Overview: Let's Meet Uganda

All Around This World Africa (Uganda)

Uganda is a country that doesn't always get the best press. Still bound in many minds to the decades-ago dictator Idi Amin, the news coming out of this small, mountainous East African country is often awful – Joseph Kony's brutal rebels in the North, abominably homophobic laws passed in parliament, a deeply entrenched president meddling in Central African wars, not to mention its dubious distinction of being the African country used as comic foil – the comparative opposite of Orlando – in the Broadway megahit “Book of Mormon.” 

All that is true, but what is also true is that Uganda, like every single place in this world, is complicated. And after decades of relative economic and political stability, Uganda’s densely fertile land and its diverse yet tightly-woven ethnic groups — not to mention its energetic and melodic music— provide ample hope for the Ugandan people. Visit Uganda today – as I have, and can't wait to visit again -- and you will find not the war-torn nation of Idi Amin but an optimistic, albeit complex society that aspires to put the recent past behind it and forge as boldly as possible forward, into the future. 

This week in class we sing:

-- "A Hiyeni" is a song sung in a "women's village" in Mozambique in the 1970s, encouraging the women, who had built "Communal Village O.M.M." together, to keep with one another to become independent from Portugal. (More.)  

-- We sing "We Are Happy,"  a hello song from Uganda, to open every All Around This World class.  This week we sing hello and goodbye in Luganda: "Mirembe" and "Mirembe!"

-- "He Motsoala" is a South African song that follows our dear mother from city to city as she tries to acquire us a marriage license. (More.)   

-- "Keenene” is a chant from Uganda that inspires us – REQUIRES us! -- to demand our favorite foods. (More.)  

-- “Awa Yombei” is song from The Gambia that gives us the chance to join a little girl, Awa Yombei, as she spends the day having fun. (More.) 

-- “Ha Ha Ha” is a happy-sounding song, originally in Ndebele, by the not-too-happy Zimbabwean songwriter George Sibanda. (More.) 


This week in class we dance the exciting Ugandan Amagunjju. 

Once upon a time the Kabaka (King) of the Obutiko (“mushroom”) clan of the Baganda died and didn’t leave an heir. He did, however, leave many pregnant wives. Medicine men declared that one wife was carrying the Kabaka-to-be. She sat on the throne with the idea that her unborn baby was truly ruling Buganda. When the boy was actually born, his uncle Gunjju created a dance — hence, “Amagunjju" — meant to keep him constantly happy -- a crying king brings bad luck!  

The dance is active, energizing and meant to make a sad kid smile. When we try it in class we look ridiculous...and we laugh! See the dance in action here.


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