Bash Mutumba on why we sing

The book cover. 

What you need to know:

  • Book review. Bash Fahad Mutumba unravels the power of simplified poetry on everyday topics in Why We Sing, writes Andrew Kaggwa.

Poetry is one art form that has gone through rapid stages in a few years in Uganda. Think about  when there were only a few known poetry slams to date where the culture is deep-rooted in schools.

For instance, for every five poetry slams that take place at the National theatre, at least two of them comprise students, but even those with established poets, you will find at least two or more student performers. 
But that is not all, today, there has also been an increasing number of poets that are taking their performances to the page. Every month, a famous or upopular poet will release a poetry anthology that for some reason will be well received by a section of the audience.

Of course, the birth of publication houses such as Kitara Nation -Peter Kagayi Ngobi’s or Beverley Nambozo’s Babishai Niwe, whose first slew of books were majorly or only poetry anthologies has benefited a growing culture.

It is not surprising that Kitara Nation published Why We Sing by Bash Fahad Mutumba, the 18th poetry publication by the house. The name Bash Mutumba is not new, he was one of the many poets that performed at Kelele a poetry platform that always took place at Makerere University.

But to a wider audience, Mutumba is the ultimate king of boudoir photography; he is the Ugandan photographer that has stamped his name on this photography genre. Most times when people see a photograph sensationalising the body of a woman, Mutumba comes to mind.

In fact, when the publication house announced they were publishing a book by the photographer, thoughts were, it is a photo book. They were wrong.

Why We Sing is a poetry collection. A debut in which Mutumba does not complicate his work, he is rarely abstract and keeps most of his verses precise and straight to the chase.

The book of course does a good job in detailing the first time Mutumba wrote a poem, as a pupil in Primary Six and his first performance at Kelele in 2016. But, little is said about the timeline of this particular book, we do not know when it was written thus it is hard knowing his point of view as an author, considering the fact some of the issues the poems address are Ugandan to the core, people from all walks of life can experience them.

Poems such as Bedmates and Wrong Side of the Bed were probably written when the writer was at the university and perhaps sleeping at a hostel and later at his first job. Not that these issues of bed bugs and hard to please bosses are peculiar to such people, but the tone, language and ways he weaves words breath of a young soul in one part that has to endure that half sleep for what the future holds and in another part, one that never enjoys his mornings but is determined to make the best of the day.

Then in poems such as, Man, Be a Man, he talks about issues of men (read boys) taking advantage of situations for their egos’ benefits. And much as this book is written in English, there is a character the writer brings to the poems, he gives his writings a voice.

The voice is of a young man that is still figuring out life while enjoying it in equal measure. For most of the time, he sounds informal and reckless.

While most of the poems in Why Bite My Tongue get to talk about the art that is poetry, these poems are not necessarily so, but references of the brilliance of the art and perhaps its romantic nature.

Poems such as You Are Poetry, Damnit, he waxes lyrical about how someone makes him feel, it is just that he compares this person to words and metaphors. 

Mutumba almost writes the same way he takes pictures. For photography, silhouettes of things in the nude seem to be his muse, while in writing, he will do anything to put the right message across to a female.

In those 53 pages, even when he is talking about politics, he will somehow have his activism as close to the waist as it can be. He is the kind of writer that will probably hold a bouquet in one hand and a gun in the other.

The poet’s dedication to that gender, as many would say today is one that is beyond a mind can imagine. He puts together a book that tries to talk about many things yet, even when he talks about them, he does not forget to remind the reader of his appreciation of a woman’s body.

Think about his best effort to appear spiritual, a poem, Could You Listen, Naawe…, the writer seems attracted to a female with all kinds of intentions but is strongly guilt-tripped by the rosary around her neck and the crucifix that hangs around her bust.

For many that have been consuming highly political context poetry, the one that was surprisingly championed by Mutumba’s editor Kagayi, the book may come off as too romantic, especially if you were waiting for him to call out someone for being a pair of body parts.

Mutumba gets into his Makerere Oyee element  on the poem Why We Sing, the title poem. Here, he seems to brush a number of issues that have bothered him, from the lecture rooms that have not been renovated for years, policy makers that seem untouchable to the ways peaceful demonstrations are handled. 

Why we sing poem on any day could pass as a poem that justifies why we are angry and hungry in the first place, though the writer somehow romanticises it thus making the reader anxious to reach the part of the book, which is at the end. After all is said, Why We Sing, is still a simplified delivery of poetry digestible in one sitting. 

Did you know?
Title: Why We Sing
Author: BashFahad Mutumba
Pages: 53
Available at: Kitara Nation publishing house
Price: Shs 20,000=
Why We Sing poem on any day could pass as a poem that justifies why we are angry and hungry in the first place, though the writer somehow romanticises it thus making the reader anxious to reach the part of the book, which is at the end.


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