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Can music influence a political revolution in Uganda today?

Can music influence a political revolution in Uganda today?
Ugandan musician-turned-politician Robert Kyagulanyi, commonly known as Bobi Wine, sings in Kampala in 2018. [Photo: AFP]

Yesterday’s defense walls may turn into today’s progress blockades.

African nationalism was left in the hands of charismatic  revolutionaries who upon getting at the helm, rejected all forms of progress and wanted everything centered on them.

Will the choice of Musicians and other artists for political positions turn them into diplomats or music transform society like it did in the past?

A joke is told about a country in Asia which was under British colonial rule. In their fight for independence,  their charismatic leader advised them to defecate every where since the British hated seeing “human dropping”.

Very soon the whole country turned into an open sewer plant. The British could not stand the stench, parked their bags  “shit” was everywhere.

Today the country suffers from “pupu disposal” no amount of education has helped to curb what started as a means to flight for their independence.

Music has been known in history to impact the hearts of the listeners and  carry the message of the musician.

There is a story of a tough Buganda King Mukabya (name meaning oppressor) who was feared by his subjects that it was only the musicians “abalere” who passed on the masses concern through their songs that he eventually got the message, transformered for the better and even changed his name to Muteesa( he who negotiates)

The Jamaicans resorted to Reggae music with lyrics pointing towards call for freedom and redemption.

The South Africans called for freedom during apartheid, their music sold over Africa and caught every leader’s attention then.

The Congolese resorted to music to escape the hardships of Mobutu’s hard rule.

In Uganda, the likes of the Late Baligide carried the message of the NRA/UNLA war and the atrocities it created through his song “agawalagana mu lukoola” the kadongokamu message hidden in Riddles.

The musician passionately carried the message not seeking fame or fortune but desire to communicate.

The recent rise of Musicians to “political stardom”  got many in government panicking.

In a country where fame is considered to be intelligence, a number of performing artists won themselves political positions using the music fame, the voters hoping to see their influence transforming the country.

After the failed attempt at the presidency, Mr. Kyagulanyi Ssentamu also known as Bobi Wine went to the studio to pass on his message of change through music.

However, the dynamics in the Ugandan Music industry have since shifted from carrying messages to entertainment.

Few people are eager to interpret the song lyrics not even listening to them.

At a party, the DJ will play  Don William’s “you got me” at dinner time followed by Judy Boucher’s ” I can’t be with you tonight “  a clear sign that it’s not about the message).

The local TV stations have lunchtime requests, many viewers ask for songs with a  rhythm suitable for evening gym exercise and not a lunch meal.

“Wulira ebaala”, “Sente Nina”, are among the songs played on Valentine’s day in bars, anything to keep their bones shaking” keeps them going.

They prefer paying to listen to songs they know rather than new ones until the radio & TV stations drum them continuously in their ears.

With a young generation desperately “wishing ” for change, don’t either have time for riddles in music or just want the direct confrontational lyrics that are not likely to receive airplay on the local stations.

Some of the musicians on the other hand have turned to the ruling government with expectations of getting at least “bread crumbs” falling off the dining table of “the eating” class.

The other group of Musicians doing the local version of hip-hop music a genre adopted by Black Americans in the late 70s and early ’80s.

It is filled with wrath as the composers found a way to fight back against racism. This soon graduated into gang competition and dirty language.

Ugandans adopted it at its late-stage many preferring to pick the bad side of it of either singing about their assumed “rivals” superiority, looking for quick fame, or attacking enemies the real ones and the assumed ones.

Few have attempted to Go political knowing which side of the bread is buttered and the government likely to pay the Piper, they trade carefully.

The opposition politicians have chosen to take a back seat since any idea contrary to the masses’ beliefs will earn you a title of a  “mole” or government ‘sell-out”.

This has given rise to untamable, bloggers using platforms to dish out vulgarities on TikTok videos all in the name of fighting for change.

Any opposition politician condemning this act, receives similar bitter abuses, music is mostly reserved for entertainment.

While music with a message soon shifts after the change,  other methods just like rebel activities, remain rooted in the society and may take generations to uproot.

Choice of such methods is like farming a wild pig in the ditch it may turn around to haunt you.

While opposition politicians choose to look the other way as agitators of change using foul language, insults all in the name of ” desperate times call for desperate measures, the country risks raising a generation of future politicians who “share insults for breakfast” as a way of driving the point home because music has failed to make the desired impact.

Absolom Lubwama

Contributor, The Postdale Daily

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