Originally published July 27, 2013
This post has been substantially rewritten because much has happened in the world since July of 2013, however the people I met while working on this project will remain in my heart for ever. There is an international edition of The Songs of Kiguli still available. This is part of our story.
In 2013, a team of people here in the US and in Uganda were working on developing support for a school located near Kampala, Uganda. The school taught children of factory workers and military personnel. One ambitious teacher wanted to see them do well, not just in their village, but in the world at large. He began to teach them poetry.
Things started small with an annual publication of the poetry of his students. Much later I worked with teachers in Uganda and Florida to publish an edition that included student poetry from Uganda and their pen pals in Florida. As noted above, that publication is still available.
The video capture here was produced with Qwela, an amazing Uganda band that writes and performs jazz and traditional Ugandan music. On a typically hot day, band and students celebrated the opportunities afforded with education.
I still believe in a world that can come together in shared experience and take joy in our differences.
Qwela has the amazing sound of a “unique Afro-fusion flavor of music.” Qwela means ‘pure’ in Rukiga. Their lyrics speak of family, current events, and of a love for their traditions. The clip above is Mwana Wanji, meaning My Child. The words of the song are quite powerful in the context of the country (and yes the world) today.
They say that we can’t make it
but they don’t know who we are
they say that we can’t do it
but they don’t know where we’re from
When I was young my daddy taught me
he said son, here’s the secret to success in life
he said find that thing which you can do best
and just give it your very best shot
That brings me to these enterprising young people. Their volunteer teacher, Philip Matogo taught them social sciences, English and journalism. The poetry produced in this classroom indicates that these children are well aware of the Geo-political and local socioeconomic and political circumstances they live in; and they are prepared to be part of future change.