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Thursday 20 June 2024

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Resilience – Songs of Uganda-  Rachel Magoola.

Aug 16, 2022

Rachel Magoola released this album in a return to solo work after success with the legendary band Afrigo. Her music is inspired by Uganda’s culture and history and this album is a delightful mix of Rachel’s versions of traditional Ugandan songs and her own compositions. The music is sunny and upbeat, often catchy but that is not to say that the music is lightweight. Rachel is known for her dedication to humanitarian causes and was recently elected as a Member of Uganda’s Parliament. She has a “passion for equality, empowerment and education of the young” and it shows. The words of the songs may reflect contemporary issues but the songs have a real traditional feel to them, and make use of traditional instruments as well as modern.

On ‘Kati Kantwaala’ (A Stick Takes Me) we hear the endingindi (a one string fiddle) to great effect. It is made with a single stick and a resonator and has a distinctive sound, and it comes as a surprise to discover that this song is the Ugandan equivalent of the children’s song ‘Ring Around The Rosy’. ‘Sunsuuni’ (The Hunter’s Sunbird) uses the akogo or thumb piano rather like an mBira and we hear a variety of drums including the engalabi which is a long drum with a head made from lizard skin mounted on a wooden sound box and played with the hands. The use of these traditional Ugandan instruments is a vital part of Rachel’s sound and equally important to the message that she seems to be trying to convey with this album.

She claims that she wishes to remind the Ugandan people of their resilient nature and that there is hope for a better life after recent civil unrest. The songs are sung in several local languages, for example ‘Serubonera’ is in the Rukiga language and tells of the troubles faced by teenage mothers set to a contemporary pop sound which makes a delightful contrast. Considering the generally sunny disposition of this music it is hard to keep in mind that these songs are about difficult subjects. Nonetheless, this album is a delight and absolutely worth seeking out.

Philip Thomas

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