Day 7 (pm): Recording at the Airport Guesthouse, Entebbe

After a wonderful morning recording, we arrived in the afternoon to set up for a final session in Uganda, recording three members we particularly liked of the Watmon Cultural Troupe. Matthew Watmon, their leader, is a very well known player of the ‘Nanga’ (pictured) and instantly we could see he was incredibly talented, so we brought him with us to the hotel in Entebbe with his son, Odika Constantine.

Recording at the Airport Guesthouse, Entebbe

It was a lovely afternoon on the hotel grounds and a load of German guests just back from safari became the rather surprised audience.  Throughout the recording we competed with some very loud bird, a lovely school choir across the street, planes from the airport nearby and ‘wandering guests’, folks that decided to have one last view of the grounds and walked past ‘stage.’  There’s a pretty classic routine here.   Folks wander into shot and turn in our direction.  First look on their face is one of contentment as they have a very good position to watch the music.  Their second look, however, is one of realisation as they face three cameras and 8 mics and 12 people all shouting, “cut.”  Cows never react and are far better backdrops.

Watmon Cultural Troupe (Link to Music Map)

Introducing the band…

Nyeko Newton, the youngest, is a 19 year old student and Acholi, born and raised in Kampala. He talked of his life at high school, playing rugby and studying ICT, Finance and History. He played percussion and the Likembe (thumb piano) very well during the course of the evening, and has enjoyed playing music his whole life. He accompanies Watmon’s group which plays Acholi style music (as they are from the North). Whilst talking to him I asked him about popular Ugandan music, as we’d heard alot during the week (usually being pumped out of local stores on big speakers). We listened to a few different tracks on his phone, and I narrowed my favourite Ugandan pop tracks down to ‘Apple’ by Bigtym and ‘Guns & Bomb’ by Bebecool..

Odika Constantine, son of Watmon, is in his 30s. He was abducted by the LRA from his home in Kitgum District when he was just 17. He was held as a soldier in the bush for 6 months until he managed to escape. He described the day it happened: the rebels arrived to his village  and asked him to show them the way to town. In a way this was a blessing, because his family was saved (often, on abduction, the rest of the child’s family would be killed, so they’d feel angry, distant and unable to return home). Once they arrived at the town they wouldn’t let Odika go and it was clear he was a prisoner. He only managed to escape once the rebels believed he was one of them, and stopped watching him so closely.

After 6 months of living as a soldier in the bush they didn’t expect him to run, and he took the chance as soon as the opportunity arose. Mostly, you were forced to walk in straight lines, with the abducted children in the middle line, so there was no way to escape. He also told us of how the rebels tried to train you into a soldier: to make you as angry as possible, alienating you, verbally and physically abusing you, to make you want to kill others. All they talked or thought about was killing. You could never ask questions about where you were going or what you were doing there, or you’d be killed immediately. There were many fights, he said they would fight a few times every day with the government army hot on their heels, and the children were constantly scared. They were ‘trained’ to shoot in a matter of days, and were periodically beaten a number of strokes depending on your age, in his case it was 300. Odika called it the ‘bush mind’, and sometimes even once soldiers returned that mind would come back again, in nightmares or in daily life. To help returning soldiers they were taken to Gulu Children of War Rehabilitation Centre for 6 months before going home, partly to make sure the rebels couldn’t find you in your home village but also to help the returning soldiers adjust back into normal life. He said even though he never became one of them, being surrounded by people of that mindset for that length of time left him in search of  the meaning of right and wrong.

Odika has two other brothers: Okot Mike, who was held as a soldier in the bush for 2 years, is now studying Economics at Kampala University and is in full health. His second brother was unfortunately taken by the war. It is since his experience during the war that he has learnt to play music. During the car journey between Neguru (near Kampala) and Entebbe, Odika both told this story but also played the Likembe to us alongside his father.

They were joined by Akello, our Influences artist, who sang backing vocals on a few songs:  Kiri Ki Jing…

…Amone Lareku…

…and Lamele.

Akello then sang her song ‘Amari’ with the band as back up.

The group then went on to sing An Lakara Pee…

…Odong’o Kilau…

…Lawie Akada (with the group leader playing the Olwet (flute)…

…and they closed (and we closed our Ugandan trip) with Anyaka Lim Pee.  The last song is essentially a lament that a male suitor doesn’t have enough money for the woman’s bridal dowry.

Watmon is pictured above with a plastic flute (traditionally it’s made of bamboo – but he said these are hard to come by) which he played during the last song.

We then shut down and said goodbye to the band.  We then had a very sad farewell first with Akello who headed back to Kampala, then our drivers William and Emmanuel, then to Vicki who headed off London.

The rest of us will leave tomorrow for Nairobi and more recording…



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