Saida Karoli has come out of the other side of the deep, dark low where she fell into, and has regained her ebullience while adding a sense of self-understanding to her new surroundings.
She is riding a redemption journey courtesy of a team of well wishers.
This was evident at her comeback on Thursday night’s show which was christened ‘The rise, Fall and Rise again’!
Years after dominance at the very top of the music industry, Saida’s world came crumbling after her contract with the then FM Studios expired.
For the village girl whose passion for performance earned her admirers, the downward spiral came a little faster than her rise and it was then that reality struck, she didn’t make any money during her time.
While she was at FM Studios she was a salaried employee whose earning was pegged at Sh300,000 a month with the only exceptional pay day coming after the massive sales of her debut album.
“The boss called me and said look, we have some token for you and it was Sh7.5 million.”
This to her was a miracle because as a village girl she always dreamt of certain things like sleeping on a proper bed and sitting on a couch.
She was naïve and that would cost her dearly several years later as she found herself penniless with no roof over her head.
“The phone calls went silent, I went back to Mwanza where for some reason I have always called home,” says the 41-year-old.
From the days of feeling up stadiums and halls across the region with her hit song ‘Maria Salome’, this silence from her benefactors puzzled her and it felt like Beethoven.
Faced with near destitution with no form of support plus three children to raise, she just had to start somewhere.
“I went back to my roots performing at the very places where my humble career first began, those local pubs where they sell local brew just to make ends meet,” she says.
Bad relationships too became a feature of her career and soon a fourth child arrived from another companion whom she doesn’t seem comfortable talking about.
Something got to give! She realised that she could still make money through her performances in the villages.
It is perhaps from these village performances that the damaging rumour that she was selling local brew emanated from.
“I, with my children would leave Mwanza at the beginning of the harvest season to perform in the villages of Mwanza, Shinyanga and Kahama. The infrastructure was sometimes very bad that it would take us several days to get there,” says Saida.
On these expeditions she would leave at the beginning of May and return to Mwanza sometime on October after a trail of performances.
As dark as it might seem it was from these shows that she got what stands as her greatest pay day to date that afforded her the opportunity to build a permanent roof over her head in the suburbs of Mwanza.
But even with this rather contingency plan, setbacks were to come as some villagers called her an imposter, because according to them a woman of her stature couldn’t perform at such places.
“I hated why I ever became famous because not many could believe that I was the same Saida Karoli that they once knew,” she says with a tinge of nostalgia.
The lowest moment came in 2015 when some strange rumour again emerged on the social media that she had died in a road accident.
“I really cried that day and for some reason I thought I had really died given the situation that was surrounding me,” she says.
The fifth child came and tragedy again leered its ugly head! Her companion at that time whom she had a baby boy with met his sudden end in a road accident.
She is a mother of five children though she keeps much of the details to herself because she believes it is the only way to stay as a family.
Throughout the bad times her children were her pillar of strength and they have become part of the band.
“They love what I do and with time they have become part of the creative section of the band,” she says.
They travel with her wherever she goes; unfortunately, this has come at a cost of their schooling life with the eldest turning 20 next year.
On fellow women
She believes women are strong and can achieve a lot but the most unfortunate thing is that women are their own enemies.
During her times in the village most of those people who worked hard to bring her down were fellow women.
“I just don’t know why we keep bringing one another down even when there is no apparent reason for one to behave unrealistically,” she says.
When all seemed to be rather dry after the release of Diamond’s Salome, she received a call that invited her for a performance at a wedding in Dar es Salaam.
It was here that her current benefactors convinced her to extend her stay and the idea of her comeback concert was born.
She has since recorded 18 songs which she says an ideal avenue of how to release them is being devised given the state of piracy in the country.
She believes that one of her major strengths has been dwelling on the positive end of things keeping her smile on even when the going gets tough.
“I’m fine now – I’ve never been better,” says the veteran singer. I thought I understood that we have a finite experience, but it’s not hammered home until you have a near-death experience. You realise that you’re not in control in any way.”
To her, music is the most natural expression and therapy that is boundless with alternatives.
“Good or bad, it’s the only way I know how to get these feelings out. Now, as a more evolved human being, I’m thinking of more stuff,” she says.
What Saida doesn’t have is the dogmatic dryness of a stricken survivor.
Her forthrightness about her past is still laced with her cynical sense of humour, while new songs such as Orugambo matches her rebirth complete with all elements that suits only Saida’s repertoire .
“You can choose to be negative, bitter or choose to be a creator, I chose the latter, and it’s certainly a whole lot more fun and that is why my best weapon through the years has been laughter.”