Sabina Ddumba

After years of touring and back up singing together with other artists, Swedish singer Sabina Ddumba is finally ready to take her first steps towards a solo career. With the video for her Scarred for Life debut single premiered here on Radar today, we caught up with the young songbird to learn more.

You may have heard her soulful vocals on Katy Perry’s Walking on Air or Adam Kanyama’s The Golden Child. After years of touring and back up singing behind other artists, Swedish singer Sabina Ddumba is finally ready to take her first steps towards a solo career. Earlier this month, Sabina unveiled her long-awaited Scarred for Life debut single, a moving piece of bittersweet break-up soul. With the song’s visual accompaniment premiered here on Radar today, we caught up with the young songbird to talk about inspiration, Ugandan nursery rhymes, Tensta Gospel Choir.

When did you become interested in music?
– I was born with music in my veins, so my interest in music has always been there. I’ve also been dancing, and I’ve always had a thing for rhythms. I was taught a lot of Ugandan nursery rhymes and songs when I was little, and I think that awoke my interest in melodies and phrasing. That’s something I’ve realised now, though, back then they were just children’s songs. I had no idea that my interest in music would develop into something much bigger.

Besides the Ugandan songs, what did you listen to as a child?
– Wow, that was a real mixture. If my siblings and I were to choose, we mostly listened to hip hop and r’n’b from the late nineties. We were all diligent viewers of music channels such as MTV, ZTV, and VH1. Then we went to church every Sunday, where there were a lot of gospel.

– The music I listened to as a child has definitely influenced the music that I’m making today. I’ve been listening to a lot of different styles and genres, and picked up things from here and there.

I was born with music in my veins

You joined Tensta Gospel Choir at the age of fourteen, and are still a part of it. What has the choir meant to you as a musician?
– Tensta Gospel means so much to me. I joined it when I was fourteen years old, so I’ve been a part of it for the past six years.

– It was when I joined the choir that I understood that singing was my vocation, that it was exactly what I wanted to do. I’ve learned so much during these past six years. I wouldn’t be who I am today if it hadn’t been for Tensta Gospel Choir. I grew up in that choir, and it has taken me on wonderful musical journey. So Cedwin Sandanam and Tensta Gospel Choir, I am deeply grateful.

You’ve said that it took you time to find your own way forward. What made you find it?
– Considering all the musical influences I’ve surrounded myself with and loved, I had trouble deciding what it was that I wanted to do. I wanted to do everything. To me, that was confusing. I thought that you had to settle for a certain style and then stick to it. Now, I think that no matter what kind of music I make, it will always be me. I can sing over a house beat, a hip hop beat, a trap beat, a soul beat, or whatever I feel like at the moment. My voice is the main thread.

– I’ve also grown as a person, and now I feel that I know what it is that I want to do and where I want to be. I’ve let go of the thought that ”you can’t do everything” and just done whatever I feel like. It was when I let go of the restraint that I found my thing.


Tell me about your collaboration with songwriter Henric Hammarbäck.
– That’s a rather funny story. Henric send me a message on Facebook, saying that he wanted us to meet and try to make something together. I didn’t even hesitate to say yes, which is something I normally do. It happens that I get messages from strangers saying that they want to work with me, but if my gut feeling isn’t right the first time I read the message I usually turn it down. That was not the case with Henric. He gave me such good vibes so I accepted his invitation. We met in his studio, together with Tom Goren and Johan Salomonsson whom he works with. We sat down for maybe an hour and talked about music and other things. We clicked at once. I liked them and they liked me. The next time we met we started working. They are so nice, and I really love their sense of humour.

Where do you find inspiration and influences?
– I can find inspiration wherever. I take a lot of inspiration from my everyday life. I think that human beings are fantastic, and there are so much to take from them. I find people fascinating. That we all have our own personalities, interests, and wishes, and that we all lead different lives, I find that inspiring.

– Influences, on the other hand, I take from all the music I’ve listened to, all the people I’ve been on stage with, and all the shows I’ve seen. Music in general, that’s what influences me.

That we all have our own personalities, interests, and wishes, and that we all lead different lives,
I find that inspiring

What is it that you want to say with your songs?
– That’s not something I really think about. I want to write about my inner thoughts, my experiences, my view on life, and my childhood, but sometimes I just want to talk nonsense. I’m a happy person and I like to entertain, but if I one day want to write a song about my relationship with my mother, I will. I want to write about how it is to be a human.

You’ve collaborated with artists such as Katy Perry and Adam Kanyama. Do you have any acts that you would like to work with?
– Oh, yes! I wouldn’t say that I’ve actually collaborated with Katy Perry, though, since we never met. But I would like to work with Melo, Dwele, Robert Glasper, Zara Larsson, Lauryn Hill (my biggest dream), Talib Kweli… I can’t think of any one else right now, but then I haven’t dared to dream about those kind of things. It feels so beyond reality. To collaborate with Melo or Zara Larsson feels closer to reality, though, since we live in the same city.

So what are your thoughts on the future?
– That’s such a difficult question. The ”future” is really a question of definition. I think it’s a bit scary to talk about the future, but I hope I’m out touring the world. If we’re talking like ten years from now, I might even have a family. I hope I can live off the music, too, and not have to have a job on the side to earn a living. It’s a difficult question, but that’s what I’m hoping for.

Watch the video for Sabina Ddumba’s Scarred for Life debut single here

Photography by Sotarn.