Jacobz Nsaali was born and raised in Kampala city, Uganda. A self-confessed ‘Mama’s boy’, his voice is something of an inheritance. His late mother and her mother (his grandmother) both had wonderful singing voices, though unlike him, they never lent their talents to any particular application. ‘Mama would sing and hum to herself as she went about her daily chores. It was beautiful to listen to,’ Jacobz fondly recalled during a recent interview. ‘And grandma can improvise a song at anytime. It could be about a bag, a knife, a situation, just anything…’
Coming from such a set-up, it’s no wonder his musical journey started early. As a boy, he was in the school choir at Kireka SDA Primary School, from where he joined Mengo Secondary School for his O. Levels and Lubiri Secondary School for his A. Level education. At Lubiri, he and some friends started ‘Fraternal’, an A cappella group which would be invited to perform at public events such as gospel crusades. ‘With Fraternal, I developed the ability to sing without the accompaniment of instruments, and the proficiency to sing in different voices’.
Indeed, he has incredible range and is as comfortable singing tenor as he is at alto or soprano with a touch of bass, if push comes to shove. He often does his own background vocals and can ably pull off more than one musical style. He has done songs in multiple genres; from Afro Beat, to Country and Contemporary Afro RnB.
His influences are notably foreign, which kind of explains the exotic resonance in his voice. Peabo Bryson, Elton John, Luther Vandross, and Kenny Rogers are some of the artists he modeled his sound on. As a matter of fact, he was nicknamed R. Kelly during his days at Bugema University.
He entered the spotlight in 2008 when he represented Uganda in the popular televised show ‘Tusker Project Fame’ in Kenya. The East African public fell so in love with his soulful crooning that they coined him another nickname, ‘King of the Blues’. While he didn’t win the final prize, he gained much from the show. ‘I received a musical education for the first time,’ he says. ‘I was instructed on how this industry works. That, for me, has proven far more important than cash, especially as I’m the only Ugandan representative from that particular edition of the show who’s still active in this business.’
Up until then, he predominantly sang in English. But armed with a better understanding of the music business, he set upon establishing a local fan base by doing ‘Luganda’ songs. Currently though, some of his new material is in English (for instance, ‘Coconuto’ and ‘Afraid to love’).
A versatile man with many talents, he at one stage played for Miracle Basketball Club and though he holds an MIS BBA degree, he elected to dedicate his life to music—his first love. To date, he has released and successfully launched an album titled ‘Ddembe ssa’ and is currently working on a follow-up compilation. Notable Ugandan producers with whom he has worked include: