streets together for something to eat. Of course, some were thieves. Because it was the only way they knew how to survive”.
“Today you were cracking bread and jokes with a friend, and the next you’d hear they’d been murdered. Hurtful. It was always hurtful. The kind of hurt you never got used to. Losing your people I, on the other hand, had gotten a job because of my honesty. I used to sell CD’s for a gentleman called General Balleti on Arua Park during the day (or at least that’s how the streets called him) and night. He would later become a father figure in my life. On the good days when we had sold good numbers of CDs, we’d have a street jam session. I’d jam to beats with him, and slowly, an audience started growing for the street jam. He noticed I had talent, and told me to get off the streets,” Sama recounts.
At the time, Sama had normalised leaving on the streets and never imagined for a moment living in a normal house. And as such, pleas from General Balleti for Sama Soja to get a proper house and start renting always fell on deaf ears, even when he was making enough money to rent a 100k house. Later, he was spotted by a client for his vocals and taken to a studio called Byline and given a job as a backup artiste.
“The studio job seemed rosy, yet it was far from that. I slept at the reception and was always locked inside until the studio was opened. That was my life. Back songs and sleep at the reception. I used the time they left me with the instruments to learn them, after about two months, I had started playing the instruments,” recalls Sama.
An opportunity arose when the owner of the studio asked if he could play for a song that was being recorded, and he displayed great craftsmanship. Like that, his journey a producer had started. But shortly after that, he fell really sick. While staying at Belleti’s place, his relatives were alerted. He decided to go back home to the village where his parents were.
“When my mum saw me after two years on the streets, she asked me who I was. She couldn’t recognize me,” Sama recalls.
At the sight and acknowledgment of the toil Sama had gone through, his parents decided to support whatever dreams he had on the condition that he had to finish his studies first. So he heeded to their plea, and did a Bachelors of Arts in music at Makerere University. And then he embarked on the musical journey once again.
Asked what his biggest challenges were, Sama said that it was the time before he got management. But he hopes that with the help of the Red Zone music label, he will eventually achieve his dreams.
In 2016, through Triangle records, he managed to record an album for the St Charles Lwanga which was sung at the Uganda Martyrs Day Celebrations. He later bought a studio and produced over 100 songs, all of which he believes are masterpieces. He also said that getting signed to Red Zone music is a huge achievement as well. But more importantly, it is how the audience has received him with open hands, and how they are yearning for more music with a few months into the inception of his musical career.
We can only wish Sama Soja to be as great as he envisioned when he was young. He has the talent. He puts in the hardwork. Has the super star appeal. We hope it is enough to get him there.