Northern Uganda: Day 2 – from Gulu to Acet

Everyone was up by 6:20AM but about half the group suffered through bad music most of the night.  We tucked into a breakfast of fruit, bread, potatoes and sausage and then headed off to Gulu (via a trip to pick up a generator, a bunch of electric cables and Big Jimmy our Acet Coordinator, below).   It was a beautiful day with stunning blue skies and we drove for about 80 kilometers in glorious sunshine through village after village until we reached Acet, where we will meet Acholi musicians (hundreds, in fact).

We landed in a field, pock marked with cement block buildings.  Not the best site.  But in the middle of the field was the most stunning tree that cast a hundred diameter shadow.  We set up under its branches.   As we did, from all directions, came a team of children and a team of performers – 6 groups with 20 members in each – and another 100 children. By the end, these two teams were joined by another group of 100 adults from the surrounding village.  Our backdrop became not the cement buildings, but the faces and shirts of our three teams – we guess they were 350 strong at the peak.


The Music Groups

The main theme of the day was dance.   All groups featured wonderful female dancers and two ladies in particular were stunning.  The best our Singing Wells  team have seen. In Acholi dance it’s all about the head, hips and feet.  The second theme was percussion.  Most of the groups were supported by:  Bul (drums), Gara (ankle shakers) and the Gwara (calabash or tambourin with Samba drumming, in this case a tortoise sized shell that they hit with a brush of wire).


In addition, one of the groups featured the Uvure, a wonderful horn. The Uvure in action…

Omee Odokomit 

Our first group was Omee Odokomit, who played Apiri style.  The group is led by Evelyn Ojok and was formed in 1981, disbanded for the war and reformed in 1999.  The leader summons the band to practice by playing drums…   They are all female dancers, with whistles and Gara (ankle shakers).

They played all four of their songs one after another without a break:  Oluma Lareku (a war dance celebrating the tribal chief),  Talebero Koda Akoda, Odokomi Dek Owic, Lar Wodo Dwok Cen.    Here’s a selection:

Ribbe Ber Dancers
Our second group was Ribbe Ber, another female dancing group. They had beautiful feather head-dresses.

Their songs included:

  1. Lolo Lok La Moi
  2. Omako Kwot Kicinge
  3. Lakwat Dyangi Pe
  4. Kotacwer Lokakura Bor.

Ribbe Ber Drummers

Our third group was the stunner.  It was also called Ribbe Ber, but this was the drum group – males drummers mostly, with female dancers.  All young adults and extremely cool.    The group included two dancers that were the best we ‘ve seen and the rhythms of the Gwara (galabash) was over-whelming.   They performed:

  1. Dongo Lobo
  2. Auma Woto Mobile
  3. Aparo Wota.

Most of these were courtship dances with wonderful drama between the boy and girl dancers.

Akello, our Ugandan Influences artist than performed her song Yang, backed by the Ribbe Ber Drummers.  It was a great moment as she sang a song of her childhood.  She said it brought back wonderful feelings of home and of peace – we are in a Uganda now with no wars. We are in Northern Uganda that was ‘rebel’ territory only 12-15 years ago.   So many of our songs in Acet were about peace, about calm, about getting back to a good place.  Here is a rough translation of a bit of Yang:  “Once upon a time, when we were still children, we use to play games and go to the harvest with our parents…”

Pajoto Youth Group 

Quite appropriately, after a song about youth, we brought the youth band forward, Pajoto and their instrumental song Dingi Dingi.   Here’s the video:

Umuny Jubi Ite Yaa

They were followed by Umuny Jubi Ite Yaa (essentially the name of their camp plus Ite Yaa, meaning gathering under the Yaa tree).    Then they sang:

  1. Welo Obino (Let’s Celebrate now that vistor’s have come)
  2. Odok Gang (A celebration of peace after war and call to go home),
  3. Balo Murali (aka Aloka Loka).
  4. Magic Moment

Here’s Welo Obino and Odok Gang:

There were three young percussionists on Bul (Drums) and then about 8 dancers.    It is always a very good sign when we get to record a group of young performers.  It means the music is alive and well in the community.  Between Pajotu and the Ribbe Ber Drummers, we are confident that music is alive and well in Acet.    Here’s Balo Murali:

Oriang’ Kinene

After a quick ‘magic moment’ with the Ribbe Ber drummers again we then brought on Oriang’ Kinene who sang

  1. Dano Lworo
  2. Donce Lobe.

Here’s the video for Dano Lworo:

…and the video for Donce Lobe:

Finally, Andy started our video on ‘We Are All One’ which will be our 2013 Fund Raising song.  By this time, as mentioned earlier, we had about 350 or so people around us, so we filmed Andy entering and exiting this rather large ‘Set’ and performing the chorus.  Akello and Andy then led the 350 singers through ‘We Are All One’ as a backing chorus.  Very fun!

As we were closing down we were greeted by the Chairman of Acet who was very gracious in welcoming us.  He walked away with lots of photos and a Singing Wells 2012 shirt!   He also got one of our Polaroid pictures.  This is a new innovation for us – every group gets to listen to their song back during their performance and we take a Polaroid photo of each person so they can take a photo home.

Then a quick 50 kilometer ride back to Gulu (smile) taking photos the whole way home of great road scenes.  We then bought some Ugandan instruments in Gulu and William, Akello and Hannah feasted on some grasshoppers on the road back to the hotel.  These were sold in little packets, scooped from a large bucket.  We knew Simba was jealous!   We then ate a meal of Nile Special and Goat and Posho.   We leave tomorrow at 7 to record more groups in the area…



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