PURELY by coincidence, earlier today @sandorwalusimbi said most of EXACTLY what is contained below, so it’s only fair that he shares in it and therefore gets special mention or a dedication:
LIKE most of you, once again this year I couldn’t wait to launch into my Christmas playlists, and started off streaming Carols through the house well ahead of the official start of the season.
Every year I go through this and cannot get enough of each and every song – except that ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ one, by Bob Geldof and a bunch of other ignorant, supercilious chaps with more musical credentials than the intelligence required to read geography and economics in any combination.
Not long after they released the first version of that song (Yes; shockingly, they have released another one, this year, because of Ebola) Philly Bongoley Lutaaya gave us a Christmas album of our very own, my favourite ever.
Katujaguze (“Omwana wa Ssebo Yesu azaliddwa”) reverberates for me today that feeling of more than 25 years ago that Uganda was rising out of the ashes and justified in celebrating to his melodic command.
This year we celebrated twenty five years since Philly Lutaaya passed on (may his soul Rest In Peace) and I still play his music.
Back then, most of the local music I listened to was on cassette tapes (“compacts” to some of you) and recorded by the Eschatos Brides Choir – whose music is still available at the Uganda Bookshop, as per the last time I checked.
Their music was so ingrained in me, since my family is quite deeply Christian, that it was my childhood soundtrack and I didn’t consider it to be popular or hip in any way; so Philly Lutaaya’s “Sekukulu Etuuse” album awoke in me a massive realisation that we could do stuff like this in Uganda as well.
Which is why I ask myself every year at around this time why we don’t have more home-sung Christmas Carols from the fantastic musical talents and celebrities that grace stages countrywide the whole year round.
At this point I must thank Jose Chameleone for his 2013 song ‘Sekukulu’, which I only discovered last week while doing a search around this, and also Mesach Semakula for Lunaku Lukulu, released in 2012.
So what are the rest of these guys doing?
Even if it is the season to be merry, staging ‘Christmas’ concerts to earn money from dancehall and kidandali, and taking advantage of the high seasonal spirits and fairly reckless abandon to which revellers throw their wallets and purses is not really fair.
Our musicians should be singing songs that celebrate the season as well, and fit the theme of our lives at this time.
Rather than us finding good cheer from misguided types such as Band Aid, I would want Isaiah Katumwa, Brian Mugenyi and Michael Kitanda to join saxophones alongside the Watoto Children, Christ the King and Namirembe Cathedral Choirs, all having co-opted Juliana Kanyomozi, Iryn Namubiru, Jackie Chandiru, Joanita Kawalya, and Annet Nandujja as singers.
The western musicians and jazz artistes we listen to instead are simply playing back the very same old songs and Christmas Carols we’ve had and heard since time immemorial; so even our own, surely, can jazz up Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and throw in some Bakisimba or Endingidi twist.
Instead of “Chestnuts Roasting”, maybe “Nsenene Sizzling In a Frying Pan” – nanti the seasons are the same. “Winter Wonderland”? No – “Tropical Paradise”! “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?” Try “Mukasa/Byaruhanga/Okello the Boda-rider”, since he’s the one who’ll be delivering our gifts…
Something needs to be done differently for us, somewhere, somehow, and this is an easy one.
Or put a group of Ugandan musicians in a room to come up with a Christmas song that will make us kind, generous and giving; a song or album that will spur us into getting the money we would otherwise spend on food and alcohol and fuel for 4WDs to the village, and diverting it to a local health centre, or an orphanage, or a school somewhere.
If not generosity, God knows we need a spirit of forgiveness and goodwill sent to all these warring politicians, ex-lovers (Nigerian or others), errant or murderous maids, careless parents and drivers, angry workmates in public service or private employ or Kampala traffic, and social media trolls…the list is really long.
Perhaps if we had people we’ve grown up with and see every day, singing Christmas Carols in languages we properly identify with and sung by people we’ve grown up with, the message of the season might be better absorbed.
It’s time we rolled out music as the food of love so that we gorge ourselves on more than just food this holiday season, but with a Ugandan flavour to it.