By Christopher Nyeko
Gulu: One would be thinking and asking his or her minds how it is like to be a local performing artist and thrive well along a music career that has distinct challenges coupled with frustration. This is because some have tried, made it, and abandoned it due to complexity, maintaining brand, and limited resources, among others, but also what makes it a success for others in both passion and compassion for what they do best.
Dear audience, because of the above several avenues, today we profile for you Acaa Beatrice, a 34-year-old beautiful, medium-sized, chocolate, soft-spoken, dedicated, and award-winning female solo singer in the Northern Province of Uganda with the stage name Pretty B. She reflects on her journey of music and life story, dwelling on how she joined school and then music following an aspiration by a legendary celebrated artist Rosalyn Otim Storm, the Acholi female singer who is currently based in the United Kingdom.
Hello, please tell us briefly about your background.
“I was born in Gulu on July 17, 1989. I’m the last born (Acogo) from a family of six children, two girls and four brothers”. Basically, as the lastborn in the family, I did not spend much of my time together with my parents; I spent most of my time with my sister because she was more mature than me by then. I was the youngest in the family, so I grew up with my sister, who is now the late one; she died about 4 years ago. May her soul rest in peace. She (my sister) then took me away from my mom to Kampala when I was only two years old before I joined a school called Bunga Hill Primary School for my kid’s classes (nursery) and primary school, though I had not finished. Afterwards, she (my sister) then changed me to a school called Kansanga Hill Primary School found in Kampala. From Kansanga Primary School, I studied from P1 up to P5, where she (my sister) found that it was right for me to come back home (Gulu Town then, now Gulu City).
At the time, she (my sister) was also busy with other things. So when I came back to Gulu town, I went to Holy Rosary primary school for primary six. I studied at Holy Rosary primary school for one year, and then she (my sister) told me that “you know you need to come back and sit your P7 from Kampala”, so I sat my P7 in 2005 in a school called Rubaga Hill School in Kampala.
Then after that, I came back to Gulu, where I joined Gulu Senior Secondary School, one of the most popular public secondary schools in the Acholi subregion, with thousands of students’ population from 2006, and then I sat for my Uganda Certificate of Education—Senior Four in the year 2009, and eventually, that was the time I joined music. So at Gulu SS, I got to meet a lot of friends who were already musicians, actually not doing active music but were already in the entertainment world, so they became my friends.
They introduced me to a lot of things, and I picked up an interest in music. When I was still at school, I used to be this kind of girl who did entertainment and performed at school functions. When I got here (Gulu SS), I met people like Tam Noffy, David Cream, andod Alone. We were all in the same school, and I would go to perform with them in schools and mime with them. I was a very stubborn girl at school. So one time, when I was seated, Tam Noffy came and said, “Pretty!There is this song I am writing, I want you to feature in this song …. The way I love your voice…. ABC…, he introduced me to some of his crew members, some of them were not students, they were outside members, actually we did a song title Akelle with a then-renowned artist called Actor Man. However, something came up in between because we were supposed to do the song with other crew members, but we ended up doing it with Actor Man and I alone. Luckily, the song caught fire and was a hit.
Wow, this is wonderful, but let us know briefly about your family trait.
“As I told you earlier, I am from a very humble family; we do not have much money; my parents are not rich, but… my father was just a peasant farmer, and so is my mother. My parents are lifeless, but my father was called Ayomo Santo from the Payira Kal clan, and my mother was Marecillina Lamunu from the Palaro Lamogi clan, both from the Acholi tribe.
May the souls of your parents rest in perfect peace. So, do you still have plans to further your studies?
“Yes, I have a plan to go back to school very soon. As I was saying my journey of education, I think ‘agik’ literally means (I stopped) I S.6. After S4, I went and did a course, certificates in accounting and finance from the Northern Institutes of Business Studies (NIBS in 2007. True, I have plans to go back to school, but ‘ingeyo’ (you know) is currently balancing music and other things that I am engaged in, which has become tricky.
But were your parents supporting your career in music?
No, no, no, my Daddy was against my musical talent (he never supported me). I would sneak from home to go to the club with my friends, and at the club I would mime. My father used not to believe that I had songs until my music was one time played on a local FM radio station; nevertheless, he was still hesitant amidst being told by the people who knew that I was a musician.
They told my father, “The song being played on the radio is your daughter’s song,” which he could not even accept until my first video of the Akelle song was released, which he watched with his naked eyes.
Akelle was my first song. It was recorded by the late Benny Man Mzee B from his Northern Star studio in Lira, and the video was produced by Okot Ronny Job, a Gulu-based journalist currently working with NBS television.
Were you under a record label then?
Yeah, amidst my exceptional stage performance, nice voice, and natural telnet, I hooked the management of Pine Avenue 5, one of the strongest record labels in the Northern region, established by Rich Okot, who signed me in 2012.
At PA5, we had a crew consisting of singers like Mc Wang Jok and Oj Maxwell, who together produced numerous hits, including Imito Gwaka. The crew was undisputable in the entire northern region, with the most talented vocalists and nice voices producing mainly love songs that shook youths and married couples once they played.
However, in 2018, I parted ways with PA5 for undisclosed reasons and embarked on being a solo singer and produced songs such as Dwoka dwoni piny, kamule, and Wing Wing, among other hit songs, which have attracted likes from both my regional and national and international fans.
I have done many collaborative hits with many artists, including Jackson Rogina, where we produced a song titled Lacoo Makwiri. This song trended from 2010 to 2015 and was liked by both genders, but mainly men.
Who inspired you to join the music industry?
“I got inspired by Rosalyn Otim, the lady I consider my role model, but other female artists who also influenced me in the industry were Jennifer Lawala, Rufina D’Nyeko, and Lady Zulu. These female musicians, who hail from Acholi Land, were top stars in the late 90s and early 2000s; their names were the main talk in every household in Acholi.
Now, what level of experience do you have in this art?
The majority of female artists have fallen prey to sexual harassment in the industry, mostly perpetuated by their male counterparts, who pretend to promote female artists musically; however, on the other hand, their interests are just to exploit the female sexually. When I had just started my musical journey, I would move the songs loaded on a compact disk-CD to the radio stations, but regrettably, some radio presenters would ask for money in order for them to play her songs on the radio. The experiences are just heartbreaking.
Based on those nasty experiences, what tool are you now using to promote your art pieces?
Currently, technology and the availability of the internet have made it easier for us to promote our music digitally, and your songs can now go viral compared to those days when we were going analogue. Now, artists can produce a song today and put it on the internet instantly, making it simple for our fans to get out as fast as it has just been released.
What is the public perception of you as a female artist?
People still believed that female artists were prostitutes; hence, female artists still face stigmatization in the community. I observed it several times that whenever a female artist comes on stage to perform, people, especially drunkards, really want to touch our private parts, which is an insult to the decency of a woman.
Nevertheless, amidst the gender misperception, some female artists have proven to the community that they are not slay queens but rather responsible people. For example, I have a well-established decent family, I have assets such as a farm, and I am currently employing a number of people on my farm.
Talking about CBO, could you cite some of the charitable crusades you have been on?
Well, beside focusing only on music, in 2020 I registered a community-based organization (CBO). The CBO is called the Pretty Beatrice Foundation, where we support single or child mothers through training them with soft hand skills, offering emotional and psychological support, training them on business skills, and also offering basic needs such as clothing, shopping, and food stuff, among others.
In 2020, during the peak of the coronavirus, the foundation empowered at least 20 vulnerable youths in Gulu City.
What have you so far achieved in your music?
I have used the money I earned from music to open a modern farm. In 2014, I acquired and established 25 acres of land in Gok B, Anaka subcounty, Nwoya district, where I am currently practicing horticulture. Besides horticulture, I am looking forward to supplying cereals and grains such as maize and rice, beans, and peas to the local markets and schools in northern Uganda.
I am also rearing local chickens, and currently she has 80 chickens on my farm and 20 goats. My vision is to acquire modern farm equipment and expand my farm so that I can employ more locals as laborers.
As we conclude, what is your plan for the fans as we draw nearer to the holiday season?
Having spent over 15 years in the music industry, I have an intention to organize a mega concert dubbed Pretty B Sound Experience. The event is going to be in both west Acholi and east Acholi on separate days and dates, respectively.
According to my management, the first concert will be hosted at the Covenant Gulu City on December 9, 2023, while on December 16, 2023, the same event will be hosted by Silver Spoon in Kitgum Municipality.
I will be accompanied by all the legendary musicians, such as Tam Noffy, David Cream, and Jackson Rosina, plus all those I musically collaborated with during ancient times.
What next after music?
I look forward to becoming a powerful role model musician, and after the mega concert, I want to take another direction of doing cultural songs to promote the enriched Acholi culture that will boost and promote our tourism industry.
“Our story has not been told the way it is supposed to be told. I look forward to telling our story to the whole world through informative, creative, and sensational songs.
Finally, do you still recall the lists of your songs?
Not all, but I can remember Akelle, Dwoka dwoni piny, Lacoo-makwiri, Wing Wing, Imito Gwaka, Kamule, Banana, Itye icwinya, Iloyo cwinya, Amini cwinya, Mak cinga, Okello, Pingo, Kwii obino, Go On, and In Imega Sweetie.
Who is Pretty B?
Name: Acaa Beatrice
Date of birth: July 17, 1989
Place of birth: Akonyi-bedo in Gulu
Mother: Lamunu Marecilina
Father: Ayomo Santo
Education: still on
Occupation: accountant, musician, commercial farmer, entrepreneur, movie actor
Genre: Zouk, Pop, Dancehalls
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