In the foreign world I live in, it became clear early enough that music was going to take on an important role in my life. No, I am not a guitarist or musician in that sense; I mean the importance I started giving it. Ugandan music especially.
Back home in Uganda, I never really gave much thought to music. There were a hundred and one musicians all vying to get on radio and do their thing. Heck, musicians are on the street forcing their craft into the ears of passersby, it was not easy to give it much thought.
But one of the first aspects of cultural shock I received on arriving in Kansas, where I lived for the first two years in the States, was how boring radio there was. Maybe it was because I was living in Southwest Kansas and the radios there were not going to pay money for a huge list of current hits. Or maybe it is some radio strategy that I was not aware of to play the same five darn songs throughout the day. I don’t know and I didn’t care back then. One can turn a radio dial only so many times before they give up and find another vocation.
So by the time I rediscovered Ugandan music, I had already been disillusioned. The gloss of the life Americans lead is is a chimera. In many states, as I have learned through reading about their culture, it is the same as in Kansas. California, where I now live should have a better song list, one would think as rich and populous as the State is. But I have been hearing the same songs throughout the day on any given Thursday.
Call it homesickness, call it the effect of finding myself in the middle of a herd of charging buffalo; I know I have heard better music than what’s being put out on radio here. Maybe it is because I do not understand the emotions portrayed. Conversely, the culture that is carried in the Ugandan lyrics by artists who may not even understand how importantly their contribution showcases the difference between our civilization and others, is on a whole other level.
I work alone on most mornings and I work with music. Thanks to a proliferation of apps, I can hear what the motherland is singing about and immerse myself in the now of those who live 3000 miles away from here.
It is the sounds of Elly Wamala, Irene Ntale, Pallaso (who was a pleasant surprise for me), and many others that keeps me sane on many occasions as I work. And I am really loving the sounds coming out of all their efforts.