Mood: Military-riddim mood
[Toot!] Index: 0.00001
Communism Bit: On
I’m listening to a song that is painting grim, pale images against my frontal lobes. (I have them, the frontal lobes, even though evidence is lacking.) Prospekts March is quite strong as a song. War poetry—in general, war art—grabs my mind and takes it prisoner. Coldplay, woo-hoo! Guy’s bass guitar is like a child who cries with eyes wide open: loud, offensively-emotional, and not ashamed of it. There is a line there that makes me think the song should be played on a slow-motion version of the last moments of El Ché. Here I lie on my own in a separate sky, here I lie on my own in a separate sky. I don’t wanna die on my own here tonight, but here I lie on my own in a separate sky. The mournful panic in the mind of one who no longer feels his legs, and notices that the silence means his only companions are the newly-dead; the only case where peace after battle is not a good sign. Enemies lie embraced almost sexually—but they are dead.
The Trusty Proof-Reader has a collection of war poetry, including Flanders Fields and Drummer Hodge, which is terse and cold. Even the funny pun (punny fun) it scored in History Boys didn’t numb the decidedly-lonely situation of a soldier burried on the battle-field. But songs, though they are poetry, don’t feel the need to use very elevated language and render themselves too difficult for all but a few. Songs expect the cosmetic effect of the beats to overlay the absence of sonorous language and end up simpler for my mind, yet remaining word-based art. (I'm one of those for whom We few, we happy few, we Band of Brothers remains a bit less-evocative than any of Sgt. Kifulugunyu's songs.)
There is this other war song, James Blunt singing, called No Bravery. He is a soldier, that James, so his lyrics are worth paying attention to. Brothers lie in shallow graves, fathers lost without a trace, a nation blind to their disgrace since He's been here. [...] All men need to accept their fate, wives and daughters cut and raped, a generation drenched in hate says He has been here. While these ones tend to busy themselves with painting the sober, sombre, so-bad picture of the aftermath of battle, they have necessary offsets coming from the other end of the gunfire.
The strongly-optimistic, heart-pounding thumps of war songs. Urging all to battle, singing of the inevitable victory. This is a delicate matter, you know. Every soldier more than seven years old knows about the cold realities of war: we could lose. So it is incumbent on the herb-levitated mind, floating above our own clouds of reality on clouds of cannabinoids, elevated, high enough to compose songs about the victory that can’t help come our way. We need these songs, you see. War songs are pretty much the cannabis of the army. The necessity, therefore, of being high to write the war songs is so that we can have someone to start this highly-necessary, highly-delicate transitive property of war songs.
Bob Marley, being a revolutionary, was pre-occupied by struggle. And his struggle was in his future; his struggle is in our future. Have you heard War, by some chance? And we know we shall win, ‘cause we are confident in the victory of good over evil, yeah.
Military culture generally doesn’t keep credits on the army songs. But here is a story for you, about the guy who composed Sisi Tuko Tayari (We’re Ready); and the lack of a name in the Credits section is only due to the fact that his name was never really known.
In 1978, when General Idi Amin Dada (FM, VC, MC, DSO, Al-hajj, CBE, BDoA, ETC) was toppled, Jeshi la Tanzania generally used the route through Masaka. And wherever they met resistance, they mowed it down like they were fighting for their own country. Masaka was a victim too, and some buildings, forty years after the shots, still have the wounds in them. (It’s surprisingly-difficult to paint bullet holes over.) The unintended effect of the attack vector that the JT took is that they walked where the rebels had walked years before (in the first attempts to over-turn Idi Amin, which were comic failures).
So, here is a JT infantry soldier screaming in KiSwahili for his mates. They come and gather in a thick circle. Human bones and clothes and a gun. The isolation and the gun’s presence indicate that the soldier had died of bleeding from a bullet wound, and some distance away from the centre of fighting. The leader of the JT pack advances and opens a green box that the dead soldier had with him. The rebels had no real doctors on the first attempt to over-throw Amin, and they trained some in simple first aid, and gave them first aid kits that were insufficient, anyway. This skeleton seemed to indicate such a one. His back is against the tree, and his hand holds a plastic biro. He had died writing, it seemed. Examining the first-aid box revealed bandages and syringes and some expired pharmaceuticals. There was the single half-smoked spliff of khaya, which indicated (amid soldier chuckles) that our good departed friend had been into getting high. It’s when the stack of papers (that was given to all such “medical personel”) was opened that the magic happened.
It is in the interminable nights of waiting for the firing to start, of waiting to go back home and “redeem our daughters”, of manning the night look-out, of enduring the vanishing of friends and realising that they had lost hope and deserted the dream, of realising that the odds were squarely and solidly against the rebels, that mind and pen melded in a near-sexual union and birthed a loud, singing child in the form of war lyrics. The columns had been meant for noting casualties and medicine amounts expended and such medical minutiae. Our doctor overthrew that old unimaginative order and cut lyrics into the paper. Taking care to note the beats and tempos, and even what band instruments may or may not be permitted where, the doctor/rebel put together an inspiring demonstration of musical genius with war songs that could even feature as raunchy erotic songs (in the right context, of course). One of the songs, though dishonest to the reality of the rebels at the time, came to be the favourite war song ever in the history of the Ugandan armed forces—Sisi Tuko Tayari.