Thursday, 17 July 2008

Warriors and Musicians

Mood: Bored
[Toot!] Index: 0.2
Communism Bit: On
Location: Job, of course

[This is my 102nd post. Dedicated to all the girls I've fallen in love with, those I told and those I was too shy to tell, and one of them in particular, who I won't hint at further for fear of making her uncomfortable. Also dedicated to all people who fit in any of the categories of fighters and musicians mentioned below.]

Late eighties, in Uganda. Our hair still smells of gunpowder. You open your windows in the morning, and gun smoke comes rushing in. On occassion there is the salvo of machine gun fire, and mothers rush to herd the young ones under beds, and the men turn the lights down and stroke their clubs and rosaries. This country is covered in bullet wounds, and the hoarding instinct upsets economic advancement. Late eighties, in Uganda. I was there, kids. We had it tough, kids.

We had much of the shit. The Congolese, on the other hand (the hand facing west, for those of you who don't see me), had nearly no shit. Comparatively, I mean. That is a land of tenacious People, the Congo. Did you know that these Western Imperialists halved the population of the Congo by massacre alone? Cut the population in half, literally. Because if your arms are cut off by them Europeans, half you has been cut off.
But in the late eighties, they were riding the orgasmic peak of Mobutu's Authenticité program. Their women, therefore, were round wonders of jiggling beauty, wrapped in their loudly-coloured African clothes. Kuku wa za Banga's corpulent hens. They had it good, the Congolese. They had it good, kids.

So, in the troubled days that were the late eighties, brightness gushed into our country (or just seeped, whatever) from the Congo. As music. It's why I've never understood the relationship between the Congo and Uganda. We love their music and their women. Our generals also love their trees and minerals. But we never hug, ever. Why? "What's wrong with loving one another," Bob Marley asks. "What'swrong with you, my brother?"
Ah, but we played that Congolese music. We played it. Didn't Madilu System serenade our women? Didn't Tshala Mwana arouse our men? Didn't we wail together with M'Bilia Belle? Didn't our Army Band steal Congolese hits and remix them with blood-pumping patriotism? Didn't our guitars go a note higher, too? Didn't we learn Lingala? At least didn't we know that bolingo means "love"?
Kids, love the Congoman. He helped us through them days. The late eighties.

But the early nineties came, as they were meant to. And the school kids had to present something about HIV/AIDS everytime there was a guest to the school. Because the pretense had stopped, you see. We had stood by and watched entire families wave at us and enter the earth, never to return. The Insect was eating up whole towns. Grown men, big and strong, were cut down in midstep. You start a sentence, and before you're done with it you have been eaten by the Insect without eve

It is said that the government was particularly concerned, because the soldiers of its revolution were hit particularly hard. Kids, we started our little attempt to fight The Insect. With nobody to learn from, for we were the first, we marched on. Congoman's music playing behing us, we tried. Philly Lutaya, one of our own musical geniuses, becomes one of the first people in the world to be a HIV/AIDS campaigner. Maybe the very first. He is still the Honorary General of the Fight Against HIV/AIDS, and will always be. So saith I.

Our war had now turned to The Insect. And, down South, our brothers were fighting another war. Against Apartheid. The time had come for all out war, revolution, to restore sanity in South Africa. But the frontline states had become too perilous, too compromised, for the gallant warriors of Umkhonto we Sizwe to base there. So they looked for a brother country farther north, and found us willing and able to host them, fight along with them, and, if it comes to it, die alongside them. And so, they came in. Carrying a gun in one hand and a cassette tape in the other. In the nights, by boat, by car through Tanzania, by plane sometimes, the South Africans came. Their war was won shortly—Amandla!—and some went back. But they left the music and its effect behind. We had heard the songs of South Africa. The songs of those geniuses of harmony. Even the sweaty war songs, like this Umshini Wami (Bring Me My Machine Gun), still refused to let go of the beautiful harmony.
Didn't Lucky Dube spur us on? Didn't Yvonne Chaka Chaka teach us how to dance? Didn't we learn about the more-electronic styles from the South Africans? Didn't Miria Makeba teach us how to find the beauty in the pain?

Shortly, the economy came to life. And music dripped in from the Caribbean islands. And our younger ones learnt how to dance while hopping about like posessed shamans. The beats were solid and a little monotonous. It was called ragga or the like. Our young ones also started singing it. First they played it, then mimed it, then put their own lyrics in, then went ahead to create it entirely from scratch. It is from that music that these boys of today sprung. You kids don't know the history of your country's musical tastes. But that is a good thing. It shows how much distance we've put between us and Those Days. New challenges, new music. I conjecture that from African musical genres alone, one can compose all other musical genres in the World. (For freaks: African music is Turing-complete for music, and maybe for computation itself.)

I hope these big-name artistes jetting in and out of our country are going to have as long-lasting and positive an impact on our music.
(I had to finish this, you see.)


DeTamble said...


I can't believe it! I GOT HERE FIRST!! HELL YEAH BABY!!

DeTamble said...

So, I've read it now and ummm...well.
All I know is that you are the only result Google can find if you search for "Leete Umshini Waamu".
So go you! Putting new information on the web and the such! And I so don't agree with you on the genre thing. We'll discuss this later and you better have one hell of a powerful argument!!

gayuganda said...


I so loved the first part. Lost the thread by the end.

Beautiful writing. It is just me and my short attention span...

Wish you wrote more often. Wish...

Err, was that a lovers tiff deT? So sounded like one. 50 heads of cattle or more?

DeTamble said...

@Bro: No, that was not a lovers tiff :-)

That was me wishing for a return to the old days when he was around to argue with! And once I get to that BHH I will be bringing it up. I'm gearing up for a full blown Comrade/DeTamble hatred session.
Can't Wait!! :D

And yes of course more than 50 heads of cattle!! What?!?! You think I'm cheap?

Princess said...

It's a good thing you added that disclaimer at the end.
Or should I say apology for the anti-climax? :D
Beautiful read upto a point though...

Minty said...

I love this post. Yeah, you did hang the gloves too early but well, you had to end.
We also had the Kenyan music phase that probably came with the education tourists. But now we love everything that comes our way.

Stem said...

27th, I just discovered your blog and I have to say that this was a brilliant post.

I've started a small blog myself; you may be interested, as I'm both red and involved in Ugandan music. Check it:

lulu said...

hahaha for the dedication!

lulu said...

why dont you write for the papers start a column on idle notes or something, coz this is a Grammy award winner blog,...

even steven said...

interesting look back in time. and yeah, i think you hang up too soon.

Mudamuli Ntikita Ntikita said...

I really love this post so much and especially the introductory part “…dedicated to…and one of them in particular, who I won't hint at.”

Now it’s to figure out who she is.

DeTamble said...

Maybe it's Antipop...

Joshua said...

damn, i love your prose, bro!

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