Sabina Ddumba is the Afro-Swedish pop sensation who has been making waves in the music industry both on home turf and internationally.
Born in Sweden to Ugandan parents, Sabina grew up with a love of music and joined Stockholm’s prestigious Tensta Gospel Choir at the age of 14. By 18, she provided backing vocals for Katy Perry’s Prism album track ‘Walking On Air’, which led to Sabina pursuing her own solo career.
In 2014, Sabina released her debut single ‘Scarred For Life’, a track which has been certified gold. Her debut album Homeward Bound followed in 2016, featuring the 2x platinum ‘Effortless’ and ‘Not Too Young’, which propelled the multi-talented artist to new heights in Sweden. During that very same year, she won both a Swedish Grammy and a P3 Guld Award for Newcomer of the Year.
Over the years, Sabina has notched up over 140 million collective Spotify streams on her releases, whilst also gaining a loyal fanbase through performances at some of Sweden’s biggest festivals. However, it’s not just her music which has caught people’s attention – her slick fashion sense has also gained a large following, with Elle Sweden awarding her Sweden’s “Best Dressed Female” of 2016.
Now, Sabina is continuing her incredible journey with her latest single, ‘Blow My Mind’ which features Mr Eazi. Paying homage to her heritage, the track has already amassed over 1.2 million streams on Spotify, whilst the accompanying visual lends a hopeful message to anyone with a dream.
We spoke to Sabina Ddumba about ‘Blow My Mind’ and its music video, working with Mr Eazi, dream collaborations and more.
First off, congratulations on your latest single ‘Blow My Mind’. What’s the reaction to it been like so far?
Thank you! It’s been better than I expected. Just seeing how much people like this song has been incredible because you never really know, but the response has been amazing.
Can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind the song?
I did the song together with TMS and MNEK, I wrote it in London. The inspiration of the song for me…when I heard the beat for the first time, it gave me the feeling of Uganda, that’s where my parents are born and raised. It made me feel like home so I love the song and I started writing on it with MNEK and TMS which was so easy as they’re so talented. Mr Eazi is on the song too which made it feel even more like home.
How long did it take for the song to develop from the initial idea to the final product?
We did the song in one session. We got the lyrics and melody done in one session but I remember I wanted to re-sing my vocals which came a few months after. The song actually existed without Mr Eazi for a long time and I performed it once last year just to try it and see how people would react to it. It took a while for Mr Eazi to come on board. At first, I was like, “I’m not used to this” but then after hearing his verse I knew that it was so right and was meant to be.
You talk about Mr Eazi coming on the track – how did that happen in the end? Why was he the perfect person for the song?
I was having a talk together with my manager and agent to see if we wanted someone on the track. At first, I didn’t really know if I wanted anyone else as I had this part where I sang a little bit in Ugandan. I showed that version of the song to my oldest brother and he loved it as I was singing in Ugandan. Once we decided to try and get someone on board, I told myself not to get my hopes up because I know that I can’t just say “I want this person”. I got to know that they had talks with Mr Eazi and that he was interested, he heard the song and really liked it.
What was he like to work with?
We didn’t actually get to record together – I did my part earlier and he recorded his verse in London I think. It was cool getting everything done though. We also did the video in LA, but unfortunately he did his part separately as something came up. I didn’t want to base my whole idea around someone else because you just never know so I said “I want to do this in my video and if he wants to be a part of it then that would make me really really happy”. We made it happen and the results were really amazing. It’s so fun that he really likes it as well, we’ve been talking afterwards and it just feels good. It’s the first time that I’ve collaborated with anyone on my own song, having a feature on it.
You mentioned earlier that the song began with a part with you singing in Ugandan on it. Do you think that you might release it one day?
I don’t know! It’s like a dance break part basically so I’m just telling people to dance in Ugandan. I’ve been thinking in my head that it’s something I might do when performing if I’m by myself with my band, instead of trying to recreate Mr Eazi’s verse. I did it once and it was really fun but I need to practice a little more!
Do you have a favourite lyric from the track at all?
“Baby it blows my mind so much, I got no words to say”, I really like that. There’s also a part in Mr Eazi’s verse that I love – “My heart freeze one time so fast, Medusa”, I love it, I sing along every time.
You mentioned the music video earlier briefly, and we must say it’s amazing. Can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind it?
The people from my label called me to arrange a meeting to discuss the video and I remember saying that I hadn’t even thought about it, because I didn’t want to get my hopes up. What if it didn’t happen? I needed to know that it was going to happen. They told me “yes, we’re going to do a video” so I was thinking about when I was kid. I have a lot of siblings, five older siblings and when I was little and came home from school I would always sit and do my homework and me and my siblings would watch music videos on this channel called ZTV.
Every Saturday at 4pm they had this show which showed Janet Jackson, TLC, Aaliyah, Ashanti, Ja Rule…everything I listened to at home. I remember that videos back then were a different kind of thing, and I really wanted to recreate my childhood in the video. I also have a little girl in the video, and she represents me and every little girl in the world. I remember watching the TV and thinking, “I wanna do that. I wanna be in a video, I wanna dance and sing”. However, I never knew that it would happen. I want the video to show that if you truly just believe, then it can happen. I never knew when I was young that I could be the one on the TV one day so I just want to awaken hope in kids.
With regards to your future music, are you working towards an EP/album?
I’ve been working on songs for a little while and we’re trying to get an EP together. I’m selecting the songs for that and trying to get everything finished so hopefully it will come together as an EP this year and an album next year.
You grew up in Sweden. How would you say that the country has influenced you as an artist?
My parents are from Uganda but I was born and raised here (in Sweden) so of course I feel like both, but growing up here and being able to sing here, Sweden has taught me that I’m the only one who can do what I do. It’s really taught me to believe in that so I just go with the flow. I have my environment to thank for that too.
A lot of great artists are emerging from Sweden, including yourself. Do you have any particular favourites?
Oh yes! A big favourite and one of the people I sang with first, is Seinabo Sey. She’s my sister, I think I sang with her ten years ago for the first time and now it’s amazing to see her do her thing. She’s a true inspiration and I love her. There’s also one of my best friends Janice, she’s a great talent, and amazing person with an amazing voice. I think that people will get to hear her and know her name soon enough, I know that myself. There’s also Cherrie, she sings in Swedish and sometimes in English, but it’s amazing to see how people outside of Sweden listen to her music. There’s so many, I could go on and on!
This next question is one that you might have a lot of answers for as well! You mentioned earlier that Mr Eazi was the first collaboration you’ve done on your own record. If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be and why?
Oh my god, this is such a hard question. I dream and I daydream but I feel like I limit it, I’ve got to be realistic, however, if I get to dream then I’d love to do a song with Kendrick Lamar. He is the greatest. I would also love to do a song with Chance the Rapper….there’s so many! I want to do a song with Burna Boy so bad. There’s also a person I would love to sing with but I’d be afraid of doing it, and that’s Lauryn Hill. I have her face on my left arm – she’s a big reason why a lot of people of my age sing, she inspired a lot of people with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, but she’s definitely one of the biggest reasons why and how I do what I do. If I got to sing with her I would definitely cry throughout the song but I would definitely want to do it. H.E.R is also amazing, I love her and listen to her music all the time.
You’ve been very busy with tours and festivals in recent years, do you have any touring plans in the pipeline?
I’ve been touring a lot here in Sweden so I’m taking a little break this summer as I’ve done a lot recently. Once the new songs are out, I’ll be getting back out there on that horse as that’s my favourite thing to do, definitely. It’s what I love to do the most, singing, giving energy, getting energy and going on for hours.
Aside from your music, you’re also quite the fashionista and we love your style. Who or what inspires you fashion wise?
Thank you! My feelings inspire me, I guess. I always dress how I feel. It depends on how I’m feeling today, and what I’m trying to achieve. When I was a kid we didn’t buy clothes much so we had to be creative. I remember taking clothes from siblings and mixing matching, taking mom’s jacket etc. It’s always been the way I’ve expressed myself. I wouldn’t call myself a fashionista, I love fashion but I don’t feel like I have to know and have the latest trend. I just like clothes and it’s fun to play with them. I work a lot with Selam Fessahaye, she’s my stylist and she’s a designer. She’s definitely a big inspiration, I’ve never been dressed by someone who dresses me exactly how I feel. She nails it every time. I would definitely say she’s one of my biggest inspirations.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
I’m releasing more songs. I’m also going to fly out of Sweden and visit more countries, hopefully with my music, if not then by myself. I just came back from Nigeria, I think I’m going back this fall. Hopefully, I will go to NY and LA and do some promo stuff and hopefully I will get to travel and sing, but I’m definitely going to work work work. Be ready!
‘Blow My Mind’ is out now.