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Ebrahim Soul’o is Bringing Alternative Hip-Hop to the Spotlight in Uganda.


Ebrahim Soul’o is Bringing Alternative Hip-Hop to the Spotlight in Uganda.

Ebrahim Soul’O is a multifaceted Ugandan artist known for his alternative hip-hop soul music and poetry. He gained recognition as the Eastern regional winner of the 2021 Pearl of Africa star search competition. His music combines acoustic melodies, soulful vocals, and hip-hop rhythms, appealing to a diverse audience.

He has released three albums: “Conjolted” (2019), “Akatebankano” (2020), and “Shaka” (2023). His work reflects his artistic growth and resonates with fans for its authenticity and unique sound. Ebrahim is also a published poet, with a collection titled “Conjolted” and a conceptual anthology/biography titled “Ayeh, Leave It to God.” He has performed at notable festivals like Afropalooza, Nyege Nyege, and Blankets and Wine, collaborating with local artists such as Maurice Kirya and Cindy.

The Ugandan rising star Ebrahim Soul’o, who says he makes “self-help music,” performed at the Blankets & Wine Festival in Kampala for the second time over the weekend.

Born Balunywa Ibrahim, Soul’o’s musical journey started with performance poetry, which naturally transitioned into songwriting. “I never imagined I’d become a musician, but as I started writing and playing instruments during my undergrad, I found my home in music. I also play the guitar. I’ve been performing actively for about four years, though I’ve been in production and playing instruments for around ten years now,” he says.

At 32, he describes his music as “self-help music,” aiming to inspire and uplift listeners through themes of resilience and social awareness.

In an interview with ‘okayafrica’ Soul’o expressed his thought for the Ugandan hip hop in terms of passion and expectations.

OkayAfrica: What is your creative process like?

Ebrahim Soul’o: If I’m not being very proactive about trying to write a song, I often will receive inspiration. The melody or words usually drive the process. It is driven by emotion and inspiration. For my most recent album, Shaka, I wanted to express specific messages and found inspiration in the works of artists like [the late U.S. hip-hop legend] Prodigy.

How do you feel the Ugandan music scene is evolving, especially the hip-hop genre?

The music scene is growing, but it is growing more in an urban sense. For Uganda, that’s a small percentage to make a change. The quality of music is improving, which is crucial for our global competitiveness. There’s still a lot more education to be done for the audience to welcome this new music that is out there. I think for me, the big question is, how do we educate them? There’s hope with artists like Joshua Baraka making breakthroughs, showing that there’s room for diverse talents.

Also as artists who desire to speak to the craft, we reach a certain point in time where we really want money to come and to see a return on investment. Sometimes [that desire] can blind us. I’m aware of my privilege, and that privilege has enabled me to stick to a lot of moments where I’m doing a lot of things for free. Because all those moments have built my grit, have built my performance endurance, and have also built my passion for just being on stage and sharing myself and my work and connecting with people. It doesn’t take away from me doing another free performance, as long as I’m given the chance to connect with people.

What is influencing you right now musically?

I absolutely love Tiny Desk performances. I like to see how different artists approach their performances. And as a person that loves to perform live, I like to see how different performers express themselves. Recently, I’ve been inspired by 21 Pilots, Sam Smith and Jacob Banks. I also really like Stromae and Burna Boy.

In Uganda, artists like Kenneth Mugabi influence me. Also, Ed Sheeran because he is a guitarist. For somebody to be on stage and just hold his guitar and still be able to blow people away, I think it’s something phenomenal.

Which of your songs would you recommend to a new listener that best represents who you are as an artist?

“Nipe Kidogo” (Kiswahili for “Give Me A Little More”) and “Nekyo Kyene” ( Luganda for “That’s it Right There”) are the songs I would recommend to new listeners. “Nipe Kidogo” is about reliving a moment in time when you were loved so well. “Nekyo Kyene” looks at the idea that when you’ve hit rock bottom, there’s nowhere else to go but up.

Are there any upcoming projects or collaborations we should look out for?

I’ll soon be releasing a five-track EP called Conversations in the Dark. [The project] focuses on love songs, which is a new direction for me. Additionally, I’m releasing a poetry collection in July, titled “To Those Whose Parents’ Hearts Sank When They Chose the Road Less Traveled.”



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