2005 Ugandan Dancehall Video of the week #1

Consider this the beginning of a really weird crossfade into the “23 gigs” series.

My partner, daughter and I spent 3 weeks in Uganda in 2005. I blogged about that before:


Charity meets Capitalism in uptown Kampala

Tourism and Corruption

Idi Amin and politics

In retrospect I should have written more at the time and made at least a half-hearted attempt to pitch an article on my experience to a newspaper. But then again, doesn’t every “gap year” kid with more self-confidence than me do exactly that?

Pre-parentage, me and the good woman who puts up with me had traveled to South America to avoid the millennium. I’d been fascinated by tantalising stories of baile-funk in local newspapers that we’d picked up, and bursts of sound from passing cars. We even saw a spray painted banner for a baile funk event one time, but had been warned off going. It would take a brave or stupid person to be the only gringo at a hyper violent funk ball in the favellas.

A decade later, baile funk has become another string in the bow of the global ghetto tech scene. I guess if I’d been more ruthless I could have got in on the ground floor of something big. But as usual I was more concerned with having a good time, exploring random stuff and being a reasonably considerate boyfriend in an alien environment.

But I still find global ghetto music tourism very seductive. Not least because I’d like to think I’d do a better job of it than your average music journalist.

Still haunted by baile funk, I was intrigued by reggae rearing its head in Uganda. But again, I was still more concerned with my personal safety and pleasure – and even more so that of my family.

Music floated through the air, never quite close enough to investigate fully.


Towards the end of the trip we had a wander around the market district of Kampala. It was hot and intense. Lots of hustle and bustle and energy and the usual weird combination of the old and modern cheek by jowl. Fruit stalls stood alongside blaggers who hooked up fourway sockets to the city’s electricity supply so they could take money off people to charge up their mobile phones.

We got hassled by a few blokes, but usually in a good-natured way. One guy stood out. He introduced himself as Rasta Moses (the only dread we met in Uganda). I guess he may have been pulled in by my Channel One “Well Charge” t-shirt courtesy of Dancecrasher.

My better half asked Rasta Moses about reggae in Kampala and he told us about some long gone Monday night sessions which sounded wicked. When we pressed him about getting hold of some Ugandan music he beckoned us down a labyrinth of alleys.

We were off the beaten track, 4 year old kid in tow, with a complete stranger. Hmmph. Our reggae quest concluded at a shop which basically processed wedding photos. It was cramped and chaotic, but sure enough they had a knackered old PC out the back which apparently had what we needed on it.

Rasta Moses gabbled ten to the dozen to the guys in the shop. Basically trying to get his commission. And fair enough, we would never have found the place without him. They showed me some promo videos of Ugandan dancehall. Which looked good. I asked about just getting just the music – mp3s? But it was video or nothing.

We haggled over the price. They showed me stuff and then burned the bits I liked on CD. I was very aware that this was probably my only chance, but it took a long time for the CD burner to grind round. They wanted to keep me there to burn 3 CDs or more but partner and daughter were looking pretty dejected so I settled up after the first disc was done. We thanked Rasta Moses and went off in search of some cool drinks.

Trouble was, when I got home I just couldn’t get the CD to work. Ha!

But now I have, five years later, with a large amount of help from the good people over at Dissensus.

So here is the first installment. Please show your appreciation for the man like Master Parrot and his supporting cast of gyrating Uganda Ragga Gals:

If purchasing Ugandan reggae was difficult, finding out about the artists is nigh on impossible. If Master Parrot has Myspace then it’s eluded my middle aged mouse hand. All I’ve turned up, once again, has been video – in the shape of this interview.

There’s more to follow, but don’t expect anything like a serious academic study. Unless there are any rich benefactors out there, I will have to leave the analysis and glory to others once again.

Enjoy the music…

One Comment

  1. Great piece. And that Master Parrot interview is GENIUS.

    Just imagine what you would have got if you’d be able to stick around to burn three CDs ..

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