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My Country Is A Badly Fried Rolex

By Wobusobozi Amooti Kangere

Have you ever eaten a rolex fried to perfection? Forget those bourgeois concoctions touted in upscale restaurants as a sanitized variant of the street rolex. I’m talking about the real deal rolex — pan-fried on low charcoal heat, flavoured with road-dust and market scents, and toast and turned by an expert chef apprenticed in the singular of making fried eggs so succulent and delicious that one may be forgiven for believing that a hidden guild jealously guards the secrets of rolex frying. Why else would a rolex made in a properly fitted kitchen and fried by an institutionally trained chef taste so drab and counterfeit, yet miraculously transform into a psychedelic delicacy in the hands of a shoddily outfitted and dressed roadside chef?

If you cannot relate, fear not. More than one erudite friend has ably observed that I am by nature of my tastes, a traitor to my class. As an educated man with a stronger command of English than my native Runyoro, I am supposed to be nauseated by the thought of eating a rolex from the streets and hide from sight if I get lunatic enough to venture such experiment. It was okay to do it a decade and more ago, when I still enjoyed the freedom from social scrutiny that comes with being a university student, what reason could I possibly have for indulging low tastes a decade later, when I am supposed to be a sensible member of the educated public?

The truth is that the rolex, second only to pork and goat meat — in their barbecued and deep-fried variants — is my favourite meal. It defies reason that such a simple mix of wheat, chicken protein, tomatoes, powdered chilies, and unwashed cabbages should spur my taste-buds to near addiction, but then I remember that I live in a country where nothing lends itself to reason, and then I am fine.

I mean, if you live in a country where 40 million people can allow one man to misrule their affairs for more than two decades, and be happy to let him carry on till the Christian messiah returns for his human sheep, I am entitled to insist that my rolex is not touched by an institutionally trained Chef sweating in the heat of the upscale restaurant: it would be overpriced, over-hyped, and badly fried, like everything else in this country.

A few months ago, our Rolex Republic dominated the global news network for the first time since Idi Amin made British diplomats carry him on their shoulders as his ancestors had carried their ancestors along the trade caravan that brought their colonizing influences to our grasses. The spark of this sensation was the arrest and torture of a one Bobi Wine in Arua.

Since joining the world of politics with a landslide electoral victory in 2016, the popular musician turned parliamentarian has been the local media’s , and now global media’s, darling — after nearly two decades of producing chart-topping music and stirring controversy as the self-styled Ghetto president, Robert Kyagulanyi a.k.a Bobi Wine has proven to be the only figure with a personality and presence big enough to rival that of the old man with a hat (he doesn’t wear it much today!), known to the ill-behaved denizens of social media as Bosiko.

I have witnessed more than one ‘intellectual’ who dismissed his entry into parliament suddenly turn groupie and declare this self-styled leader of the Red Brigade, also known as the People Power Movement, Uganda’s new saviour. One cannot tune into a radio and check their social media timeline without finding someone compare Bobi Wine’s rise to political stardom to that of the man who rules the Yellow Brigade and seats on a throne at the apex of military and financial power. For the life of me, I cannot understand why.

The battle, as it is now framed, to borrow boxing metaphor, pits the the fight to determine Uganda’s future between two men. In the red corner you have Bobi Wine, the people’s champion, running his mouth like Mohammed Ali’s going up against Sonny Liston. In the yellow corner, you have the General of Generals, feared and fierce as Liston once was, with all polls judging the fists of people power too small to spur with the might of guns and bribes. The odds are listed, and in the public domain the gamblers place their bets. Heavy weights vie for ring sides while tickets for the stands sell out before the match is even declared. Each side is unmovably convinced that their fighter will win but in the peripheries of the stadium, where reason escapes the noise and clamour of the arena, the silent observers watch with detached calm. The cycle repeats itself.

Because knowledge is a social handicap and ignorance is cool, many of this country’s influential voices and minds have neglected the study of history for fear of falling out of step with the unthinking mass. This is obviously pure deduction from observation, so feel free to dismiss it as delusion. But if the actors who shape the evolution of events in our current affairs did study their history, they might discern in it a pattern that would inspire a different course of action from the popular path. They might find that everything, even that that’s making Bobi Wine a global sensation today has happened before. Many times in fact. But since it is unlikely that they will, as, repeat: knowledge is a social handicap and ignorance is cool, chances are the cycle will recur.

Bobi Wine has become today’s symbol of change. And mark you, change will happen because it is inevitable. Museveni cannot live forever; political establishments have risen and fallen through out history and powerful armies have been crushed by foes that are insignificant in light of their force. It doesn’t matter who makes it to the top on the current wave of change sweeping across this country, Uganda is a badly fried rolex, and until the proponents of change learn the bitter lessons history has to teach the present, the cycle will repeat itself.

Fry again. Sorry, try again.

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A ”Rolex” for my Valentine!

By Elijah Bwojji

Dear Mr. Rolex Guy,

It has been a long month of falling in love—a torrent of emotion eroding that which stood strong-hard; my heart, to a mash of swampy muscle I now call hurt. She asked, you see, that I wear a red shirt and black mascot trousers, and accompany her to some dinner.

She wanted to treat me, she said. To something special.

Special? What is special, I asked myself, about anything except your handiwork, Mr. Rolex Guy? If only my woman had beheld you at work before, then she wouldn’t presume to misuse the word special ever again.

The tomatoes you slice so marvelously, with a surgeon’s quickness and precision. The half-done eggs, are nothing short of an enriching, almost medicinal soup. Special.

But Mr. Rolex Guy, your skill with the pan sneers upon the love I have for this woman of mine. I have loved her who stands before your alter of fire—that black frying pan on which the universe’s secrets spin once a flame is lit beneath them on a rattrap of a charcoal stove—like an expectant bride mouthing memorized vows under scented breath.

Let us now return to this thing called Lover’s Day. I hear it happened sometime after the last full moon.

Mbu Valentine’s Day!

Let me tell you, Mr. Rolex Guy, this is merely an overly celebrated day of flowers, wine and extra-expensive food bought from strangers who don’t deserve our money.

How quickly people forget those who feed them every day!

I would want to bring all my money to you, Mr. Rolex Guy. In fact, I want to have three rolexes a day for a month. Breakfast, lunch and supper. Like any good balanced-dietitian.

But that’s mere wishful thinking, my friend. My doctor will come down hard on you, as A man hunts a rat in his house. It’s of course wishful thinking to also suggest that I could have a doctor! The only thing coming down on anyone, in my case, after a month of rolex-eating, would be congenital constipation.

But anyway, speaking truthfully, you should be more creative with this booming business. Why not set-up a mechanism where either, one may pay in advance and eat non-stop until their account runs dry, or alternatively eat and eat via the mouth and then pay through the nose later?

Valentine’s Day caught me with a longing of your rolex, Sir. A deep longing, akin to that of a pauper’s child hearing that unmistakable music from the ice-cream bicycle and pining for that contraption of food-colored frozen water supposed to pass for iced cream.

I had you in my plans, Mr. Rolex Guy, until my woman stepped right athwart them with a pair of high-heeled stilettos. Which man with a woman whose thirst for red and black has ever carried out his plans independent of her?

These aren’t excuses I am giving, but a pain that drives me to write this letter. To ask, man to man, that you keep me a submarine of four eggs, and three chapattis—you know, the usual—while I silently suffer this war-ration-esque, expensive mockery of a meal otherwise called valentine’s dinner .

Usually,I tend not to partake in the indulgence of this overly priced piece of beef and chicken. She will eat and I will do the talking.

Man is only a conversation machine in these hard economic times. He starts the conversation, and changes it if undesirable. You thought it’s only you forced to think of conversation for your waiting customers?

Even I have to improvise, Mr. Rolex Guy, though my customer is one. She demands more, but her pay is less. She likes my conversations to be full of only humor, laughter and brave tales. As if I were simultaneously descended from Okonkwo and Chaplin.

To her, I am a conversation slot-machine.

Forgive my bubbly tendency today, Mr. Rolex Guy. Did I tell you about the tomatoes? I want two big ripe ones, juicy. So that things flow as I bite into my submarine.

Don’t get overly clean, as those upscale restaurants tend to do. This is a messy, dirty country, why be clean?

The entire country is bleeding with corrupt people. It is an open wound, and if that’s not dirt, then clearly I do not know what is.

I am still confused, amused even, by people who go to untold lengths to cover-up. Do not be like those people, my friend, whose kitchen is dirty but the eating place is all clean.

For I do love watching you get my rolex ready, seeing you touch money and touch my chapattis with the same unwashed fingers. Feeling the winds carry dust and dump it on my eggs.

If that is not continental seasoning, then kill me now, for I cannot and will not bear to sit in a restaurant and eat (or rather, watch the eating of) another valentine’s dinner!

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2nd November, part 2. Unveiling of Bogere Dennis.

IMG-20181022-WA0012To write, a writer must read, and read wide, wider than lake Nalubale and that’s what we have been told. I love books because a reader, you get to travel, while doing less of the sweating that comes with walking. you learn a lot about a world beyond the door step. What five books, have coined your thoughts and also whetted your appetite to read more.

Five books…..

Choice of majority of these books is premised on their direct connection with my field of writing (Poetry) and the fact that some were authored by fellow Ugandans, something that warms my heart to see that the dominance of foreign literature is somewhat curtailed.

  1. Paradise lost by John Milton

The book is a symbol of hard work and perseverance which I require to employ more to emerge as a doubtless victor in the arena of writing poetry. John Milton, in spite of his fractured life mired with poverty, he never relented in reading widely and voraciously to hone his gift of writing and masterly of many languages. Even when he lost his sight, writing gift wasn’t impeded. In fact this book was written on his behalf while he dictated it from his head.

The book reminds me that to be a poet or any other writer of a caliber an inch closer to John Milton’s needs more than just a Muse’s inspiration but to read variously and voraciously. On the spiritual matter that the book explains, I get reminded that the devil is real and that it is hell-bent on sinking man to the bottomless perdition.  There are numerous and continuous spiritual battles waged on humanity for this diabolical feat yet we have been deceived by the devil that all this is an illusion. The book also reminds me that freewill which the Godhead gifted us with is a double-edged sword which we must swing with wisdom and restraint.

  1. Broken voices of the revolution by the lantern meet of poets

The book represents the poet as a key vessel through which historical and social affairs of a country or a community can be trumpeted. As a poet, I shouldn’t wish away this great prestige.

I get reminded that as a youth, my voice through poetry, can unplug ears stuffed with ignorance of what plagues our young nation without waiting for the foreigner to do it on my behalf. That my poetry should be as tough as nails in the shameless face of repression to address issues that can induce substantial social changes.

  1. Pregnant poems by Eron Kiiza

The book represents diversity in penning poetry. As a poet, I shouldn’t be confined to particular themes but rather be versatile in my writing journey.

This book gave me a leaf to pluck about the fact that writing poetry transcends personal fun; poetry’s pregnancy should be left to distend boundlessly until it bursts open in the public eye for the poet to be recognized. This in itself, encourages and inspires the poet to grow tremendously in their unique craft.

  1. Master pieces of religious verse by James Dalton Morrison

The book chronicles poetry on diverse themes that shape life and the hereafter, most especially from a spiritual point of view.

The poetry bellied by this book has an extremely savory classical taste. The book, undoubtedly, represents my ‘tangible Muse’. Every time I read it, my poetic senses are activated and I can’t help it but write a poem.

The book reminds me about the beauty in spiritual poetry, and the more I consume it, the better I get at writing poetry. This informs that spirituality surpasses all other aspects of human life.

  1. Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

The book represents the onus I hold in living my own history and culture in order to be able to narrate and explain them better than an outsider with no innate attachment to them.

The book reminds to have a firm grip on my cultural background since it has an impact on the kind of life we experience. Life littered with hardships could be a result of some ancestral curses that we need to denounce and break free from through prayers to live better.

2.  when one read your poetry, they are traversed to an era that is long gone, your                   diction and meter is one can’t trace as a person born and raised in this banana                      republic, or as one young person put it, the Rolex republic. What has influenced                  your writing style.

What influences my style of writing is the fact that I have a great affinity for classical poetry; the language therein is honey in my ears. In fact, sometimes I wish I had lived in the medieval times to rub shoulders with the poets of that era. Alas, such wishes cannot come true but I thank God to have found the Lantern Meet of Poets since the poets of that era are reborn in some poets in the Meet whose style has also influenced mine.

 

  1. How has your career as a math teacher influence your poetry.

As a mathematics teacher, I see every poem I write as an elegant equation or formula condensed in symbols that project mountains of golden meanings.

 

Thanks for having a chat with us, Bogere. We can’t wait to listen to your poetry.

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2nd November, THE UNVEILING OF BOGERE DENIS

IMG-20181022-WA0013DENIS BOGERE

I have known this poet through his poetry. I have shared a beer or two, at the eve of 2016. He enjoys tusker lager, and once he has had enough drink in him, he will command the winds to sway his body in movements that can be described as a dance.  To meet him through the words which he has perfect will give you an illusion of who the real man is. The tone in which his words are crafted are of a man who has lived in this country Uganda, yet he isn’t from this country. There is an edge of a dying era captured in his tone.

I caught up with him on whatsapp, to get a little insight of who is the man BOGERE, before we get to meet him through his words on 2nd November.

  1. How one would describe me……

A well-presented, calm and flexible individual with substantial honesty and integrity. A hard-working individual propped up by self-motivation and perseverance in things that capture my interest, and capable of working with minimal supervision. One who is able to blend in manner of life; bitter or sweet, without losing his true self. Well, one might call this rigidity but no I just dread pretense.

One with the flames of extroversion crackling beneath a deceptive shell of introversion. The flames will warm you sweetly if you live with me long enough. Under what seems to be my taciturn coat that I wear severally as if averse to spruce, lie golden capabilities that surprise many when they discover them.

Bogere is a person who distances himself from the spotlight and prefers to keep in the kitchen and lets the condiments do the talking in proclaiming the sumptuous meals he prepares. One with poephilia and a big thirst for jogging and working out to keep fit. One gifted in numbers which informs his trade as a mathematics teacher.

  1. Poetry as opposed to short stories….

I read about the persecution of scientists in the past for what was termed as their esoteric ideas and heresy. The scientists went into hiding to eschew the persecution, and while there, they would communicate secretly to each other through cryptic poetry mainly of the iambic pentameter. I found this amazing and so every time I want to convey a hidden compendious message, poetry offers me a better platform than a short story.

I love word games and writing poetry, in my opinion, presents a concrete chance to cement this love. With poetry, I get to employ few well-thought out words rich in meanings, associations and nuances to communicate my thoughts and ideas compendiously. The outcome of this is a fun-exuding experience.

Besides working with numbers, I find poetry a better way to strengthen my cognitive processes than short stories. Crafting it requires huge chunks of cognition to be expended in searching for that perfect meaningful word, metaphor, imagery and working out how to articulate a thought or fine-tuning the rhythm and meter of a poem. I stand to be corrected but such technicalities seem to be a dearth in a short story.

End of part 1

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OF MUSIC, INSTITUTIONAL APATHY, AND THE CHURCH

It is difficult for me to recall my orientation to music without going back to my earliest interaction with religion. At Kindergarten through nursery rhymes, or at church, are the places a child first encounters music. Church music, fondly known as hymns, requires no particular investment in Christianity or the technique of deciphering it. Unlike other art forms, music is accessible even at a young age.  Admittedly, I still know little about music, but because these hymns adhere to the highest levels poetic lyricism; they always land tenderly to the ear, allowing me to slit through the veiled astuteness, bypassing the intricate architectural grandeur, even as an average listener. I can’t think of any better hymn to demonstrate this than one of my favorites, ‘It is Well with My Soul’. The way its serene rhythm aided by the metrical lines interacts with its strong and vivid imagery will leave anyone with considerable pleasure.

 

However, since I discovered reading, I have undergone a protracted conflict with religion.  Since I was born in a relatively Christian family, I was raised to ‘fear’ this Deity—which by implication dejects all the others. With further indoctrination, I gradually began to suppose only the Christian god existed. This god assumed the responsibility of saving us from perishing and missing out on the Promised Land. And to put it simply and more accurately, I discovered fear: fear of evil, fear of myself, and fear of all things unknown.

I concentrated on following everything I was taught from the beginning to a point when I started asking a few questions:  I had followed, of course, with no conscious effort at pondering at what it all meant. I had allowed myself to be carried by the rhetorical stimulus of the scriptures until I realized I was turning into a robot. I was ingesting all the commands and had no idea how all this related to me within my cultural context.

Owing to my Christian background, the discomfort roused within me was only gradual. This all happened while the deeper bottom of me hosted a whelming feeling, a feeling almost akin to hope, I felt unsettled. It felt real, and filtered all the sizzling discontent. I was too afraid and this fear stifled all the ripples of growing defiance. But this was only rivaled by a curious despair. My interaction with historical accounts that exposed some scandals orchestrated by Christians led me to burrow further, I wanted to be certain. My conclusions fueled my conflict with most religious organizations.

The Christians, who brought in this gospel I later on discovered, were principal accomplices to the invasion of Africa and all the atrocities thereof. Their mission was supposedly divine and the black man who breathed in the foreign teachings believed it and it explains the success of Christianity in indoctrinating the continent’s people.

Many of these religions continue to re-live the wild good old days with a few managed modifications. They still occupy the same land that was given to them in the notorious 1900 Buganda agreement. While history ranks them amongst the top beneficiaries of the injustices committed against Africans, they remain aloof sitting on the same land that was stolen from the native occupants. I can hence imagine and sympathize with their difficulties when it comes to commenting on the current rampant land evictions amidst the many other injustices. They are aware of the looming contradictions; they would have to first forfeit their stolen bounty.

The church— a supposedly supreme institution entrusted with the divine role of enforcing morality— would rather stay neutral than comment on the ills being meted out on God’s children. In the naked glare of atrocities by any of the political actors, the church says: ‘We can’t afford taking sides here; you are all God’s children.’ While that might harbor some truth in the context: are the good religious ministers telling us that there can be multiple truths? Wouldn’t that be underrating their influence, misusing the power that they in fact possess, and devaluing the very essence of their existence?

It wouldn’t be the first time the Church has spoken to the State as an intervention on matters affecting populations and history offers a thread of instances. On 15th of June in 1215, a very significant document, the Magna Carta was signed between the Barons and King John of Medieval England in the bid to restrain on his powers, but also create rights for his subjects. The great document which is fondly cited by most lawyers for its constitutional significance, and influence in the modern legal practice, was drafted by clergymen. For our Church to wield influence and yet claim neutrality when the State turns against the masses doesn’t only make it  an accomplice; it becomes part of the problem — it becomes a tool of the perpetrator.

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Anyhow, despite all, there is something really deeper and addictive in the church arsenal that lulls all the fears—music.

Given my ignorance in regard to the technicalities of music, when I love music, it’s because I’ve found something remarkable in its subject. Besides hymns, I am also an avid listener of Paulo Kafeero’s music. I have always found his imagery unique and the structure of his message well-tuned that the music reaches the highest height of evocation driving the listener into a feeling of whelming angst. The description is always fresh and enthralling despite the passage of decades.  For instance, a song as old as Kampala Mu Kooti—a very discursive polemic tirade against the status quo— still retains the depth, truth, and relevance it possessed when he wrote it.

If you believe like me, that music has unrivaled manipulative powers, then you must agree with me that it ranks top as an effective weapon for change. And if you are still grappling to understand what I am saying, walk to any political rally, if there is no any form of sound, the audience will sing their own tunes. I suspect to achieve the magical effect music would.

It’s what makes unique. Unlike the other arts that are relatively exclusive, music offers a cozy space for almost everyone who might find it: Where I go to music for its message; there are those that seek it for its accomplishment in technical and architectural construction; and there is that one guy who will dance— music to him is served for the purpose of getting people onto their feet. I mean, I have found people deep down in Kibale dancing to Ashawo by a Nigerian singer called Flavor. They couldn’t have possibly known what the song was going on about. Presumably, the music offered them a space to express themselves. With music each finds their space, music is universal.

It is this experience which informs my belief that if the religious organizations can use fear veiled off in some spiritual enlightenment; then nothing should stop activists and politicians from using music in their work. Whether the type and quality of music that fills the Ugandan industry will bring change remains debatable, what is clear is that music has unmatchable powers to influence human beings. What is the use of influence if it wont be used to positively affect those its held over. The church has gladly forfeited its post; music shouldn’t do the same. The aloofness and neutrality will not serve. This calls for musicians to be deliberate. The legacy of today’s generation of musicians in regard to marshalling change for their time remains to be written: an occasional listen to the airwaves, however, will get one wondering, if the idea has even crossed their minds.

©Bagenda Remmy

The featured photo sourced from The Observer 

 

 

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BE WARY OF FRAUDULENCE, MY SON

Dear Nteyafa,

Hope this letter doesn’t come as a shock. I have thought of writing these words many a time but life, as you have tasted and can attest to, is mostly cruel with glimpses rather than the fulness of joy. The writing of this letter is a glimpse of joy. Now that I have aged I can look back and say that time has been my friend. I hope now as a man you will discover that all you will ever have on your side is time. It’s the only treasure you will enjoy when you become conscious of your imminent death, as I am presently doing.

Death is not cruel to the dead unless their lives were an illusion while they  lived. Death is cruel to those that stay alive. There is not much the dying can do save for documenting their time such that those who follow will learn something from it.

I have lived in times of plenty, and also in times of scarcity, times where mothers hunted termites to feed the young ones. Art endured through both eras, and we used it to document the passing times. Art in times of famine and in times of plenty is different. In times of plenty, the value of art is not limited to its message, its also made for the entertainment of the soul, for feasts and parties. Art is a reflection of the society, it is the soul of the society. When society mourns, the music that accompanies their grieving reveals the community’s sadness. At that moment, it immortalizes the hero who leaves those he has served. Its by the music that he is forever etched onto the pulse of their heart beats.

You live at a time in which the society that my parents built, can no longer tell the difference between noise and music. Every sound with a ‘beat’ or ‘rhythm’  is called music. What happened to the legacy of genuine musicians whose songs moved men to arms  and others to worship?

How did we get to this place, where the perversion of a woman’s body is  entertainment? What became of you my son? I saw the song you created, that which you called music, the one for which you’ve garnered praise.

You live in a country failing to feed its young and yet your songs remain silent about the theft. I wouldn’t have written this, if society would praise you till your death. The society that applauds your art will be the same society that will condemn you for its ugliness. My son, yours is a trap, get out and breathe once again.

There was a time, a while back, when disease and the fight against it was the subject of every song. It was in men’s hearts, as it was on women’s lips. We mourned our dead in songs, and celebrated our heroes in music created to last memories. Some propangadists used music too, weaving their lies within its truth. You can see to this day, thirty years later, the primitive songs of the bush are still sung to commemorate the day the wolf came upon us. To this day he has become our yoke, our burden.

My son, I have loved you. I have tried as a father does, support and guide you on a path where you will leave a legacy as I will do. It’s similar to the legacy left by the lineage whose gift was the stringing of instruments. But you are neither better nor worse than the betting houses and your hand has been cut short by the seduction of riches. You drown the young in the perverse noise you sell.

This will not make me less of your father but it makes your mother turn in that elaborate grave you funded, on whose very edges we mourned while we buried her. If only you sang sorrowful funeral songs, we would sing each year as we commemorate her.

Your father

 

©Elijah Bwojji

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The Music of Liberty

I am seething with anger because Bobi Wine’s driver, Yasin Kawuma,  was killed by the bullet of a system of government that values votes more than the lives of its citizens. More than the life of taxpayers. The tax payer whose taxes it steals for its shameful and disgraceful survival. After killing his driver, the insatiable and brutal government continued to drink his blood behind the torturous walls of military prisons. And yet in spite of all this, I still believe in the music of life ahead. I still believe that from the actions and efforts of millions of our people persistently standing up for their dignity, insisting on their freedom and continually pushing against injustice, the melodies of peace will ultimately reverberate across the hills and mountains, valleys and ridges of this great country.

 

The man whom the present madness of the state’s oppressive military machinery is targeting is a well-known musician in Uganda and abroad. He’d flapped into stardom upon the wings of music long before these very wings delivered him into the real and dangerous politics of Uganda where one cannot demonstrate. You cannot organize against government policies without bleeding or, worse still, losing the dear ones in the bruising fight for political emancipation.

It was music that helped Bobi Wine to build such a financial base as to be confident of taking on a regime that prides in buying as many of it’s opponents that can be bought. It was music that served as the trumpet for his criticisms of the ills he saw in society. It was music that served as hot meal to a hungry population. In short, it is music that made the Bobi Wine whose political mobilization has won the hearts of many young people as well as the envy and hostility of the government and the military that keeps it in power.

It is fine to hope to sing one’s way to power. It is certainly preferable to killing people as a way of gaining power like the present regime did. Where they shed blood, he is shedding songs. His approach is humane, theirs was beastly.

What is less certain is whether a military regime will tolerate any music once they classify it as aduyi music, and categorize the singer as either a rebel or rebel in the making.

A military regime only wants those musicians who will sing its praises, exalt its prowess, and acknowledge it as the real and only power. The songs that perpetuate their stay in power as they sustain their atrocities are their favorites while songs of freedom are to be silenced and their singers crushed.

For one to ascend on the national stage, and sing that power belongs to the people and that people power is greater than the power of those who wield power is- as far as the military dictatorship is concerned- to call for their overthrow. These songs apparently throw them into a frenzy after all they have lived their entire political lives knowing they are the only power. For the gun babysitters, such songs are treason and the culprits should be sentenced to death.

According to the Generals, no one is supposed to awaken the confidence and power in the people. Dictatorship survives on successfully deceiving people that they are powerless. People who believe that they are powerless are powerless indeed. Those who believe they have power actually have it. It all hinges around what people believe themselves to be.

If people have power, they become rivals of the generals and the latter sense war. They sense a war they want to nip in the bud. They will fight with people, especially, those who make others believe the truth of people power – the power in people as opposed to the power of the people – with everything. If songs engender such a belief, they must be banned along with concerts in which they are likely to be aired. They will fight you in your homes, in the markets, on the streets, and everywhere. They will fight with bullets. They will fight with propaganda. They will fight you financially, your economic taps will run dry.

The way a regime switches its perception of music and musicians, from perceiving them as elements of entertainment to thorns in its political flesh, interests me. As a poet and Human Rights Lawyer, I know people have a right to entertainment and expression of their ideas through music. Such ideas may be praise or criticism; it could be love or politics. It is not for the military dictatorship of this land to tell us what to sing and how to sing. The only lyrics the military know how to compose are those of war.

And because Bobi, like me, believes in artistic freedom, and freedom of expression, he did not mind using his art as the vehicle for delivering his social critique and political messages. It is lovely to sing for freedom. We need songs of freedom, peace and development. The guys who sing with gunshots shouldn’t interfere with those who sing with their mouths.

Of course, our enthusiasm for human rights, human dignity and artistic freedom is not shared by the military. In this country, the military prefer to double as judge and accuser in the bitter and strange mythology they call military justice. Their justice is administered by the accuser and robs you of every effective opportunity for self-defense.

The guitars of change and the trumpets of liberty have come under the heavy and persistent fire of military oppression. One wonders how music became a potential threat to the political designs of Uganda’s military dictatorship? Could it be because music, if told with truth, will find you any where at any time? From the car to the bathroom, from the club to the living room, from party to burial,  music is a perennial companion. Where the political can’t be detached from our common lives, music helps political causes if it is  a call for liberty and inspires every being to reject oppression. The present dance is mournful and melancholic but music reminds us that the future should be a fine and melodic crescendo.

©Kiiza Eron

 

 

 

 

 

 

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IS MUSIC THE VOICE OF GOD?

If you have ever written a poem or drawn a painting, you’ve probably experienced how sound can instantly teleport you into that mental space creative minds call the zone. When in this space, the world around stops and creative juice flows through you like magic dust falling through a sieve into a cup. If you have ever made up anything inspired — a building design, a business plan, a recipe — you have been to the zone.

Do you sometimes wonder how music does it? How the sound of a song you’ve never heard before — just the sound of it — can dramatically change your mood in a way that has nothing to do with the lyrics? One second your ears are striking a chord with the beat, the next, your mind is inundated with pictures and a sense that you can create anything. Vistas open to another dimension where stuff flows out of you as if you were a tap channeling water from a pipe. It’s amazing what you can create in the zone.

There is a certain attunement to sound that comes with being a creative mind. When you hear music you don’t just sway in the waves of its rhythm, you hear something distinctive in the way the instruments play with each other. You pick up how one instrument notes different strokes in the left and right speakers, each note intricately laying over another; and if your ears are keen enough, you can even hear the player’s thumb strum the keys or pick at a string, or their fingers pressing the buttons on the sax. It’s intoxicating.

I have a theory that everyone is born a poet. You either grow up to express it in words, images, or tunes; or you grow up to forget it. Whichever way you wind up, music will always be that thing that takes you back to the place where the poet in you begins. I think that people who give up their creative side become music fanatics because they can simulate the creative process. When your imagination falls into play with the instruments, or travels with the lyrics aboard the sound, a sedate version of the zone takes place. Even the wildest clubber will tell you they have a song which simmers them down when stress steams their kettles to a whistle. Music is therapeutic.

Most creation accounts recorded in ancient sacred texts will tell you that sound was the first creation. I’m particularly enamoured with the Krishnamurti version. According its interpretation of Vedic text, Vishnu opens his mouth to speak when he wishes to create the world, making an ‘O’ sound which then produces light, out of which comes matter. I forget how Brahma comes into the picture but he appears upon a lotus flower floating in the expanse of space, with all forms of matter spewing out of his navel to arrange themselves into the things our five senses recognise as objects.

It’s a fascinating story because several thousand years after that Vedic account was first spoken (some 4000 years before Einstein’s era), the celebrity genius (Einstein) came up with a theory that the universe as we know it is made up of light. Since science still holds that sound travels through matter, is it not rational to conclude that sound comes from a place outside of, or beyond, the universe? Stay with me, this is going somewhere.

Picture, in your imagination, Vishnu seated on his godly carpet somewhere beyond the universe, uttering his ‘O’. Do you see it moving like a beam and hitting some primordial sun (Brahma) then splintering into infinite forms (matter spewing out of Brahma’s navel)?

Incidentally, the Judaic texts (Torah, Bible, Qu’ran) present the first creative act as God uttering a word. The Bible in particular makes God the first literary guru when he utters the words “Let there be”, and creation becomes, though he hasn’t yet won a literary award for originality.

Coincidentally, Science, religion’s foremost critic and nemesis, tells us that the originating act of creation was the “Big Bang”. Apparently, gas accumulated in an unknown primordial sun, causing the atoms within to collide and BANG, a BIG explosion occurred. Said “Big Bang” brought forth random reactions out of which planets randomly formed and life randomly appeared on our blue one, eventually producing fish which evolved into monkeys, which in turn randomly evolved into you reading this piece while tourists take pictures of your cousins in Bwindi.

Do you see the thread stringing these disparate, disagreeing origin accounts together— Vishnu’s “O”, Yahweh’s “Let there be”, Science’s “BANG”?

Every account begins with a sound.

When you read a poem or a novel, or study a painting, a sculpture, or a picture, your imagination will do its flips, but those flips will be purely intellectual. You require some sort of erudition to enjoy the experience because its cerebral. You are consuming with your mind.

Music is different. You could be the daftest human that ever lived or the snobbiest, but when that Michael Jackson beats starts, some part of your body will move.

No art form moves the human being like music. That is why David Cameron will insert a sorrowful tune in the scene when Jack freezes to death in the sea while his lover floats on a piece of wood. He knows you know Jack was made up. He knows you don’t really care about Jack or his spoilt lover. But when the tune plays you will feel sad even though you aren’t. Watch the same scene without sound and you might was well be watching a rat cross your path when you’re too tired to throw something at it.

Nothing manipulates human feeling like music. I suspect that is why all religious ceremonies start with music. It’s a quiet formidable force.

Some years back when I started my first proper attempt at the novel, something happened that marvels me to this day. Writing poetry is like picking fruit: you see a tree with nice fruit, help yourself to some, then go on about your life. No fuss. Writing a novel, on the other hand, is like mining, especially when you’re new to it. Every word is a trip to Earth’s core and back, you need something to keep your marbles in place when you are done with the day’s writing. Mine was music.

I would write in the mornings and nap after lunch, then write again after the nap, and listen to music in the evenings. I happened to be visiting family at the time and my two year old nephew had figured out my pattern so he always flew into the room when the music started playing.

One day, when the music player was blasting Bob Marley, my nephew came flying in as usual. If you are a Wailers fan, you know how wicked their bass guitar and drums can get. You either move or they will move you (Get yourself a copy of the 1976 album Rastaman Vibration, you will understand).

So there I am lying on the bed when my peripheral vision catches a glimpse of this tiny creature whizzing passed the door and flying into the room. At that exact moment, the track’s intro has reached its peak, and the drummer does this roll to cue in the band. When it ends, all the instruments fall in and the beat goes into flight mode. My nephew suddenly brakes mid air. One leg is still in forward motion, the other is planted to the floor. A happy smile forms on his face. And in that impish fashion only kids can muster, he begins to dance the ‘chop-chop’— the classic reggae stroke in which you hop from one foot to the other like a Ganda brewing mwenge-bigere — exactly the way Bob does it in live recordings of him in concert. I don’t know where it came from, the kid had certainly never seen a video of Bob in concert. While his dad is a Bob fan, adulting had supplanted his love for Bob. I was the first to play reggae in their house in the two years since the kid was born.

Before this incident I used to think that people danced to reggae the same way because someone in Jamaica danced that way one day then it spread like a virus. It occured to me that perhaps it was the other way around. Perhaps the music dictated the movements and the dancers unconsciously followed suit. Perhaps every genre of music has its own style and that is why you find people from different ends of the globe reacting to it the same way. May be that is why your head bobs when you hear Larakaka, or why you feel like stamping the ground when Kizino drums start. Perhaps that is why desert music makes you sit and shut your eyes when dancehall makes you jump and shout. The music is driving you.

At that moment I understood why people used to faint when Micheal Jackson took the stage at concerts. Music is the one artform that melts your cerebral power without effort. It’s the effect of the sound. Sound is subliminal.

Our ancestors believed that music was a doorway to heaven. When you played an instrument or sang with your voice (which is technically an instrument by the by), the sound reached into the cosmos and opened a door into the heavens. The spirits, or angels if you like, would then come down and their presence would make people dance. That was probably their way of saying that inspiration (or exceptional creative ability) comes from a place outside of the self, but it was not a concept unique to them. In Spanish tradition, where the English language borrows the term genius from, that moment of sudden inspiration is called genii (a legacy from centuries of being ruled the muslim Moors). When a dancer would shift into  sublime sequence, the audience would clap and shout ‘genii’, acknowledging that some ‘divine’ influence was moving through the dancer.

Many artists will tell you that music plays a prominent role in their creative process. Could it be because music takes them to that place beyond light, where all things start, where creation begins?

© Wobusobozi Amooti Kangere

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THE MENTAL CATARACTS OF THE SNOBBISH LITERATI

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“Read!” say the snobbish literati. Their noses see saw between musty books and the air as they raise their nostrils in disdain whenever they contemplate or chance upon people who do not wish to wile their hours away doing what they do. They lick index fingers and flip pages as they indulge in tall tales or cogitations of people who have made a vocation of day dreaming.

They are not hard to spot, these literati. First sign is usually an indication of poor sight in form of visual aids like thick rimmed spectacles. Their eye capillaries are bursting, a trend that begun from high school where they read after lights out by the aid of a Tiger head powered torch. By their twentieth year, these voracious readers have hit a certain number of books. Their craniums, now heavy,  reel with the knowledge of the human condition, which world literature overwhelmingly agrees is the on brink,  and almost done for. They become disillusioned, pendulating between the deep abyss and states of hallucinogen-induced reveries.

Rejecting all forms of convention(because what’s the point?), they become social outcasts either by choice or the choice of society.

The literati find society grossly apathetic to the putrid brine in which it is immersed; society finds the literati hard to stand with their incessant belly-aching. Cast out, they stand out like sores in their bad ill-fitting clothes, unkempt hair and sad eyes, eyes that have seen things.Soon they find their way to each other and convene in poorly lit rooms, regarding each other with loving sadness through thick plumes of marijuana smoke and ennui. They swap sorrows and flasks of liquor and plan guerilla wars and revolutions to redeem humanity from whatever foe assails it. Capitalism. Yurugu. Woman. Zionists. The Gays and their agenda. Then they plot to write it all down: an expose, or some salvaging solution. They dedicate their lives to this cause only to realize that they have no audience but their fellow enlightened friends. They come to the dim realization that there will be no audience to their pains nor will anyone indulge their panaceas. They realise that society would rather have their eyes extracted with a three-pronged fork from a sigiri than pore over a book. At a loss of how to solve the human condition with the mutton heads who refuse to acknowledge their impeding demise, they sink deeper.

Our literati, who have seen so much and are now plunged into unspeakable misery, occasionally buoy to the top because they have things to say. They don’t care whether you will listen, they won’t take time to understand why you won’t listen, our literati become snobs.

The snobbery of the literati is legitimate. Literature is a full length mirror offering both introspection and enlightenment and it’s difficult to deal with a society that is averse to these things. Socializing with folks who don’t read can also be tedious, deflating and is a task with low rewards.With a few exceptions to the rule, most non-readers are equipped with a perception as narrow as the girth of a drinking straw, the attention span of a fruit fly and a mind only matched by depth of tequila shot glass. It is difficult, extremely  difficult to not be a snob.

However, this snobbery of the literati- albeit well founded- is ironically evidence of their own myopia and perhaps they need thick-rimmed specs after all.

Firstly, its foolhardy to expect the entire world to share the pleasure of reading. It would not be the world, if we weren’t different.

Secondly the literati fail to note that reading itself is a result of privilege. To enjoy literature and hence its fruits, one has to be literate, possess money, have time to expend or a peace of mind. If books have taught the literati anything, they should comprehend that these are luxuries that only a handful can afford.

People who have developed a habit of reading have only done so because they have been cushioned by a privilege that many are yet to acknowledge. You read because fate dealt you an education that came with a home library, or enjoyed the company of kids who were wealthy enough to possess books.  You discovered books because they orbited around you in your upper or middle-class family that could afford to have books and still meet the responsibility  of providing meals.

You discovered books because you were bored out of your mind with few chores to do at home: reading was an alternative to being forced into afternoon naps. Other kids couldn’t have had similar priviledge. Their  hides would be the object of numerous lashings if they were caught in a moment of languid idleness, lounging as if the pots of water would levitate to and from the well. In these homes chores must be attended to: cows don’t milk themselves and the chickens and goats are not potty trained to clean up after themselves.

It’s likely that if one belonged to those households where the menu perennially featured sleep for dinner, one never met a copy of Nancy Drew. With a noose of poverty closing in around the pharynx, they are in survival mode,they have to answer the great question of dinner.

You still read because you are not gathering berries and non-poisonous fungi to eat and are not crawling at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy. You can afford to go to Aristoc and buy Khaled Hosseini’s book whose cost is the annual food budget of a household in Kivulu.

Once I decried the price of books on the internet roof tops, and literati, in typical Antoinette style said:”Why? Buy a kindle so you can access E-Books.”  I cracked up with mirth, amused at the level of detachment and the severity of the cataracts that ailed my kin.Buy a  kindle? You would think they dish them out for free like alms to the literary poor; or they slip them into your outstretched palms without discrimination like the Holy Eucharist at mass.

Modern day let them eat cake.

If you read, you would know the nature of poverty, as a generational thing, as a thing that gnaws not only on stomach walls but the soul as well. You would know poverty deprives one of food, clothes, dignity,serenity, and the pleasure of time to read.

If you truly read you would understand why people don’t read. And that’s the problem with the snobbery of literati: it doesn’t do justice to the reason behind reading. Instead of lifting your face from the book and immersing yourself in life, you  insist on consuming life in garnished forms of art detached from the reality around.

Mubeezi Namuddu

 

 

 

 

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BOOKS, MY BELOVED

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Dear Beloved,

You, for whom the heart aches: the blood rushes through my veins like Kiyira’s waters whenever I see you.  I long for you in ways a desert lacks knowledge of the rain, yet beneath these lashes my eyes dart, avoiding you.

You are what a sad man needs to smile and everything I would ever need if it weren’t for books.

You see, I heard whispers which left me with a chill and with goosebumps on my skin. I heard that you do not read, that you wouldn’t be interested in a man whose conversation and language is about words. I have heard that you my love have never picked up a novel, nor entertained a thought of reading one.

I am man ensnared, caught between my love of books and my desire for you. What woman wouldn’t like words, words penned down for the mind to revel in, and memory to keep? How can a man run wild with a woman, whose imagination is restricted to movies and stage comedy, and is not charmed by words on page?
My beloved, how can I tell you of the Maria’s plight in the fairy-tale? How do I state the depth of my relationship with her? The story of a prostitute with a fairy-tale ending; how might I tell what I liked about the irony? How can I tell you that there lived a prostitute called Maria once upon a time…how can I tell you about the mind of the man who wrote her story?

Books are my joy. With books I travel in the comfort of my bed, savouring the mysteries that lie between the pages. I still recall the storms of the Arctic Circle. I was young then when I first travelled there. I met Throwstone and accompanied him on his daunting quest till he claimed victory and returned home. After my travels, I was as hooked as a fish to a bait. That was in November 2001, the first time I picked up a novel.

I left the cold icy lands of the North Pole, and I went to London where I saw a doctor who had been imprisoned for 18years, and then to Paris, into war. It was there that I heard a man say, ‘’It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.’’ These words summed up the world in which we reside. I heard them and nothing could have been more eloquent. See, I was young then. I had just returned from far places. I was naïve in the ways of men. Yet here were real man, blood and flesh.  I knew little of death. It was right there,having seen death in the French Revolution, that I found myself.

My beloved, love a man who has seen loss and war because he knows what is worth keeping. My heart bleeds for you because you can only know this from books. Books will convince you that a man like me is what you need, and nothing else.

I am a learned man; my travels have been from here to the moon. I have traced the ancestry of the queen of Britain. It wasn’t always the case. My father did not write down anything about his ancestry, so I have never read about him, nor sat around the fire place listening to the stories of my forefathers.

I am a man now, a learned man. Sometimes I feel I am Obi Okonkwo, and that I have returned to village that I left behind, only to find myself uneasy in it. That’s what travels do, they change you.

Have you ever taken an Unexpected Journey, with strangers who became family,who taught you lore from their forgotten homeland? Have you ever gone into a wardrobe and through to the land of talking animals?

I want to take you to the ruins of Moria, to the city of the undead, but its the cinemas, bars and churches that you fancy. I could show you the map to the Treasure Island but you choose series, movies, stage comedies, and prophecies of riches.

And yet, my woman, still, my heart beats for you. Take me as a man whose other half of the heart is given to another. Share me. Share me with words.  Let the warmth of your bossom, as my head leans on it, be captured in words. And I hope, as I write them, you my beloved will read them and feel my love for you.

 

Bwojji Elijah