Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Muslim & a non-drinker at Sax Pub

My favourite bar in Kampala is on Kampala road, and on the balcony, where I always insist on sitting when I’m there, at least twice a week, sometimes more, I can watch the Constitutional Square. The one which most people like to call City Square. I have seen more old friends crossing that road to get into taxis than Facebook has ever enabled me, had more temporary crushes there than I would like to acknowledge and though it is a simple bar open to all, I choose the company I go with there carefully because it is been a long time since a spot in Kampala became sacred to me. Almost four years since I could no longer go to that bar that looked out to the Railway station because it closed, in those Larkin-quoting days.

At Sax Pub on Kampala road, the waiter knows I like my Tonic with a lemon and I do not have to come with one in my trouser pocket like I sometimes have to in other places. The waiter does not ask me to order with cash, which actually is pay cash before you can get what you wish to drink. Best of all, he will not hover around distracting me, rudely reminding me that now I’m done with my drink or food, I should vacate my table. I have heard many dreaming afternoons at Sax Pub, sometimes on my own, often with company but not until this past Tuesday had I ever dared bring someone there I was not so sure of. I took a chance on this company and my head’s still spinning.

I’m almost certain that you have not heard Abakyala Bazira. Abakyala Bazira by Jamal. 2008 was not a great year for Ugandan music and the only highlight I remember was hearing the rhyming flowing prowess that is GNL Zamba. 2009 is going to be a fantastic year for Ugandan music. I have heard three young musicians on the cusp of capturing mainstream Capital FM Radio kind of attention and equally appeal to the exclusive clubbishness of Sanyu FM Radio sing and Jamal is my bet that he is going to the biggest of the three.

Do you remember the feeling you first heard when you heard for the very first time Brenda Fassie’s Mama, or Bobi Wine’s Taata wa bana yani or Lord Knows Ngoni’s Nasima Gwe? The thrill, the excitement, the throat gripping sweep of the emotion in the song, the unbelievable euphoria that you were alive and able to enjoy this? Abakyala Bazira knocked me the fuck off my seat like that!

Yeah, I know, you might have heard his Obawuwo that is getting quite some airplay and maybe Anavawa But you have not heard Jamal until you have listened to Abakyala Bazira. This non-casino goer has been made a betting man by Jamal!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Curve Ball

"Tell me, where is CHOGM?"

Nuwa Wamala-Nnyanzi, Fine Artist

Tuesday, 20th January, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Jesse McCartney-Leavin'

It’s been a while since I loved a song, got the video after the MP3, featuring it top of all my Microsoft Windows Media player playlists and when my computer had glitches, dashed to Wandegeya intent on purchasing the highest quality possible DVDs to ensure I saved it before I took the computer for an overhaul. In my case which often means everything is deleted and I have to begin over again, somehow the kind of Internet viruses I attract often leave the defunct anti virus mechanisms in place panting for retirement.

The last song that inspired this kind of awe, this kind of love, and turned into a whole album worth of great tunes was Bleeding Love, falling hard for that song in a little Juba internet café I used to frequent for the incredibly fast connection Kampala has yet to get and the obscenely witty owner whose idea of a drink was an Overmeers can of wine, Friday night to Sunday morning partying. Bleeding love on the flat screen opposite my preferred internet café seat, the montage on screen replayed everyday before my eyes as I saw love and lust confused-blooming, seeing last chance hopers tumbling off the Nationdit buses that plied the Kampala-Juba highways, the hopelessness of the muck-shoe swallowing of Konyo Konyo Market with denizens relieved to be lost in a part of the world that did not exist on any geological maps, through these hells in the dysfunctional wonder of our black Rav 4 revving.

I have not loved a song, a singer even, since all those months ago. A year it is coming to almost. Guilty admissions in-perhaps not allowed myself much to care, or love—still learning to live with the stranger who slipped across the border with me that July Sunday panicked flight back into Uganda, and all the dishonuor and honour. Battling the baying for blood demons that came with me, my fear turning to coruscating rage-Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde battling, no longer a danger to myself only, Jinja-riding on a boda after 11pm—only her tear-stained face bringing back from edges I was determined to scramble down, scrapped and bleeding knees ignored. A bad time I did not want to consciously go through and began to undo all I had painstakingly created, confidence and ego gone.

“Man, I’m gonna put my money where my mouth is.”

It was Usher Love in this Club without you, Entebbe nights when I was in town and you did not know, frenetic clubbing nights that failed to induce desired delirious unconsciousness, mirror-staring in the toilet cubicles starting the journey back. Beginning over in all sorts of ways, finding forgiveness when it was least deserved, that the unlikely recovery began. But something still missing. Till this Sunday, you Kampala-going alone, I sauntered over to Kenneth, the video-lib guy with a stuttering crash on you who amuses you with his fumbling in your presence, found Jesse McCartney-Leavin’—video and song perfection.

All kinds of firsts tumbling through. The first wonder being how I could on a Sunday noon when I was going to be home alone with that temptress next door, I was borrowing music videos, not having found any music worth listening to for months—the old classics appeal stale. Wonder 2, two weeks since I gave up the coffee my fingers tingling to flow with an onrush of inspired wordage and doubting it would be yet another flat squat, strolling up from The African Village bar that neighbours Kenneth in the Entebbe sun and this is my town once again, in the comfy blue tee-shirt the woman who has appointed herself your Senga has asked you who it belongs to. Wonder 3, not since Timmy T’s One More Try and R. Kelly’s Slow Wind and to an extent Justin Timberlake’s What Goes Around song and video watching and simultaneously listening to a song, poppy, and loving it and knowing that a year from now I will still want for sentimental reasons to listen to it again, white boy with a near Jay-Z swagger, this is how to win the girl of your dreams.

“Just tell him you’ve found somebody who does it better than he can.”

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pause for Thought-Seriously

"The volunteering spirit is not dead in Uganda. The little time I have worked with people, I have found that people want to give. People want to help so much. Especially the women. All the people want is accountability for where their money has gone. Is the money going to where they want it to go? Going to do the right thing? I have found so many women who want to help fellow women. As long as you are not dubious in the way you do things, people are willing to help.”

Abbey Mukiibi (Tuesday, 13th January, 2009)

Film actor, CBS FM program director, radio presenter, drama group founder

Monday, January 12, 2009

Days With You

I thought I knew what I was doing but you have no idea what that last weekend together in the gardens did to me, did for me. I have known many perfect moments. I have been a hunter for them. But I never expected a perfect day like the day you gave to me. Before I left, when I was not sure if I would be able to come back, and though you did not say you knew, the day you gave me made feel like somehow you too understood the chances I was taking and the odds I was going to go up against.

I did not tell you I was afraid. Right up until the day I left, I’m quite sure I showed no weakness. I know you hated it but I would not talk about it. I would not let you ask what you wanted to ask the most, question though was in your eyes all the time, and I could see it when you were folding my shirts, instructing me what I would have to do to make sure that they would not look so creased when I got to them wear them, you were so sure I would not bother to try and find somewhere to iron them. There would be no dobbis where I was going.

Leaving the next day, a week day, I had a day at home to myself I did not want to spend at home so when you had left in the morning, I also left for the gardens, to look at the lake once more, sure in my aloneness, planning for the loneliness to come, and the madness of what I was going to do and would have to do and whose dangers I had minimized so you would all let me go, because I knew I would have to go. It was just something I do.

You will never know the welling in my heart when looking over my shoulder, I saw you coming along the path to where I was seated, in those blue jeans I loved on you, and the blue jumper with pink puffs I gave you. Doing something I had never thought you would ever do because I knew you, I thought, as well as you knew me- “I asked for a day off,” right in the middle of the busiest season at your office, which you loved so much, to spend this day with me.

I wanted to say thank you for our last weekend and then coming back Monday to spend another day with me. Thank you for rice sorting jokes in the evening dark with no electricity, seated on the carpet in the doorway. Thank you for that silly chicken dance to my phone ringtone. What you said after we watched that ridiculous Jennifer Love Hewitt-Peter Nicholls If Only movie. The blue tee-shirt. Not minding about your lip gloss. Thank you for the gift of you and our weekend. A whiter shade of pale by Annie Lennox. I knew I would be coming back then.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Love and the Writer

He is not my favourite writer of all time. He is even close to the league of the Ernest Hemingway’s, F. Scott Fitzgerald, those guys who I cannot go a month through without at least desultorily reading a page. A writer who has written some lines, like Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Illyich that make some scenes indelible that they keep recurring in my mind from time to time and I puzzle over them like some people puzzle over some passages in their favourite book in the Holy Bible or Quran. He is not that kind of writer.

But he is a writer, for a brief while, I loved passionately. Some mad months of intoxication when I could not get over the ‘banging’ stylishness of his solitary novel and read it, mused on the title and read it again, totally enthralled. I read his book in adulthood so he was no teenage infatuation like his one novel is often defined as a teen classic, favoured book of teenagers at an age before they learn that you cannot live with your ideals intact as you advance further and get entangled with the messy thing called life.

He became 90 this January 1, and though in December 2008 I had long planned a quick pleasure jaunt through The Catcher in the Rye, my copy remains on my shelf unread almost two years now since our last encounter. I still cannot understand how I used to love this author’s work so much. I have been wondering too about the writers we love, read everything they have penned and the interest becomes so much so you want to know what they were like in real life.


I know Mark Twain liked to write with a fountain pen. I know the brand of cigarettes Fitzgerald used to smoke. Honore Balzac was a coffee addict and his manuscripts have the round bases of the cups he used to drink his intensely black coffee in. I know things like that about so many of the writers I have read and loved and then gone as far as trying to own an omnibus edition of their work. I own quite a few of those. The first I owned being James Joyce’s, capping a dream ending to my secondary school education, I bought it the very day I wrote my last exam on Kampala road, walking a friend somewhere I have no memory of now.


A friend once told me that he did not want to know anything about an author apart from the work the author deemed worth publishing. He was not interested in what is his favourite designer label, is there a mini series he looks forward to each season the TV companies unleash the latest seasons and he damn well did not want to know what his favourite author looks like. I suspect the cringe factor emanated from a fear of being let down once he met an author he had idolized and put high up on some pedestal.


Salinger is 90 and there is little chance I will ever meet him. I would have loved to meet him and even if I do not think The Catcher in the Rye is as great a book as I once held it, I still would have liked to commend him on excelling in the difficult art of writing catchy titles. Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters remains up there with some of my favourite titles be it a song, movie, painting or short story title.

Happy birthday, Salinger! You may never read this but for some months a few years back, you were tops with me!