LAGOS – Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine on Monday drew various rounds of applause from a crowd in Nigeria when he delivered a passionate speech about the role of music in society.
The artiste-cum politician was in Lagos to attend a debate staged in memory of Fela Kuti, a Nigerian artiste who was born in 1938 and died in 1997. The artiste is remembered for music that criticized excesses of leaders in his country, a fact that landed him in jail on several occasions.
In the presence of several scholars such as Professor Wole Soyinka, Bobi Wine in his speech highlighted how as a young man, he was often inspired by great scholars and artistes such as Chinua Achebe, Soyinka, Bob Marley and Lucky Dube. He also revealed that Nigeria has often been an influential country in Africa.
The artiste revealed that as a young man growing up in a ghetto in Kamwokya, Kampala, he used to sing about “nonsense” topics of drink and hips of women because that is what certain sections of society at the time taught him to do. He revealed that at the time, many boys in the ghetto used to be sponsored by several companies to pose holding beer bottles.
However, Bobi Wine revealed that when he started singing about leadership, then his music started getting local and global recognition, though sometimes in negative ways.
“After stopping to teach nonsense and teaching sense, the powers that be are not happy. As we speak today, my music is banned in my country. My concerts are abolished in my country. And yes, my public appearances are abolished in my country. Why? Because I am an artiste using my music to communicate to the people. It was a sentiment from the president of Uganda, who has been in power for 34 years that I should not mix politics with music,” he said, drawing murmurs of disapproval from the crowd.
He added: “But interestingly, as I speak now, my president is in the studio recording an album because he has also realised that music is the most powerful tool of communication. In 2016, I was offered Shs500m to join a group of artistes singing praises for the president. Now that money is not given to professors or any high ranking people in society.”
The Fela Debate was held under the theme, ‘Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense’. In the address, Bobi Wine, who was accompanied by wife Barbie and fellow artiste Nubian Li, also challenged the artistes and more particularly, the musicians of this generation, to use their voices and speak out about social issues.
“African art has been effective enough. We the would-be Felas of this generation must continue the legacy of a man who gave up personal aggrandizement and criticized those who abused power. We know it is challenging to challenge the status quo but those of us know who know that it is possible have something to look up to; Fela Kuti,” he said, drawing a loud applause.
Bobi Wine also toured Karakute the home and burial site of Kuti that has since been turned into a museum.