I don’t know what tourism promoter and entrepreneur Gerard Iga was thinking that afternoon when on the 10th January 2020 at 3:49pm he posted a short question.
“Would I be lying if I said Odong Romeo’s ‘Yoo Leng’ was northern Uganda’s song of the year for 2019?” Mr Iga wrote on his Facebook page.
The ensuring responses did not only excite me but numerous unanswered questions left me pondering what magic had come through this Yoo Leng song.
“Pililili Yoleng, that song nailed it” wrote musician Pasha Amaro in reply to Iga’s post.
Pasha’s West Nile colleague and top rapper Gbaraspoken Emcee simply wrote ‘Maaaaaaaaaaaaan’ in his reply.
Fashion Stylist and tourism cluster head Sam Akuaku perhaps a step higher with his comment wrote ‘Maaaan, that song should be Uganda’s best music of the year!” before explaining that during a function at Uganda Museum, a cross section of people including many who hardly understood a thing in Acholi danced while sweating to the beats of Pililili Yoleng.
Event’s organizer and entrepreneur Nelson Nahabwe wrote a rather comical or call it ironical comment? Either way his point of approval for the song was clear “Even in Iran, it was their song in 2019”, he wrote in response.
Comedian Ceasor Oyo Pix wrote, ‘I disagree with anyone who disagrees with you’
I must admit, although it was exhilarating to read the comments, I too wasn’t surprised that the approval rate from Iga’s post was near 100% and yet from respondents many of who just like I, neither spoke a single word or understood Acholi.
Iga, again in a rather funny taste had earlier posted a shot of the YOUTUBE video of the song with a caption
“DISCLAIMER: Before you play this song where Northerners are present, please first move your furniture out of harm's way. They cannot be held responsible for how they behave once the song starts!” He wrote about Mr Romeo’s song.
I am sure many, especially those who have never listened or watched the video of this song let alone been played in a night club during peak hours of excitement have no idea why I am justifying a statement on some individual’s Facebook post.
Forgive my little knowledge about music but I find it prudent to share my experience based on Romeo’s hit song.
The cultural touch
Again and again I watched the YOUTUBE video after Gerard’s post, I loved the dancing, I loved the attire, I loved the people involved (smiling women, men, children, youth) but all dressed in their cultural attire.
Many perhaps fear to say it but music has a heavy link with culture, and only gets better if some contemporary traits can be well blended with the traditional dos.
Should anyone be surprised that artists like Navio although not the most affluent in Luganda (my opinion) would try as much to have their contemporary hip-hop blend with the traditional Kiganda dance and all the other cultural styles?
Romeo’s song in my opinion mustered both contemporary and cultural parts very well.
How could I blame her for not knowing that the Yoo leng music was actually Gospel after all hadn’t the ‘secular’ world ‘stolen’ the song long during its early days?
My work colleague and friend who had come to translate the Yoo leng song for me given her part-fluency in Acholi ended up thanking me for the opportunity to carefully listen to the song for the first time.
My born-again colleague all but thought the song was secular given the places and popularity and had since branded it not appropriate for her religious beliefs.
But after listening to it with intend, Romeo certainly added another person to his already thousands of fans to the hit music.
“The creator has opened the way, the path is clear, we just pass, Satan you come to the wrong place, you step on fire and you step on a trap; they tried to Gossip, but God won’t allow, they made false claims to get me arrested, but God won’t allow” broadly smiling as she explained each part.
But then that opening word of the music? Pililili and the non Acholi speaking person is always left asking, what does that mean? And before long, they have an idea of what they are dancing to.
Who doesn’t need hope and better still in a music whose beats and rhythm can’t keep one seated? Romeo equally got my approval, that of Gerard and the other thousands of people.
Mr Kennedy Madira alias JM Kennedy arguably one of the best musicians West Nile has seen made his mark when he sang ‘Alio nde ma kai kai, ma do oo a’duru ya?’ literally to mean ‘I am extremely poor, what do I do?
Sections criticized the song as having a negative message as though to encourage poor people to continue being poor but whatever one’s opinion, Kennedy had made his stride and there was to be no turning back, similar songs on topical societal issues were to follow.
What about TIG Gospel band? Arguably the most trending gospel artist in the West Nile region? Did he have to copy the popular Nigerian or American gospel singers to attain that status?
I could mention Lucky Dee from Alur land and so many popular artists who have learnt a thing or two from culture and music and have never regretted it.
It often perturbs me to listen to artists whose clearest interest is to copy-cut their American idol, probably in the hope that they might also attain the riches and lavish lifestyles they boast of, what a fantasy!
Romeo’s Identity is clear, the instruments, the dances, the dressing, the people, the language and everything about the music points to a natural and a cultural set up.
I’ve often heard many people referring to JM Kennedy as old fashioned and yet the same can’t explain why many ‘modern’ West Nile artists can’t make the same mark he has made.
Therefore to my West Nile brothers, make no mistake, music comes with identity and I am very glad there are already names like ‘senior women rapper’ who stands for women, what a powerful identity!
To those artists that are always tossed between western cultures hoping to be ‘modern’ and living a fantasized life, I point you to JM Kennedy, Lucky Dee but above all always listen to Pililili Yoleng, you might equally learn your lessons.