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Pictures: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today
With a handful of soulful songs, Sabina Ddumba, 22, gave one of the strongest performances of 2016, at club Tavastia in Helsinki on Sunday evening.
Ddumba has been called “the Lauryn Hill of Sweden” and “Mary J. Blige from Fiskätra,” which is her home locality of about 7,500 inhabitants, located in Nacka, a municipality of Stockholm County, a melting pot of 70 different nationalities.
While she after her show humbly said to me that “I would never compare myself to Lauryn Hill,” I would still argue different. She has that vocal range; it’s unique, soft and raspy. And intense.
Hear for yourself:
Ddumba has released only four singles and yet to come out with an album. This, however, didn’t stop her of delivering an energetic performance, an entertaining hour, which made the crowd sway, dance and enjoy.
She opened with “Scarred For Life,” a deep track about hurt feelings and relationship drama with the chorus going like: “Cuts are getting deeper / you really fucked me up this time / I just can’t stop bleeding / baby I am scarred for life.” The crowd singed along in solidarity.
From such a soul-tearing song, she jumped into a romantic one-night stand with Justin Bieber’s “Company.”
“Tell me what you wanna drink / I tell you what I got in mind / Oh I don’t know your name / But I feel like that’s gonna change.”
Ddumba followed with an uplifting funky beat, where she syncopated with a shaker to the sound of the drum.
Another highlight of her gig was a cover of the American R & B pop-disco artist, Bruno Mars. Ddumba performed “Treasure” like she had written it for herself. “Baby squirrel, you’s a sexy motherfucker,” she sang while her voice rode the uplifting beat and the crowd shook their booties to the chorus: “Treasure, that is what you are / Honey, you’re my golden star.”
In between songs, the ladies in the front row with adored eyes stared at Ddumba, wearing a big black fedora sitting on her long golden locks, which hung on her light brown coat. Her coat matched with her shorts, and she stood on pink and white heels, tall and slim, like a Nubian Queen (she won the Elle Award in 2016 for the Best Dressed Lady).
“You’re Beautiful!” the girls screamed.
“Thank you,” Ddumba smiled.
Ddumba gave a heart-warming interpretation of the British soul singer Laura Mvula’s slow ballad “Father, Father.” Father, father, let me love you . . . Saw you wandering in my dream last night singing . . . . The tune was tailor-made for a display of Ddumba’s vocal skills and the audience showed gratitude with echoing applauds.
Ddumba continued with her own material, performing “Not Too Young.” A lovely tune, to which many of the 20-year-old ladies in the audience could probably relate to.
“They say I’m young / But I’m not too young / to know what love is / to know what love is.”
She finished off with her radio-hit “Effortless,” which still receives heavy rotation in Sweden.
It’s Effortless. So Effortless. It’s Effortless . . . .
Ddumba, indeed, made it seem effortless to create a coherent show with only a few of her own songs.
I wonder what she can do, when her album comes out.
Sabina Ddumba’s Full Setlist, March 27 2016, Helsinki
Scarred For Life
Give It A Minute
Did It For The Fame/Treasure
Not Too Young
Q&A WITH SABINA DDUMBA
Sabina Ddumba was born in ’94 and is home from Fiskätra, a melting pot of immigrants in Stockholm region. Her parents come from Uganda, but they met in Sweden. Her hero is her dad, William, who puts others before himself. While growing up, she was surrounded by music, which was constantly pumping from the speakers. While 14 years old, she started singing in the world-famous gospel choir, Tensta Gospel Choir. At some point, her dad downloaded Lauryn Hill’s solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and Ddumba was hooked. Then someone asked her to sing a chorus here and a chorus there. Soon, she found herself singing choruses on various Swedish rappers’ albums. At some point, she found herself singing along with the American pop singer Katy Perry on “Walking on Air.”
She started making her own songs, and is currently touring Sweden but dropped in Helsinki for her first gig in Finland. We had a brief Q&A after the concert.
Ddumba appeared from backstage wearing black clothes and a black Adidas cap with no visible sign of the golden locks.
Thank you for your concert. It was great.
SD: “Thank you for coming.”
You look so different . . .
SD: “Yeah, without the hat.”
This is your first concert in Finland.
SD: “Yes, and the crowd was great. It was fun.”
Would you say there is any difference between the crowd in Sweden and Finland?
SD: “More people in Sweden know me. Here, I just have to do the same journey as I did in Sweden. In Sweden, the energy is different – not better – but different because they know what they’re going to see.”
When do you think your album will come out?
SD: “I don’t know. It’s a big question mark. But, yeah, I am done. I’ll just have to wait for the release.”
Ever since Lauryn Hill has been on hiatus, there have been only a few artists in the soul or soulful R & B genre who have made a breakthrough. Why do you think it’s hard to break as a soul artist?
SD: “A lot of artists sound the same, which makes it really hard to break through because people want to hear new stuff. They don’t want me to copy someone else. And I think there is a lot of music that is very good but sounds the same . . . the same kind of melodies . . . and I think when someone does something different and that personality shows through the music, I think that’s when people will really react to it and gets a bit addicted to it. They just want more.
SD: You’ve been compared with Lauryn Hill.
“I would never compare myself with Lauryn Hill. She is amazing, I love her,” she said and laughed.