Saturday, March 18, 2006

and now a little something different

General Mega Dee is one of the most amazing artists we have around. Stop staring. I know. I never speak like this about anything local but... it's not everyday I'm grouchy. A secret, sometimes even I are impressed. And the more I listen to Mega Dee the more I have been impressed. This is not based on a glancing acquaintance with his oeuvre. This is from many late coffee fueled nights and morning hangover moments of illumination and Saturday afternoons in bed...okay, I was a bit distracted over there. But Mega Dee was there all these times. Mega Dee is one of those Ugandan singers who has truly been the soundtrack to many Ugandans' lives. Let me show you how.

This guy born as Amos Kigenyi 26th June 1976, orphaned by the time he was 14 with a military fascination because his late father was a career policeman is the guy responsible for one of the unofficial Makerere University anthems. The ones that have Makerere dons frowning disapprovingly and rowdy Wandegeya setting on fire students high on being young. Mega Dee doesn't claim to have originally written it. Okay I should say that again. Being a Northcorte government student exiled in Nsibirwa hall, Mega Dee was one of the more enthusiastic singers of the dirtier version at sports events, usually football matches that ended with both sides scampering for cover under the assault of flying beer bottles and stone missiles. The idea came from there. The song am talking about is of course Lwa lumu kubiri. Yeah that one. Close your mouth. General Mega Dee put that baby together in a studio broke as a mufarring student in one of the most celebrated Ugandan musical partnerships with Kira College Butiki, Jinja friend Menton Krono.

I was a kid lost and hanging out with backstabbing bastards meaner than any you'll ever meet in Kisenyi getting blind drunk before it was even before 4:00pm to stagger home to a sorrowful mother. It wasn't like that. It wasn't sad like that when it was happening. It was fun, it seemed like a grand lark majorly because of a small bar in whose rusty recorder was stuck a self rewinding General Mega Dee tape, his 1999 piece of brilliance. There's a sweet story Mega Dee tells when he's in the mood about an uncle who threw everything over, his education, his talents, his self respect to concentrate on a career of drinking and Brehan entertaining poker faced, feet dragging waitresses because as he explained to Mega Dee's dad exasperated everytime he had to open the gate for him after 3AM, "We'll all be choir singing boys in a heavenly orchestra soon enough and we won't have time for a beer, isn't that punishment enough?"

Yes, am talking about that song that probably first gave you a clue why your stern father became a sweet smiling Buddha when that Johnny Walker bottle was halfway gone, and approachable in the dark of the sitting room. Oh yes, "in heaven there's no beer"! I do a little jig as I write this. Only lately have I have found out that it's from his 1999 album Nzendeka. Holla!

After all these years General Mega Dee can still produce songs that make you play his music 'til your tape pops. Cliché alert! Mega Dee is one of those singers you have to see perform on stage before you die. The studio quality is what you get on stage. There are two greats on the 2005 Kalibu Afande offering, Ngawalaba and Wanchawa. It's just possible that I have been less than in depth. Lemme go pilfer this guy's entire discography!

Saturday, March 11, 2006


where did i read this? oh yes, some review of movies, a reviewer driven beserk by the glory of a movie she watched. yes, so crazy was she over the performance of her fav actor in the movie, a movie like she was the only one among her peers saw that she enthused that in that movie that actor outdid himself, he was taking the reviewer and any watchers on a trip, "a twisted mind fuck!"

she was not exaggerating. some performers do that to you. watch nearly any marlon brando film, hwoever bad and atrocious the script, the fellow actors, brando is dangerous for one. he is the supreme manipulator. what did 2pac say in some song of his, those dark odes to death? "in my lyrics is a universe" i think or close to that bombast. except it wasn't bombast. a whole world, we are talking william blake can be in a grain of sand...

kelis is a genius. she is. i don't know why she is shackled to that Nas guy all this time. okay, so he is god's son or something. i understand. but i have never listened to a kelis song and not kissed even for a micro second even when i did not like the song a tincture of sublimity. she takes you to places with that voice, unmatched, uncopyable, she is one of an orginal.

i find myself listening to kelis, well what can i say, i never give this privilege to just anyone, mind...i can't say it. i think kelis is going to be like the fourth singer of all the tapes and dvds i own whose work am going to fork out my own money and buy. that's how incredible she is. like for example, dracula's wedding, that song she did with those outkast guys. outkast for talent are very much out there. i mean think outkast, think scores that swing wildly off and beyond the 1-10 scale. and in dracula's wedding, outkast are performing like their whole world depends on this song. after this song is over, the permian extinction. that's the passion thrust into the delivery. do you get what i mean? they are out there. far out!

yet here is kelis, with what seems minimum effort, gliding beyond their efforts, matchless. she makes that song. try and imagine someone else singing in that song other than kelis. for me it's a scary thought. who can say, "because i make great peanut butter and jelly sandwiches" and it is not just sexual inneundo? it is that and more, so much more! there's an old jazz term they used to use to describe exceptional performers. i always found its meaning when it was used in relation to billie holiday, the broken hearted wisdom tone in her voice, saying what made billie stand out was how she interpreted lyrics. they maybe cliched and stupid but from her smoke charped lips, and her husky whiskey voice of barely suppressed torment greater poetry was never written or ineffable moments created. kelis is like a young billie, not yet hurt, not yet damaged, but with all her gusto and openfacedness, you know, like a railroaded train she is on the way to the places billie went to...

maybe it's because i'm writing this listening to kelis at the same time. maybe that's the real reason. maybe, but....

"I wait my whole life to bite the right one Then you come along and that freaks me out So i'm frightened..."

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Every critic has his Casualties of War. A movie so fine and terrible at the same time. A movie that has a critic, blasé usually, out of his chair screaming advice into the director’s ear not to take a fatal turn from what has so far been breathtaking the helpless critic in agony sees coming. A movie full of so many wonderful possibilities the critic is robbed of impartiality and more than the director wants this movie to succeed. Casualties of War is that movie for me. Was that movie for me.

I have watched many Viet war movies. Too many perhaps. Born on the Fourth of July (total shit), Full Metal Jacket (whathefuck, that was it??? Oh, that is what it was about…), Hillburger Hill (death to the generals!), Apocalypse Now (they said Brando was in this thing, when is Brando coming on?), The Killing Fields--a cheat, but falls in the same field (awe), We Were Soldiers (Goddamn it Gibson, stop messing with my tear ducts!).

But I have never watched a Viet movie like this. I’m still trying to get over it. I think critics never talk about this movie because of all the accusatory movies made about Vietnam; this is the one movie that really makes them ashamed of what they did. This is the one. This is the one. I’m not easily shook. I was shook. I’m still shook.

Often I can spot before the director can sneak up on me his motives, often the intention to stuff a ‘generational binding’ quote in the mouth of a character. Fans of those movies above will complete even before I begin quotes like, “What we have here…is a failure to communicate.” But Casualties of War for days had me repeating things like, “I’m armor-plated mouthfucker, I can’t die!” or at inappropriate moments Sean Penn shaking his rifle, “The army calls this a weapon, but it ain’t. (Grabbing his bulging crotch), this is a weapon! This (the rifle)…is a gun. This (crotch) is for fighting, this (gun) is for fun,” and “Ye though I walk through the valley of evil, I shall fear no death, because I’m the meanest mouthfucker in the valley.”

Deliberately I haven’t watched many Sean Penn movies for many reasons. Sean Penn is a fine actor but for me not a diverse one. It is a curse and a blessing that one of the first actors I ever watched was Marlon Brando. In Casualties of War, Penn is a Brando imitator (he fails like all the actors who have tried) but the rage is all his own. Casualties of War is a movie of rage. The first half is.

There’s a terrible sin at the heart of Casualties of War waiting for you. Today I have to deny you. Dear reader, I’ll not tell you what that sin is. To tell you would be to ruin a rare cinematic experience you may not have had yet. I will let you find it yourself.