Saturday, June 22, 2013

Uganda: Human Rights Activism using Music (Dr. Hilderman-Dembe Lyange)

Uganda has for the last decade or so been going through quite interesting times particularly as the human rights movement and the opposition has tried to push for the respect of the people's civil and political rights particularly right to association, expression and to participate freely in political affairs.(Perhaps I should note that this is not a universal assessment but is dependent on whatever side of the political divide you lie on and that the motives for some of people involved in this people's protest might not be altruistic but may be actors in the wider neo-colonial plot of the West.) What has been surprising, in my assessment, is the relative lack of involvement in this process by the Ugandan music fraternity. As Phil Ochs notes, "
"One good song with a message can bring a point more deeply to more people than a thousand rallies."
Joe Hill also notes:
“A never read more than once, but a song is learned by heart and repeated over and over”
Thats why when a friend send me a link to a protest song from a prominent Uganda musician, Dr, Hilderman, I couldn't resist the urge to post it here. The song is done in a mixture of Luganda, Kiswahili and English perhaps to ensure that as many people can be reached by its strong message. The song is called 'Dembe Lyange" by Dr. Hilderman. My favourite lyrics in the song are:
"Kitu muhimu maishani ni uhuru wangu. Ninyime pesa lakini nipe uhuru wangu. Kitu nilizaliwa nacho ni kitu silipii." " (The most precious thing in my life is my freedom. Deny me money but respect my freedom and rights-the only valuable thing I don't pay for)."
One can only hope that this music will encourage and reinvigorate the people of Uganda to continue their struggle to expand the democratic space and realisation of their social, economic and cultural rights. But for now, all I can say is kudos to Dr. Hilderman for being brave enough to give a voice to the voiceless and downtrodden in the Ugandan society unlike many musicians who are only interested in doing 'lollipop' commercial music that further erodes the political consciousness of the people.
As Martin Luther King said, ""The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." Ama kweli, msanii ni kioo cha jamii!! I strongly believe that as long as injustice exists, we will need protest music!

I finish with this quote from Cesar Chavez:
"Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours."
--Cesar Chavez

 Here is Dr. Hilderman's  Dembe Lwange. Cheers to more revolutionary protest music in Afrika!

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