Musician-cum-politician, Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine, has urged his fellow musicians to speak out against a government ban on his music and shows before they too find themselves in the same predicament in the near future. Government recently warned media houses against playing Bobi Wine’s new song, Freedom, which is critical of government and President Museveni, in particular. Police has also moved to occasionally blocked him from some shows, a move that he claims is costing him money.
In his social media missive he said;
Dear fellow artistes, I write to you today as your fellow artiste and as someone who has fought tooth and nail with you to promote the entertainment industry in Uganda. I believe that all of us are seeing the injustice meted out on me because some of the people in power in this country are not happy about what I sing. They have so far cancelled over 10 of my music shows, banned several songs and stopped events managers and promoters from hosting me. This is not news or unexpected. I expected it to happen in a country like ours where citizens’ rights mean nothing to those who govern us. I am however reporting it to you because you’re my family.
Like all regimes of the past here and elsewhere in the world, dictators are usually uncomfortable listening to anything which questions their excesses, challenges their actions and rallies people to fight for their freedom. From Ian Smith’s South Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), to Apartheid South Africa, to Kenya, to Blaise Campoare’s Burkina Faso, dictatorial regimes always feel threatened by songs of freedom. They ban songs, imprison artistes, and sometimes physically harm or even kill them. They have itching ears- you either sing praises for them or you are silenced. Unfortunately, they never learn from history. If they did, they would remember that they never win in the end.
Therefore, the main point in this message is not to cry or lament but rather to remind us of our critical historical role at such a time. Dear fellow artistes and friends, make no mistake- IT IS NOT BOBI WINE UNDER ATTACK. IT IS THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY UNDER ATTACK. Freedom of conscience is under attack. Our right to freely express ourselves in song and any other composition is under attack. Our duty at this time is to resist this attempt to dictate what we can sing and what we ca not sing. Our collective voices matter. Silence is not an option. To remain neutral about these violations is to sanction injustice. An artiste must enjoy his or her right to compose music and perform it as long as it does not violate the law. EXPRESSION IS NOT A CRIME, IT IS A RIGHT.
Friends, today it is me but tomorrow it will be another artiste. Today some government official sits in his office and decides that he doesn’t like lyrics of a certain song- and that song is banned! We must not normalize this! When my rights are violated, our rights are violated. As Martin Luther King Jr said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”. I also appeal to the leadership of our professional body, the Uganda Performing Rights Society to come out boldly and ensure that music is not criminalized.
Finally, let me also remind us once again that our country is at crossroads. We must make sure that we play our role. The people of Uganda have supported us, loved built us. I humbly suggest that we should not be silent when they need us most. We are the mirror of society. We are listening to what the people are saying. We fully understand their struggles, frustrations and aspirations. I humbly call upon all of us to use our talents to speak for them. OUR VOICES ARE MORE POWERFUL THAN WE HAVE BEEN MADE TO BELIEVE. Our role cannot be underplayed. At each point in history; in the struggles to liberate Africa from colonial rule, America from slave trade, South Africa from apartheid, and indeed to free different African nations from dictators, music and arts played a major role. Only this week, we lost a gallant soldier Sgt. Kifulugunyu, whose songs inspired NRA fighters to fight for liberation. Although THAT REVOLUTION WAS BETRAYED BY ITS LEADER, such a singer will never be forgotten for playing his role. WE ARE THE NEW BREED OF MUSICIANS. We may not have guns but I encourage us to fight through art- persuading, strengthening and encouraging people to continue the struggle. Lyrics inspire and spur the masses. Let us highlight and comment on the injustices that prevail within our society. Let our lyrics continue to reflect concerns of the people, their aspirations and hopes! Let us sing about the hardships being faced by the common person in the urban and rural areas. Let us encourage our people to continue fighting for freedom. They shall intimidate us but they will certainly fail. WE ALL KNOW THAT IN THE END UGANDA SHALL BE FREE. It is my prayer that when those who brought that freedom are being counted, the music and entertainment fraternity at large shall be top on the list.
For God and My Country! Yours Bobi Wine your fellow artiste #Freedom