Vision Group, in association with Twaweza Initiative and Buzz Events, is seeking to recognise artistes whose compositions advance society. Today, Andrew Masinde profiles Juliet Mugirya, who is fighting HIV through music
Being a born-again Christian, most of Juliet Mugirya’s songs used to highlight the good things God has done for her and her family. However, she realised there were so many issues affecting the country that she was compelled to address them. “The high rates of HIV in the country made me compose Munyaffu (HIV/ AIDS), which highlights the dangers of the pandemic and how it can be prevented,” she says.
In the song, Mugirya calls on people to realise that HIV/AIDS exists. She advises people to protect themselves against the virus, emphasising that it has no cure. Mugirya appeals to Ugandans to remember those who died of the disease as a lesson to guard against it. The song calls on people to help those who are affected or orphaned because of the scourge and to show them love. The song also calls on the youth to abstain from sex until they get married.
It emphasises testing for HIV before marriage. The song discourages those who are HIV-positive against spreading the virus. It calls on them to remember to always take their medication and eat healthy foods to live longer. “When I first listened to Mugirya’s songs, I got inspired. I singled out one song, Munyaffu. I refer to it during counselling sessions. It teaches the youth to abstain from sex, the married to be faithful, those with HIV not to spread the virus and, above all, it reminds everyone of the existence of HIV,” says Bosco Kibeti, a youth counsellor in Mbale.
Mugirya was born in Mbale in 1970. She went to Maluku Primary School in Mbale, Kitante Hill Secondary School for O’level before joining St Francis Secondary School for her A’level. Later, she was admitted to Makerere University for a bachelor’s degree in mass communication. Mugirya started singing while in the choir in primary school and in church. “I used to go with my father to sing in the church choir.
All the members of my family are musicians. My mother is a retired music teacher, my brothers and sisters are also musicians.” Mugirya also plays instruments like the guitar and piano. She says she learnt how to play the guitar when she was four years old. Mugirya sings mostly in Lugisu, her mother tongue. “The reason some people defy laws is because they are in a language they do not understand.
The only way to drive the point home is by translating laws into a language everyone understands. This is why I sing in a local language and I believe my message is wellunderstood,” Mugirya says.
Mugirya started her music career in 2004; her first song was titled Wele Weffe, meaning God is able. The song propelled her into the limelight. It played on most radio and television stations. “The song came as a surprise to many, including my parents.
I received many calls from people asking where I had been hiding my talent. This song won me many awards, including Best Gospel Artiste in the Pearl of Africa Music Award 2004. It also made me believe I could sing. From then on, I never looked back,” Mugirya says. Currently, she has over 40 songs and six albums. “I have launched my music at least four times. I usually hold two launches in Mbale and Kampala,” Mugirya says.
After Wele Weffe, she released another song titled Butwella. In the song, Mugirya calls upon people to work together for a common cause. She advises people to help one another,saying this is the only way to have a better Uganda. The song also calls on politicians not to forget the people who voted them into power. “Butwella has inspired people to work together, especially in Masaba land, Many politicians used it during their campaigns. I refer to Munyaffu when talking to young girls at home,” Yeus Mwambu, a businessman, says. “Artistes should stop focussing only on love, but also other issues affecting the country. They are the voices people hear best so they should not think love is all we need in the country. Mugirya’s songs are inspirational to the nation,” he adds.
Mayi Wasaala (mother who bore me) depicts the plight of mothers when bringing up children. According to the song, mothers deserve to be respected and appreciated for what they go through. Some sleep on floors and cover their children with the only clothes they have. Even when a father abandons his children, the mother still takes care of them. Yesu Niye Libaale praises Jesus for being the strong foundation on which everyone should lean. The song also calls on people to stop trusting other gods, but only God who created the world and everything in it. Kumwihoyo reminds people to celebrate because God has given them life
INSPIRED BY MUGIRYA
Dr. Stephen Watiti, Mildmay International
All her songs are inspirational. When you listen to her music, you can never remain the same. Butwella has made people, especially those in Mbale, to unite. I believe the youth have learnt from Munyaffu
James Mutende, State Minister for Industry
Mugirya’s songs are educative. Butwella has united people, especially in Masaba land. I urge the masses to listen to Munyaffu and learn from it
Rev. Milton Shissa, Bible Society of Uganda
As a reverend, her songs have made me strong in my faith. I believe Munyaffu has changed people’s lives. Many use it as a slogan in Mbale when they see someone engaging in acts that can lead to HIV
Immaculate Wanyeze, Uganda Revenue Authority
I started trusting God more when I listened to Mugirya’s first song, Wele Weffe. Munyaffu also had a good message and I believe it made a difference, especially to the young generation. Mugirya is an inspirational musician
Catch the Musicians Making a Difference Recognition ceremony live on the four Vision Group TV stations of Urban TV, Bukedde1, Bukedde 2 and TV West on January 31 from 7:30pm – 8:30pm