Vision Group, in association with Twaweza Initiative and Buzz Events, is seeking to recognise artistes whose compositions advance society. Today, Steven Odeke reviews the impact of Ronald Mayinja’s music.
This song is one of those songs that grips your attention at first listening for its lyrical message before you mind about its beat. Tuli Kubunkenke, meaning, “We are under tension” is a 2005 song by Ronald Mayinja that garnered mixed reception upon its release.
Questions went around at the time; just who exactly was Mayinja targeting to say we have been put on tension? Or who had put Mayinja, someone we knew as a lovesick singer, under pressure for him to compose a song about it? And hey, the song was released a year before the 2006 general elections and the political arena in the country was searing, wasn’t it hitting certain politicians in the country? “No, I was not dedicating that song to any politician because I am not a political singer.
I am a singing activist and the tension I meant at the time reflected the life I was going through not known to the whole world,” said the kadongo kamu/contemporary singer. “My message was to tell people not to think we artistes and those envied in the society as well-off.
We are under the same tension and facing the same difficulties in the country. “In 2004, when I wrote that song, I could not even afford to fuel my car. I would park it somewhere in the morning and then roam around town on boda bodas. “Most people you see and envy living a posh lifestyle have tough issues like bank loans and huge responsibilities disturbing them, not all is good in the society as you think,” adds Mayinja.
Some of his lines went in Luganda; “Gwesimisa naye tali bulunji, buli omu alina ebizibu saagala gwe olowoze nti oba bili kugwe weka, woli wanyiga naye wali wookya,.” Loosely translated as the one you envy is not as well-off as you think, everyone has problems so do not think you are the only one facing difficulties.
However, as Mayinja adds, the song was also calling upon leaders to provide solutions to these issues that have put people on tension. “But some of these issues that put us on pressure are because of issues like corruption, unemployment and others. So, this song was also asking for solutions from those responsible,” says Mayinja. Dr. Tee of Dream Studios produced Tuli Kubunkenke and it marked the first of Mayinja’s solo tracks that were not serenading Kampala’s lovebirds. Even after politicians had wrongly used it, the song was a hit that it won him the 2006 PAM Award for Best Live Band Single. Mayinja adds that he has never been a Government critic as some people thought. He says he uses his music to address issues affecting people, especially corruption.
“I am not anti-government, but I am anticorruption and I am not going to stop singing about it because it affects all of us. I will use my music to hit at corruption and persist to make my point clear on it,” the singer stresses. To justify his stand on fighting graft, currently he is working on a song Tuwalana Nguzi Naye Tetuwalana Government, loosely translated as “we despise corruption and not the Government.” “I want that song to stop us from pointing fingers at each other, but stand up and fight corruption. We must all stand up and fight corruption.
As musicians, we do not hold guns, but music. We should use it to highlight issues. By July this year, Transparency International ranked Uganda the second most corrupt country in East Africa. With a score of 61%, Uganda was the second most corrupt country in East Africa after Kenya at 70%. Mayinja adds that such statistics impel him to fight corruption through his songs like Africa.
I was asking leaders to stop being corrupt and save the continent. It is a song that saw me as a serious artiste because I only sang love songs.” Andrew Kyamagero, a TV news anchor says, “Ronald Mayinja is an amazing musician who delivered a powerful message in the Tuli Kubunkenke song and the timing was just so great. Mayinja’s message was very important.
Artistically, this song is the best we may ever get from this artiste. All Mayinja’s music had its place and is well-deserving of recognition. Stand-up comedian/actor, Emmanuel Ssebakigye sums it up, “What I remember well about the song was that it told us about oppression of the poor through decisions made by the Government and laws passed. He talks about the poor not being able to win a case in court.
Corruption has eaten into every sector including the judiciary.” Who is Ronald Mayinja? Born in April 24, 1976, in Gomba, Mpigi to late David Ndawula and Joyce Namuddu, Mayinja went to Namirembe Primary School and St. Peter’s SS Nsambya before joining National College of Business Studies, now Metropolitan University of Business School. He started music in 1996 as a band member for defunct Univox Mirrors band.
In 1998 Kato Lubwama asked them to join his Diamond Productions. A year later, they left Diamond’s productions and started Eagle’s Production with some of his friends like Geoffrey Lutaaya. Since then their journey has been good. Challenges Mayinja says for all that is said about artistes being well-off, not all is well behind doors. “The truth is capital to produce music has never been enough. For instance, it is a challenge for us artistes to produce a video that can compete on the global market.
He adds that it is also challenging to shed off the image most artistes have as spoilt people. “I am a corruption activist; I do not want people to see me as a Government activist. We want the music industry to compete on all corners.” he said. Life Tip Mayinja advises; “Once you have an idea, God can facilitate it to achieve what you want. So, never give up.
John Sserwazi, boda boda cyclist
Tulikubunkenke is a song you will not get tired of listening to. Though he sang it eight years ago, it still carries meaning compared to other artistes whose music is easily forgotten. His song is an eye-opener and it alerts people of the prevailing tension. For example, in Kampala people work under tension and fear. Before they know it the shops or roads are closed because of strikes and fights amongst leaders
Mari Aiveen, an accountant
His music carries messages, which educate people. What makes Tulikubunkenke stand out is that it alerts people that all is not well and they should not relax and go into their comfort zones. Besides, his music potrays his character. He is the kind who is never involved in fights
Emmanuel Wasswa, an engineer
Ronald Mayinja is my favourite artiste. His song Tulikubunkenke depicts working under tension. We find ourselves confronted with situations that put us under tension even in our own businesses, one has to account for everything.
Merekisedeki Kanaginagi, a farmer
His music is educative. Through the song I have learnt not to pity myself thinking I am the only person facing certain challenges. The song explains how everybody is operating under tension in whatever they do.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org You can also nominate via SMS type MUSIC (leave space) name of artiste (space) song and send to 8338. Alternatively, write to the Features Editor, P.O. Box 9815, Kampala or drop your nominations at any of the Vision Group bureau offices countrywide. Nominations close on January 15, 2014
To qualify for nomination, the musician should meet the following requirements;
❑ Be Ugandan
❑ The composition must be original and not pirated
❑ Have innovatively used their musical composition to convey deliberate messages advocating for positive change
❑ Have used their music to mobilise the masses to demand for accountability or for a community cause.
❑ Used their music to highlight societal ills like corruption, poor governance, poor service delivery, oppression and human rights abuses.