The free thinker German logician Friedrich Nietzsche jested that “without music, life would be an error”.
This appears to be valid for each human culture. We sing in satisfaction, distress, torment, adore, dissent, love… We are suddenly sent into shaking our heads to a beat, murmuring to a tune, or springing to the floor when music hits us.
Music is, to be sure, restorative and an apparatus to numerous passionate, social, political, social and familial issues. It has been utilized to battle social treacheries and awful administration, to recuperate hearts, to comfort sufferers, and to just make individuals cheerful.
Uganda has made remarkable strides in the field of music in the East African region and, perhaps, at continental level. Of course, there is too much computer-generated monotony and lyrical laziness but, overall, musical competition has shot up to a level that makes it difficult for musicians to stay for long on the maps – save for some few legends.
Bob Marley sang, saying ‘one good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain’.
True to a larger extent, but this narrative seems to be gradually taking an ugly turn in Uganda – partly due to increased drug abuse among artistes, irresponsible response to cutthroat competition and, maybe, due to some demand for soft porn in our society. So much music is hitting our families painfully.
Whereas some of the audios are really good and would attract one to check out the video, too, it is increasingly becoming a moral challenge watching Ugandan music videos with children. Unfortunately, it also seems impossible to avoid this music on local television channels.
First, I had to instruct that local music programmes not be played at home in the presence of children. But I noticed that even in-between other programmes in the day, the music played.
There you sit, turning in discomfort as the children start to innocently wriggle and giggle along. Which music?
Heaps of pulsating buttocks and girls spreading apart their bare legs like catapults is what some artistes have come to think is part and parcel of a complete music video!
Assuming social decency has not entirely evaded your consciences; do you people watch this stuff with your children? The competition notwithstanding, if you have heads containing the right organ, is this something you need sensitisation about?
We have had good and very successful clean music in all genres, locally and internationally. You can still gain popularity without parading before us semi-nude butts dancing in vile sexual innuendo.
Ugandan music carries a strong historical influence from Jamaican dancehall. Artistes such as the late Menton Summer, Bebe Cool, Mad Tiger, Chameleone, and Buchaman started out in imitation of Buju Banton.
Shanks Vivi Dee, Toolman and several others emerged as Shabba Ranks copycats, while others picked inspiration from Chaka Demus and Pliers, Patra, Shaggy, Mr Vegas, Anthony B and Beenie Man.
Reggae, which is the mother of dancehall music, had acquired a name for social consciousness and decency – apart from its blanket advocacy for the ‘holy herb’ (marijuana). But with the emergence of the sensational heavy beat dancehall genre, the dirtiest lyrics and videos were born, taking the throne away from Lord Kitchener’s Dr Kitch.
Perhaps, many of us couldn’t even really figure out the obscenities wrapped in their fast patois. In Uganda’s earlier years of learning, borrowing and stealing from Jamaicans, at least we tried to avoid their (not all) vulgarities.
The generation of Ragga Dee, Rasta Rob, Menton Summer, and Emperor Orlando was relatively lyrically cautious (though not so meaningful) in comparison to some of today’s skimpily veiled obscene lyrics like in Farmer, Teacher, Mulimu Ki and Ziza Bafana’s Guluma N’asomye.
Maybe, the fact that the practice of making music videos hadn’t yet picked and that the conservative state-owned Uganda Television (UTV) still dominated the space, helped.
Then postmodern liberalism set in, where artistes seem to have got unlimited license to spew and shoot out whatever they chose to.
Now we can imitate Jamaican dancehall and Black American videos in detail, maybe also in attempt to outdo them. That is how we got to these buttock exhibitions and sexualised dances like ‘bend over’, dubbing, etc.
If, at least, we kept these things in their ‘proper’ places like clubs/discotheques and only accessible to interested adults, that would be bearable. I know in this Internet era, it may not be easy to keep such stuff away from children, but this doesn’t serve as justification for not trying.
Too much censorship is bad, but so is lack of regulation. A friend tells me he has painfully decided to rule out all local channels at his home!
We are not going to stay home monitoring our television sets in fear of gross dances and butt ambushes. Due to some of our differences in values with the makers of many of the movies we access, even for a movie that is rated PG (parental guidance), nowadays you still have to censor them before letting children watch.
But how do we subject our television channels to this exercise?
This is why I am addressing myself to television channel proprietors and programme managers as well. You people should as well think as parents, not only looking at business prospects and considering all viewer demands. In many ways, the media is a gatekeeper of morality in society.
If television stations (radios, too) passed a condition that they won’t play music with certain kinds of unbecoming content (especially in programmes before 10:00pm), then even the perverted artistes may not want to risk investing in such videos and uncouth lyrics.
Ethics minister Fr Simon Lokodo and Uganda Communications Commission, it is not so often that I wish to invite you into matters. But please, do something.
The author heads the Centre for African Studies at Uganda Martyrs University.