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Profile

GNL Zamba is among East Africa’s most influential hip hop artists, credited with bringing rap expressions to the mainstream in Uganda’s indigenous language, Luganda. The style known as Lugaflow inspired a new generation of rappers in Uganda to create popular music in their native languages. GNL “Greatness No Limits” Zamba is the founder and C.E.O of independent hip hop record label Baboon Forest Entertainment, which nurtures new talent in Kampala, Uganda. He is also a spoken word poet, educator, actor, film maker, cultural ambassador for Lend a hand (LAHU), Reach a hand (RAHU),Ugandan Commercial brands and social initiatives.

 
Born Ernest Nsimbi in 1986 in Uganda’s Mukono district to a technical electrical engineer and civil servant, GNL Zamba was first encouraged toward music by his grandmother, a leader in the church choir. The family settled into Kampala city’s Kawempe slum following the Ugandan civil war, at a time of continuing instability and poverty, which shaped the upcoming artist into a storyteller who drew inspiration from the struggle of his youth. In secondary school, GNL served as the head writer of The Kiira Mirror, member of the debate team and chairman of the junior literature club. He went on the graduate with honours from Makerere University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Management.
 
GNL Zamba broke out as a mainstream Ugandan artist at a pivotal time in the development of Uganda’s hip hop industry, when the underground community had begun to organize regular performing events, but the mainstream media had not yet recognized rap music in Uganda’s indigenous languages. GNL auditioned for HIPHOP CANVAS in 2005 and 2008, organized by Platinum Entertainment’s Shadrak Kuteesa, and he quickly stood out as a star in the multi-lingual project shining a light on Ugandan social issues. GNL Zamba excelled at engaging audiences with locally relevant stories in Luganda. Around the same time, he shined in rap contests hosted by East Africa TV Channel 5 and at regular events at Sabrina’s Pub in Kampala, which altogether catapulted the artist into popular view, bringing Lugaflow with him to be embraced in Uganda’s capital city as a new and popular style of music.
 
GNL Zamba was first recorded as part of the award winning song “Mother Africa,” released by Hip Hop Canvas in 2005. He released his first mainstream, critically acclaimed album Koyi Koyi in 2009, which bridged the gap between traditional and contemporary sound, and included eight number one singles: “Koyi Koyi,” “Ani Yali Amanyi?,” “Soda Jinjale,” “Mr. Right,” ft. radio and weasel, “Mwana wa baaba” ft. Benon, “Story ya Luka,” “Ekikufula Omusajja” and “Kikankane” (further details follow regarding: a full discography, international performances, awards, film soundtracks, television, filmography, documentaries, singles and collaborations).
 
Celebrated as a poetic storyteller, GNL uses his lyricism to mirror and critique his society, addressing issues of social justice, public health and sexuality, gender and domestic violence, environmentalism, African identity, ethnicity, and other authentically Ugandan narratives told through relatable characters.
 
GNL participated in an Oxfam-sponsored campaign about environmental education with the Uganda Wildlife Authority called Friend A Gorilla. In the same year, his song Story ya Luka was selected by the Uganda Ministry of Health to headline a 2010 AIDS youth education campaign. His video collaboration for True Manhood with Young Empowered And Healthy (YEAH) Uganda encouraged Ugandan youth to use condoms, and it won the People’s Choice Digital Media Award at the 2011 International Entertainment Education Conference. Over a three-year period, GNL worked with Buzz Teenies to tour Ugandan schools, offering youth mentorship, encouraging social unity and staying in school. In 2014, the Twaweza Initiative awarded GNL for the positive social impact of his song We Cry, which speaks about street violence and safe sex. Since 2013, GNL has partnered with Reach A Hand Foundation Uganda to participate in a series of youth edutainment campaigns. He has also been invited to lecture at Makerere University’s College of Humanities on oral literature and ethnology.
 
GNL Zamba has toured around Africa, Europe and North America, performing at various festivals and conventions. He is also credited with inspiring the Ugandan President Museveni to release his first single “You Want Another Rap.” GNL Zamba’s commitment to Kampala-based causes and the role he has played in elevating hip hop music in Uganda has also earned him endorsement deals as an ambassador for Coca Cola, Pepsi, MTN telecom, Warid Telecom, Bmark Mobile, Club Pilsner of East African Breweries, Airtel Uganda and other brands. GNL Zamba continues to explore his talent to promote positive social change and cultural empowerment.
 
Discography
 NSIMBI 2018
Dreaming In Color  2016
Zambaland  2015
The Renaissance / Uganda Yaffe 2013
Speaking Vernacular 2011
Koyi Koyi (Riddles of Life) 2009
 
International Performances
 USA Smithsonian Institution museum of African art (art of expression 2016) 
Denmark (We Love Africa Music Festival, September 2010);
Ethiopia (Selam International Music Festival, April 2009);
Norway (GNL Zamba Live, September 2012);
Rwanda (Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Ceremony, Gishenyi, June 2009);
South Africa (VIP concerts in Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, April 2014);
Sweden (Selam Africa Music Festival, September 2012);
Tanzania (Clouds FM Festival, August 2010; WAPI British Council, February 2009);
United Arab Emirates (Dubai concerts, September 2009; November 2011);
United Kingdom (Stratford Rex & East London, October 2009);
United States of America (Uganda North America Association Convention 2011 & Uganda (GNL Zamba has toured all around Uganda from 2008 – present);
2015; Asica World Series Beach Volleyball, July 2013);
Zanzibar (Sauti Za Busara) February 2009.
 
Awards
 
2014 – Twaweza Best Social Impact Through The Arts Award (Win)
2014 – Zina Awards: Best Hip Hop Single (Nomination)
2014 – Hipipo Awards: Best Hip Hop Artist (Nomination)
2014 – Rising Star Awards: Best Hip Hop Artist (Nomination)
2013 – Uganda Buzz Music Awards: Best Group (Win)
2013 – Club Music Video Awards: Video of the Year (Win)
2013 – Club Music Video Awards: Best Male Video of the Year (Win)
2013 – Kadanke Awards: Best Group (Win)
2013 – Kadanke Awards: Best Hip Hop Single (Win)
2013 – Kandanke Awards: Artist of the Year (Nomination)
2013 – Kandanke Awards: Best Male Artist (Nomination)
2013 – Kandanke Awards: Best Hip Hop Single (Nomination)
2012 – Uganda Buzz Music Awards: Best Male Artist (Win)
2012 – Uganda Buzz Music Awards: Best Hip Hop Single (Nomination)
2012 – Kandanke Awards: Artist of the Year (Nomination)
2011 – International Education Conference: People’s Choice Digital Media (Win)
2011 – Pearl of Africa Music Awards: Best Hip Hop Single (Win)
2011 – Pearl of Africa Music Awards: Best Single (Nomination)
2011 – Pearl of Africa Music Awards: Best Male Artist (Nomination)
2011 – Uganda Buzz Music Awards: Artist of the Year (Nomination)
2010 – Pearl of Africa Music Awards: Best Hip Hop Single (Win)
2010 – Uganda Buzz Music Awards: Best Hood Rapper (Win)
2010 – Uganda Buzz Music Awards: Artist of the Year (Nomination)
2010 – Uganda Buzz Music Awards: Best Male Artist (Nomination)
2010 – Pearl of Africa Music Awards: Best Group (Nomination)
2010 – Pearl of Africa Music Awards: Best Single (Nomination)
2010 – Uganda Buzz Music Awards: Song of the Year (Nomination)
2010 – Kisima Awards, Kenya: Best Hip Hop Artist & Single (Nomination)
2009 – Pearl of Africa Awards: Best Hip Hop Single (Win)
2009 – Pearl of Africa Music Awards: Best Single (Nomination)
2009 – Press Association Awards: Artist of the Year (Nomination)
2009 – Uganda Buzz Music Awards: Best Male Artist (Nomination)
2005 – Pearl of Africa Awards: Best Hip Hop Single (Win)
 
Film Soundtracks
 
Plan B (2014): Mwana wa baaba, koyi koyi
The Life (2013): Kikankane
 
Television
 
Newz Beat (May-July, 2015): creative writing, presenting
Kika Too Good (2012, 2013): writer, season 1 & 2
 
Films & Documentaries
 
Blood on Their Hands  (2015): 
FOG (2015): 
Water Dog (2015): 
Gubagudeko (2016)
In My Brother’s Words (2015): 
You Want Another Rap (2011): commentary by GNL Zamba
Speaking Vernacular (2011): Production by GNL Zamba & Baboon Forest Ent.
 
 
Media Links
 
GNL Zamba lectures at Makerere University
6 March, 2015
http://kampalasun.co.ug/gnl-muk-lecturer/#.Vhemn2Sqqkp
 
Slum flash mob promotes safe sex
10 December, 2014
https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/safe-sex-flash-mob-excites-young-ugandans/
 
GNL Zamba judges Airtel Trace Music Stars
9 October, 2014
http://www.hipipo.com/music/news/2418/Airtel-Trace-Music-Star-Competition-Launched
 
Collaboration with Ugandan First Lady to educate public on mother-to-child AIDS transmission
20 November, 2013
http://observer.ug/lifestyle/star-strail/28668-star-trail-golola-cursed
 
Fundraising show for those affected by Bududa Landslides
22 March, 2010
http://www.monitor.co.ug/artsculture/Entertainment/-/812796/883860/-/bx18jj/-/index.html
 
Academic Articles
 

The Culture of AIDS in Africa: Hope and Healing Through Music and the Arts

Edited by Gregory Barz & Judah M. Cohen
https://books.google.com/books?id=W7BoAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA366&lpg=PA366&dq=GNL+south+africa&source=bl&ots=Nnku4I5F3G&sig=ThVbJRu-1OS45UVtHtorRSB2Ans&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAzgKahUKEwiLi4C6hvfHAhXQUYgKHQb-B-c#v=onepage&q=GNL%20south%20africa&f=false
 

Hip Hop Ukraine: Music, Race, and African Migration

By Adriana N. Helbig
https://books.google.com/books?id=eKFrAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA172&dq=%22gnl+zamba%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAGoVChMIoLO71oj3xwIVzDuICh3XLwgQ#v=onepage&q=%22gnl%20zamba%22&f=true