Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Heart in the Fire

It doesn’t often happen that I meet a singer who renders me wordless with wonder and appreciation. You know making me hit the repeat button over and over. Then I go away and still when I come back, two or three months later, I still find that I want to listen to every song of his that I have. Perhaps that is why I become obsessional and worshipful because it is so rare for me. Like with Biggie, Tupac, and this list is too painfully short. Maybe Jay-Z sometimes. Eminem sometimes but not all the time-his twist can sometimes be truly disturbing and you think you’re in serial killer territory.

But when you said that you were obsessively listening over and over to Bob Marley’s ‘You Can’t Do That To Me’, I totally understood. The song that gets you, that soothes, and on its lean wire frame carries nuances and baggage you cannot bear on your shoulder just now. Want a little rest; see your face reflected in the glass of foamy Club beer. ‘Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye’ by Leonard Cohen was that song for me.

When you look at the total scheme of things, what is a breaking heart but a private matter of little consequence? Six months from now you will still occasionally remember her smile, once in a while hear a phrase she liked using coming from someone—but the wild grief that consumes you now will be more than a distant memory that is not even dignified by a scar that will never entirely be erased from that joint you used to break your fall. The Fuse on Sanyu FM, your transient favourite radio programme, religiously tuning from 8pm-9pm when the house she helped you rent is again yours alone, ghostly in its seeming emptiness, you fill it Nina’s arbitrary music loves.

But even if you know all this is temporary, the pain remains there, it remains real, unavoidable like a woman’s menstrual cycle. It is real to you and you need someone who makes it real, when your own words have faded like parched strugglers in your dry throat. Leonard Cohen was my man then. The song as beautiful and demanding as the title itself, ‘Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye’

I loved you in the morning, our kisses deep and warm,
your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm,
yes, many loved before us, I know that we are not new,
in city and in forest they smiled like me and you,
but now it's come to distances and both of us must try,
your eyes are soft with sorrow,
Hey, that's no way to say goodbye.

I'm not looking for another as I wander in my time,
walk me to the corner, our steps will always rhyme
you know my love goes with you as your love stays with me,
it's just the way it changes, like the shoreline and the sea,
but let's not talk of love or chains and things we can't untie…


Unafraid like you are afraid now asking, “But will I ever be able to love like that again?” while I tell you to stop thinking like a banker, love and your heart is not a bank account from which if you continue to give out your heart, you will one overdraw and become bankrupt. Listen to the wise ones, a heart is the last thing to burn in a fire, you will be fine.Come live in my world a little while, friend.

"I Have Changed My Name So Often..."

This is for the friend who is afraid her phone is being tapped. I wanted to say welcome to the club because some of us have been through the panics and the terrors that control you now from four years ago. Learned that you can never assume that someone is befriending you because they like the way your mind works but because it is a job and they are your personal spy.

We no longer walk without looking over our shoulders, and when we walk in the night, we are sure to be walking in the middle of the deserted road because we know who waits in the dark places. We have learned fear does not let you think clearly but caution keeps you alive to continue the fight. This is why we don’t like to eat in restaurants and if we do, we do not finish the food on our plates.

It is not paranoia that makes us drop out of the lives of the people we love the most for months on end. Love is our greatest weakness and the enemy knows this and uses it against us without mercy. We refuse to hate though we will let misunderstanding reign so they can stay alive, safe in the eggshell of unknowing.

Listening to her, I remembered a song I used to listen to all the time and I still listen to, when I’m weaker on some days, send texts I should not to persons I have sworn should never know these dangers…


"The Partisan"

When they poured across the border
I was cautioned to surrender,
this I could not do;
I took my gun and vanished.
I have changed my name so often,
I've lost my wife and children
but I have many friends,
and some of them are with me.

An old woman gave us shelter,
kept us hidden in the garret,
then the soldiers came;
she died without a whisper.

There were three of us this morning
I'm the only one this evening
but I must go on;
the frontiers are my prison.

Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing,
through the graves the wind is blowing,
freedom soon will come;
then we'll come from the shadows.

Les Allemands e'taient chez moi, (The Germans were at my home)
ils me dirent, "Resigne toi," (They said, "Sign yourself,")
mais je n'ai pas peur; (But I am not afraid)
j'ai repris mon arme. (I have retaken my weapon.)

J'ai change' cent fois de nom, (I have changed names a hundred times)
j'ai perdu femme et enfants (I have lost wife and children)
mais j'ai tant d'amis; (But I have so many friends)
j'ai la France entie`re. (I have all of France)

Un vieil homme dans un grenier (An old man, in an attic)
pour la nuit nous a cache', (Hid us for the night)
les Allemands l'ont pris; (The Germans captured him)
il est mort sans surprise. (He died without surprise.)

Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing,
through the graves the wind is blowing,
freedom soon will come;
then we'll come from the shadows.


No one says it like Leonard Cohen…it is the reluctant revolutionary’s song. If you have the internet, yotube was created so you could hear this.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Getafix, the sky's falling down!

It feels more than strange, actually downright scary, when you find yourself to an extent sympathizing with the people who want you dead. When you know that if they had a chance, like they nearly did last week during three of some of the scariest days many of us have experienced in Kampala, they would very well have killed you. They wanted me and other people who look from western Uganda, are brown, long nosed, and look like they make a lot of money dead, and out of what is their ancestral land.


Still even when I was taking round about routes around Kampala where all the deadly tear-gas action was, when I was first speaking to any boda boda man I was going to use in Runyakole or another western Uganda dialect to make sure they would not lead me into the center of the maelstrom where I would meet a bloody end with a car tire secured around my waist, still I felt like I could understand where the mob was coming from. I was in sympathy though my proffered hand would have been broken had I offered it.


I guess I can see why they would hate this President because he is one of the most cynical, duck-and pretend presidents we have ever yet had. I can understand their outrage that he reneged on agreements they were foolish enough to come to as gentlemen and they thought all along they were dealing with a man of his word, a man whose word is his honour. I know too many people who have learned too late after they had made horrendous sacrifices that he was not that sort of man.


Is it my frustration with the weak kneed members of parliament that pass for politicians in this country? I do not call them representatives because I sure know they do not represent me at all! One of my favourite essayists Gore Vidal once said that politics like journalism is not a profession of the truly intelligent and too few of the truly gifted ever go in for politics. In Uganda’s case, it is sadly, glaringly too true. I digress, and you must be weary of all the sudden seriousness up in here, but there are watershed moments that make a man realize he cannot continue to live like he has lived before. Those violent riots surely were not just a watershed moment for me but I’m certain for many thousands out there in Kampala and in Uganda.


We have a crisis on our hands and they ban the only public forum where ideas can be exchanged and mulled over in radio bimeeza?! We talk about freedom of speech and assembly and no one blinks an eye when radios are summarily closed without proper procedure or anything like that? Does no one become alarmed at the gathering of power in the hands of one very fallible human being who we know is too prone to emotional outbursts? People go out with all intentions of murdering people from another tribe and few eye brows are raised. Instead we all check the expiry dates on our passports, wire more money into our foreign bank accounts and apply for a gun license? Getting ready for a bloodier showdown even as we reassure ourselves no such reckoning will ever come because such things just do not happen in Uganda.


The solution is so obvious it will never be taken by the leadership we are saddled with:- Talk. Go back and remake where the founding of this country was warped. Start to care and go out in the street, demonstrate for what is your right and refuse to be bullied or guilted into giving it up. Stop being threatened by the people questioning what is happening to your country. Regard Uganda as your country and care about how it is ruled, the laws that are passed, what happens to your neighbour. Above all things, believe in something! Believe in Uganda! Refuse to give it up.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Bierce I'm Finding Too True!

One of my favourite writers is Ambrose Bierce. He complied a book called The Devil's Dictionary....let me take just one quote for today...



BEAUTY, n. The power by which a woman charms a lover and terrifies a
husband.