Wednesday July 2 2014

Altering the National Anthem means tampering with our history

By Ian Mutibwa

I was in primary school, the popular Social Studies (SST) question was who composed the Uganda National Anthem. George William Kakoma, the class would resound…. Many years down the road, I still think this is one of the famous SST questions that many have lived through to date. Now imagine the question, ‘who did a rendition of the Uganda National Anthem?’
The Minister of Tourism recently on one of the nationals television stations suggested that there is a need to redo the Uganda national anthem to a more dramatic and charismatic tune. The statement ignites many sentiments but above all, the questions, ‘Are we ready for another tune? Do we need another tune?’
I am in disagreement for two reasons which I shall expound on below:
First are the nationalistic sentiments that the national anthem evokes. The anthem was composed in June or July of 1962 a few months to the Independence of Uganda. It was at such a time that there were great compositions of music many of which are being renditioned today into the present day tunes. What we must note is that many of the people at that time appreciated music much more than we do today as every note counted and every rhyme was in place.
The mere singing of the anthem in my opinion rejuvenates the historical moments at the time, it helps us to ponder anew on our history, look at the present and also hope for the future. ‘Oh Uganda, May God uphold thee… we lay our future in thy hands.’ These words are meaningful and are sang at such a time as we are almost earning the Independence that our forefathers lost and our great grandfathers fought for, we surely lay our future in thy hand.
These sentiments can never be remade/re-created in a new “autotuned” anthem.
The second issue is the rich history this anthem presents. History are the rhymes and echoes of the past that define our present and also shape our futures. The anthem was composed at such a time when the likes of Benedicto Kiwanuka, Dr Milton Obote, Sir Edward Muteesa, were at the helm of politics in Uganda. This anthem brings alive Ignitius Kangave Musaazi, Daudi Ochieng and the Lancaster conference. Such was the history of this nation that many are proud to associate with.
When we speak of the day of Independence when the Union Jack was lowered and the Uganda National Flag hoisted and thousands at Kololo ululated when our anthem was first sang. Such are the sentiments the National Anthem evokes.
Let us compare our National Anthem to “God Save The Queen” that was first sang in the 1700 and the “Nkosi sikelele Africa” anthem that is filled with the rich history of South Africa, the rainbow nation. These histories cannot be erased by modern day science and the quest for fancier tunes in the anthem. They define the peoples of the nation, they shape the future and surely bring history alive.
‘Oh Uganda’ is no different, many years down the road and our children’s children will sing it in the original 1962 tune. They will fraternise with the anthem and look for this rich history in it and we shall sit by the fire places and tell the story of how a one George William Kakoma composed it overnight and fine-tuned it using the famous Kings College Budo Nightingales choir. And sang it first on Independence day 1962. These will be the stories told when they look for history. The stories of our independence and our composition. The pride of our nation, the national anthem.
Constitutions have come and gone, Presidents have changed but one thing has remained true to Uganda.
Oh Uganda, May God uphold thee.

Mr Mutibwa is a tax and legal consultant