World Pulse Magazine
A New Approach

For My Homeland: My Musical Journey

by Sarah Tshila

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After I graduated from school in the United States, I came back to Africa in August 2005 with the dream of making a difference in my country and continent through my career. I also knew that I wanted to be some kind of spokesperson for the African cause. I knew that I had a home in Uganda and a caring family that would support me while I chased my dreams, so I traveled back to live with my mother in Kampala.

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Only a month after returning to Uganda, I joined an underground hip-hop group called Bataka Squad. As activists for positive change through music, we rapped about life in Uganda and what we could do to create a better situation. We created a buzz in the country, rapping in our native language, Luganda, which was almost unheard of. We also created a youth camp called the Bavubuka Foundation to enable kids in Uganda to express themselves through music.

I spoke with the children and saw in them a reflection of how my life once was, and how much hope there is if we can each save at least one child.

The Bavubuka Foundation is all about giving youth in Uganda a voice and helping them deal with tough problems through interaction with positive adult figures. Among these issues are HIV infection, poverty, puberty and growing up in orphanages. Our first projects involved visiting orphaned and HIV-positive children who had very little hope to live.

I would love to work with anyone with the same vision as I have in alleviating the situation in Africa. I would love to be like Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Miriam Makeba and other pioneering African women.

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I travelled around the country to villages where African traditional instruments were played. I met and worked with several traditional instrumentalists, in the hope of creating a group with which to perform this music. That was how I met Herbert Kinobe, a world-renowned Ugandan traditional instrumentalist with whom we worked to fuse traditional African music and urban Western influences. It caught the ears of several people, including the Alliance Française in Kampala, which gave us support to travel and perform.

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I spoke with the children and saw in them a reflection of how my life once was, and how much hope there is if we can each save at least one child. Each time I see a child like that, I think of what a waste this is to Africa. These children hold the key to the growth of the continent but are not given a chance to use it. If this cycle of abandoned generations continues, it will be solely responsible for keeping Africa behind. This is worsened by the fact that if these children make it, they leave the continent in search of a brighter future. I love African traditional music because I believe it speaks of the ways of Africa. It tells a story that would otherwise be long forgotten about our people and culture. I started to pick it up so I could communicate more with music, the language of my ancestors.

I tell the story of my people's suffering through my music so that it can ring to the far ends of the globe.

I would like to be able to contribute to helping African children grow in a better situation. I definitely want to see the day when the "Make Poverty History" plan starts to take noticeable effect. I would love to work with anyone with the same vision as I have in alleviating the situation in Africa. I would love to be like Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Miriam Makeba and other great pioneering African women.

We have a very remarkable past, one of nature-loving and peaceful societies with bountiful existence, and we have the potential for a brilliant future, one where our children can live in harmony with the world.
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I tell the story of my people's suffering through my music so that it can ring to the far ends of the globe. My music, however, is not limited to the sadness of Africa's situation. Contrary to what is portrayed in the media, Africa is filled with very cheerful, fun-loving and positive people. Just like Fela Kuti portrays in his satirical song "Shuffering and Shmiling," we know that our ancestors have not given up on us, so we believe in tomorrow. We have a very remarkable past, one of nature-loving and peaceful societies with bountiful existence, and we have the potential for a brilliant future, one where our children can live in harmony with the world, and remember us for having fashioned that way of life for them.




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