Monday, February 28, 2011

Ugandans writing get online forum

Uganda and Kampala especially, is full of start ups. We may have (according to some statistics) one of the highest rates of small business failure, with a majority not making it beyond their first year. But that has not dampened the entrepreneurial enthusiasm of Ugandan start ups. 

When it comes to comes to the cultural field, jumping into a music career has been the first choice. Who can blame a young, poor Ugandan with a modicum of musical or dramatic talent trying their hand at a music career? The riches of the lucky few musicians who have “made it” like Jose Chameleone, The Eagles Production band, Bobi Wine etc make it seem like the ‘easiest’ artistic path to fabulous riches. 

That though has not prevented start ups in other cultural fields in Uganda. Stand Up comedy being the newest kid on the block, when it comes to the greatest number of start ups. Since 2009, nearly every night club or bar that tries to attract the young, corporate Ugandan crowd has hired a comedy outfit. Apart from the pioneer Theatre Factory and its break away faction, Fun Factory, the best known of the new ‘breed’ of comedy ensembles has got to be ‘The Krackers’ who sometimes spell their name ‘The Crackers’. 

Now it seems this start up mania is spreading to the writing arena of the cultural field. Where the Beverley Nambozo Poetry Award was the lone entrant in the field since 2010, now interest in proving Uganda to be far from the literary desert it once was declared to be is picking up. The Lantern poets group that used to meet at Nationalk Theatre threw down the challenge to have an active readers group outside of the traditional FEMRITE organised one. Soon after inspirational writer and Jack of all trades, Bake Robert Tumuhaise with his World of Inspiration Company also started writer mentoring classes that have to his surprise become quite a hit. 

Kenya may have beat Uganda to it with kwani? But it looks like Uganda is getting its own website in the form of Uganda Writing. It’s in the early stages, but it sure looks promising, and the founders (who have talked to this blogger) take their writing quite seriously. Let’s just hope not too seriously to fail to see the humour in ‘things’. Nevertheless, worth a visit, if writing is your thing, and you are curious about Ugandan writing.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Uganda After February 18th 2011...First Thoughts

I meant to write something long about the just concluded February 18 elections we had in Uganda but I’m ill-ish, and besides that, some of the thoughts I have, I’m still hesitant to put down in words. In print. For print, words, once let out, with your seal, never quite die. They can lie in archives, for decades, waiting. About these elections...a few thoughts. 

1.     I was stunned, perhaps like some of you, by the margin of ‘defeat’ handed to the opposition, and especially to IPC’s Dr. Kizza Besigye, not that I’m a supporter of the Forum for Democratic Change. Such a margin of ‘defeat’, NRM’S 68.28% to IPC’s 26% cannot be very good because it only increases the arrogant confidence of the NRM leaders in believing they can ignore the other 26% who did not vote for them. They are the minority, snooty and up tight, unable to see “the vision” clearly. 

2.     Many observers, commentators, and those with interest in change in Uganda believe IPC’s defeat is possibly the end of Dr. Besigye’s political career. Indeed the during Dr. Besigye’s first post election press conference at FDC’s Najjanakumbi’s offices showed a woe be-gone man, a defeated man, a shattered man who could not believe the what had just happened. There was little of the fighting spirit that we once knew, one that could have him declare, “Kayihura!” wagging a threatening finger at the Inspector of Police of Uganda, who was a former Bush War comrade. But I don’t think IPC or Besigye are the biggest losers in this election. I think the Democratic Party, that once people’s party, the party with one political martyr all Ugandans unreservedly admire (Benedicto Kiwanuka) were the biggest losers. That this party which once ruled Uganda pre-independence, and is widely believed to have won the rigged 1980s election could reach the nadir of getting zero votes in some areas was humiliating, shocking, unbelievable to me. As some Norbert Mao opponents had alleged, the DP started dying the day it could not hold an uncontested internal election for DP President. Personally I think it started dying the day its former President Kawanga Ssemogerere would not hand over the party to younger DP members in the 1990s...but that is another story all together. The performance of DP in these elections leaves it a Facebook political party almost, to me...

3.     I’m coming to the rather frightening realisation, unwelcome even, that President Museveni has no intention at all of ever relinquishing the seat of Presidency in Uganda. Not peacefully anyway. There was a little seen interview, in I think The Observer newspaper of Uganda, where he all but admitted that in 2016 (when the next Ugandan elections are due), he is willing to go on (If the people still need him...) Don’t even bother falling in line to wait....have other ambitions, but not for the seat of President of Uganda...

4.     I’m more worried than ever where Uganda is headed. With a government that functions around one man, who must make every decision (not because his ministers and civil service is incompetent, but because he wants it that way), he is mortal, he is getting into his 70s, he cannot keep up all that energy to be all. What will happen when finally he breaks down? But even before that, President Museveni seems completely unaware of modern dangers and challenges we face. Like global warming and how that in part is brought about by the complete disregard for catering to environmental needs, protecting our green cover, enforcing laws that prevent the destruction of wetlands, all this Museveni seems completely oblivious to and as a consequence Uganda is galloping towards Sudan heats and thirsts. 

Like I said, just a few thoughts, for now. I’m tired, I’m ill. I will be better soon. But I would like to know what you think.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Uganda After February 18th 2011

I was watching UBC’s Good Morning Uganda Show before I came into Kampala today morning and I’m so glad I did. A random caller, someone whose name I did not get, and who I struggled to follow (because he called in speaking Luganda, a language I understand to a point) clarified for me, probably what is on the mind of every Ugandan right now. How will we wake up on Saturday 19, February, 2011? Will we even have had a chance to sleep the night before? What will happen when Uganda’s Electoral Commission led by Dr. Badru Kiggundu, on Sunday 20th February, announces the winner of the Presidential elections as Mr. Yoweri K. Museveni? (Do I hear a scoff about that? Do you actually believe that IPC’s Dr. Kizza Besigye might win the contest? He might, but I cannot fathom Dr. Kiggundu announcing anyone other than Mr. Museveni as the winner. It is just beyond the realm of possibility, even science fiction.) But we all have a sneaking suspicion that if this was a free and fair election, conducted strictly according to the rules, Dr. Besigye might have had a fighting chance in it. It is this suspicion that makes many a Ugandan wonder, what next after Friday, February 18, 2011? Will Dr. Besigye, and his millions of supporters, sit back and let this election go, for the sake of peace in the country? 

The caller on the UBC Good Morning Uganda Show was not replying to that concern directly. His interest was broader. He is probably a father, a husband, an employer or an employee to whom peace means he can continue to provide a living, however meagre, for all those who depend on the sweat of his brow. They are dependants who will, after failing to convince him not to go out and vote, will try to maintain constant phone contact with him, while he is away from home. Urging, pleading with him, after casting his vote, to return home immediately. Not stay and converse with other voters, perhaps ‘guard’ his vote, or simply be a witness. 

In the furnace heat of our paranoia, our fears, our worries, cheek in palm pondering; this caller reminded us listeners and watchers of an essential, a fundamental, something that will not change and we will all be glad it has not changed. This caller appealed for all of us to remember, “Uganda is not ending on February 18. Uganda will still be here after Friday. Vote wisely, vote responsibly, don’t let elections disorganise our country.” 

I have been half hearing that message from all sorts of politicians, who say it in interviews to crouching journalists around a press conference table in a hotel in Kampala and then out of Kampala, at a rally say the exact opposite. I was not paying attention. But somehow when I heard this caller, this common man, almost anonymous, I listened.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Spirit of Africa!

I should love to meet this photographer (alas! I did not take this one...) and better still, I would love to learn from these little guys to preserve this spirit! 

Big Tym go a little bit more big time

Big Tyme
A few months back, on a visit to Sylver Kyagulanyi’s studio in Ntinda, this blogger bumped into a group of three young singers rehearsing in the compound. Crowded under a palm tree from the searing afternoon heat, on the grass, they were playing wistful tunes on the guitar and then writing out some lines on crumpled pieces of paper. I was instantly struck by their voices. Came to learn they called themselves Big Tym. 

Actually, I should have recognised them instantly because they had a ‘big’ song for starters in the industry. Only that their ‘big’ song, many of us thought belonged to then the sensation of the town, Rabadaba in 2010-Sofia. The song was Sofia, and the these Big Tym guys were hat wearing, cowboy posturing guys whose antics distracted a listener from actually ‘hearing’ their voices. 

It was not until that fortuitous afternoon and later with their Apple song, that Big Tym suddenly became big time with this blogger. Their uniqueness made it easy to resist calling them Uganda’s version of Boyz II Men or some other such crooning boy group. Though they have female stalkers and they are far from bad looking. 

It is no surprise then to learn that the Big Tym guys have finally landed another coveted notch on the way to being Ugandan musical stars: a night of their own at an entertainment joint. Big Tym can now be heard every Wednesday night at Spot After, which is in Ntinda, after KK Health club. Their first gig in the joint was actually on Wednesday, 9th February, 2010. 

I’ve learned from their manager that they are definitely planning bigger things. I’ll keep you all updated! 


Ks Alpha joins the Ring tone business

Surely if many enough people are doing it, there must be a way they are making money off of it. Or maybe it’s just a way of forestalling being cheated? Ugandan dancehall musician Ks Alpha is the latest to join a long line of artists to join the bandwagon of partnering with a telecom company to sell ring tones of his songs.

Ks Alpha’s choice of telecom to do this is Airtel (better known as former Zain, after it was former Celtel...we could go on!). To get Alpha’s songs as your ring tone....
Ks Alpha going places

AIRTEL Customers can now get Ks Alpha Tunez
To load a tune, SMS GET (TUNE ID) TO 424, eg GET 100704 send to 424
-100704 Selector Ks alpha
-100678 Muzik Ks Alpha
-100722 Waistline Ks Alpha Ft. Tanto Metro
...-100644 Conquerer Ks Alpha
-100721 Ugandan gal Ks Alpha
-100652 Ekyana Ks Alpha

Thursday, February 03, 2011

“Damn Nerves”

It always starts with the music, for him. Even after all these years. When he thinks he has mastered all his weakest points. When, most of the time watching himself, he can tell where a lie he tells himself will be leading him. So he refuses to tell himself that lie. The lie that will lead him to thinking about calling her. Will lead him to remembering what it was like talking to her. The things they would most likely talk about. That Control movie he had been looking for, she had found pick up that movie, he would be bringing for her that Jazmine Sullivan album Love Me Back....

“You knew, before anyone knew her, she would be a star. How could you tell?” 

“Just. I knew.” 

Then he would be asking, like he had never asked before, like they had not talked about it endless times, “Do you think we could have worked, if everything was different? Did you know?”
“Yes, I knew.” 

He had learned how to stop himself from falling. Like he used to fall. Fall so bad, that Mondays to Thursdays, he was working double shifts, to be able to ask Fridays off. Because Fridays had been their day. Fridays, when partied. The thrill of Fridays, as much in the clubs they would crash into in giggling, hands around hips groups as the preparation. Back at the house, deciding what to wear.  Finding pockets to stash in those sachets they loved to spill into their drinks, when the waiters and waitresses were not looking-cocktailing

Fridays, when he had his brother’s car. Fridays when the next rising sun he would be seeing would be Monday morning. Fridays when the first card into his wallet was his blue Barclays Bank ATM, the embossed eagle there for his desires. Fridays, when the texts in his phone were all...where are you? Are you ready? Did you buy the silver condoms I asked? Don’t forget the Bond 7, you know Janet likes her Bond 7 if we are to get in...

There were things the music could bring back. Then some more.