Ugandan Recordings is a Wandering Songs project that came into existence in August 2013 to uncover and document music from northern Uganda. The search has found artists with a variety of instruments such as adungu, lukeme, nang’a, bila and orak. All recorded songs are accompanied by video clips, so one can see how each artist creates their work. In addition, musicians, radio presenters, choir directors and other music admirers in northern Uganda are also asked to explain –within one minute- what music means to them (visible in the ‘music in one minute’ video-clips). The most important aspect of Ugandan Recordings is a good and respectful relationship with the local community. It’s a priority is to share the music videos and recordings with the Ugandan musicians. Each artist receives a copy and has full ownership of the song. Both artist and Ugandan Recordings are entitled to use the recorded version of the song. Ugandan Recordings offers a platform for artists to reach a wider audience –with the use of radio, internet and media- and promote their music (without any form of payment). The project emphasises the importance of meaning in music. In order to spread the messages, the recorded songs are translated -and subtitled- into English with help of two local translators.
Music is a powerful tool to unite and comfort people and to discuss, remember and document important issues and events. Music gives people the opportunity to tell their own stories and make others aware of matters they find important. In addition, the recordings also document songs (and thereby narratives and happenings) that might otherwise be forgotten. As one of the artists put it ‘Our songs are the library of the Acholi’. Most of the Ugandan Recording-songs had never been recorded before. The artists were free to pick any of their own songs. It is striking that many songs relate to the twenty years of war that took place in northern Uganda. Life in the IDP-camps, rebel attacks and broken families are some of the topics that came up.
Music moves us, both metaphorically and literally. Music is an art in which emotion is expressed, it helps people to share feelings. This is especially important in post-conflict situations like in northern Uganda, where issues of trust often come up. During the recordings we witnessed tears of sadness and tears of joy. In the end, the recordings always brought people together. Making -and listening to- music often involves a lot of fun as well. Over a period of eight months (2013, 2014), 111 recordings and videos have been made by Ugandan Recordings / Wandering Songs in northern Uganda. The recording equipment consisted of two cameras, four microphones and a digital audio recorder on batteries, enabling recordings in distant places without electricity. All this material fitted into one backpack. A motorbike was used for transport -creating a highly mobile studio. For the purpose of highlighting different songs, messages and instruments we selected artists with diverse backgrounds. Introductions mostly took place via community leaders, friends, artists, (religious and non-religious) institutes and radio stations. All recorded artist’s come from northern Uganda. In December 2013, Ugandan Recordings and radio station Pol FM hosted a traditional instrument talent-show in Kitgum. We are grateful to all radio-stations in Kitgum (Pol FM, Kiti FM, Mighty Fire FM, Peace FM and Tembo FM) for paying attention to Ugandan Recordings and thereby promoting the local artists. After sharing the moving songs within their own community, it is now time to share them with the rest of the world.