Uganda Elections 2006: Musicians Take Over Political Campaigns
Musician sings at a DP rally in Luwero.

Uganda Elections 2006: Musicians Take Over Political Campaigns

By Risdel Kasasira
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First published: January 31, 2006

You cannot help but wonder what a popular music artist is doing in the scorching sun distributing posters of politicians.

I was passing Nakasero Market in Kampala city Centre on Thursday January 19th 2006 when I saw leading male reggae artiste like Bob Wine distributing campaign posters of Erias Lukwago who is contesting for Kampala Central parliamentary seat.

As he reached the center of Nakasero market, traders abandoned their merchandise and surrounded him with a yearning like that of young kids rushing to find out what their dad has brought on his return home. Others stood on top of their parked vehicles to have a glimpse of the celebrated musicians.

He parked his green Land Cruiser in the market-parking yard and walked around the food stalls greeting traders and distributing campaign posters. He told them "onno ye muntu waffe" (this is our candidate). I later learnt Bobi Wine is promoting the Democratic Party. It is then that I remembered what had not become clear yet.

Ugandan's growing love for music and the popularity Ugandan musicians are gaining is now forcing politicians to target the music industry for political campaigns.

Different political parties and candidates are now paying lots of money to musicians to perform live at their political rallies. Some candidates have even enlisted musicians to compose, sing and record tunes on them meant to woo voters during campaigns.

Also some musicians have independently started releasing musical albums praising some political parties. This is a trend that has been going on for some time as politicians realized the power of music artists to pool crowds on rallies and to woe voters through songs; and the musicians' realization is that there is money to be made by singing to impress the politicians or even singing songs particularly for them.

It all begun with politicians gracing album launches of some artistes and buying albums in millions of shillings.

In September 2005 when Bebe Cool was launching his Album the Kisanja (meaning another term of office) Defence Minister, Amama Mbabazi paid shs7m for a CD.

Kisanja is the name given to the candidature of the President Yoweri Museveni who is contesting for the third term in office.

When the number one track on this album the Ekisanja is played at National Resistance Movement Organisation rallies, you see ministers and other very important people dancing to the tunes like the best thing in the world has just happened to them.

When NRM-O was launching its campaigns in Eastern Uganda in Soroti, State Minister for Health Mike Mukula donned in the party T-shirt jumped to the stage and showed the crowds his dancing strokes receiving applauds from his supporters.

After Bebe Cool, Kads band also released 12-track album called Kisanja praising Museveni for the achievements he has consolidated for the last twenty years.

Prosy Kankunda who is a band member in her song Tumwongyere Ekisanja talks about women emancipation, improved roads, and increased number of buildings in Kampala brought by President Museveni.

The song also talks about good governance. In this song's video, Museveni is shown being sworn after capturing power in 1986 and when he was addressing United Nations Conference in New York in the presence of the former United States President Bill Clinton and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The trend of musicians cashing in on the hot political environment has made music artists expensive and some more popular. Now, hiring a musician to perform at rallies is proving to be more expensive than usual performances because of high demand for their services and their impact on the audience.

You might have heard Musicians like Joseph Mayanja a.k.a Jose Chameleon saying he cannot perform live at any rally below shs2m.

You may think that he is just living in dreams and failing to take the little money when it is available. But the National Resistance Movement Organisation (NRM-O) has promised to pay this amount to Chameleon who was voted Uganda's best artist for 2003 and 2004.

State Minister Primary education Nyombi Thembo who is also an Executive member of the party is said to have reached an agreement with Chameleon to always perform at their rallies for 2millions shillings.

In October 2005, Chameleon said that the NRM-O and leading opposition group Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) were fighting over him to sing their campaign songs.

Many musicians are not letting this opportunity pass them by and doing all they can to gain the cash they can from political parties. As a matter of fact, almost all candidates from Presidential to parliamentary positions have had songs composed for them as a move to woe voters in their favour.

Never mind whether these musicians will vote for the political parties they sing for or they are just doing business. For now, it seems a working mission and many artists have found a big opportunity in politics.

Some Musicians like Juliana Kanyomozi have not sung any political song for any candidate or political party but their songs continue to rule parties and candidates as they mobiles votes. For example Juliana's hit song of 2005 Nabikoowa (I'm fed up) is being used by the opposition parties especially FDC to tell Museveni that they fed up of him.

On 14TH November 2005 when FDC was launching its manifesto at Nakivubo stadium, the party officials sung the song to the excitement of the mammoth crowd. It was like a campaign gift sent from heaven.

One of the lyrics in the song says "Wampisa bubi nange nenkukyawa" meaning you treated me badly and then I chucked you but FDC changed it to Museveni watuyisa bubi naffee nitukukyawa- Museveni you treated us badly and we chucked you. And you guessed right, the crowd pulled and danced to the song which is being used by opposition politicians to this day. The Museveni camp has for long been using Geoffrey Lutaaya's Akyali Mboko (sung in reference to a lady still young and beautiful) to tell Ugandans how Museveni Akyali Mboko and still has a lot to offer.

Ronald Mayinja's Tuli Kubukenke (we are on tension) is being used by the opposition to tell the world how things are not at their best. Forget that the song is about economic tension due to using borrowed money. The politicians have taken it over and given it a political tinge to work the crowds and their gains are not disappointing.

For now, no music artist seems to be worrying about what will happen after the elections. With the heightened standards and fees they are demanding for their performance and of course singing for candidates who will lose the election, straightening their music and popularity to no political alignments may be hard.

By Risdel Kasasira
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First published: January 31, 2006
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Risdel Kasasira is a graduate Journalist who reports for Ultimate Media Consult. He has worked for The Daily Monitor, Radio Uganda and has done several communication related consultancies. He is also the Research Executive at Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd.