The King of Tooro, Oyo Kabamba Rukidi V, considered to have been the youngest King in the world when he assumed his throne twenty five years ago, has given Ugandans a gift in form of a COVID 19 anthem to identify himself with the suffering communities that have been affected by the pandemic since March this year.
King Oyo, born to the late King Patrick Kboyo Olimi 111 and Queen Best Kemigisa, ascended to the throne at the age of three years only.
His Royal Highness funded Home of Talents, a choir made up of vulnerable students from different universities from his kingdom, to come up with the anthem titled; “COVID 19 and the world,” which the central government will be using as the COVID 19 anthem during all official activities.
While launching the song as he celebrated his 25th anniversary on September 12, 2020 at his palace in Fort portal, the capital of his kingdom in western Uganda, King Oyo appealed to the central government to roll out the anthem in local languages.
King Oyo personally identified a specialist in music to compose the anthem. After three months of intensive work, Dr Mpuuga Moses composed the song, and Ivan Kabwijamu, 87 years, a senior music teacher, and Sseruyange Charles, an East African music specialist, formed Home of Talents choir that is made up of young university students from Tooro. For two weeks, Dr Mpuuga tested the song for perfection.
‘COVID 19 and the World’ reminds all Ugandans that the pandemic is real because it has brought all nations to their knees, and that both the young and old should join hands with government to urgently contain the pandemic because it affects them in equal measure. The song also points out that most governments have abandoned patients suffering from deadly diseases like HIV/AIDS, cancer, tuberculosis and malaria at the expense of coronavirus. In the last part, Home of Talents choir thank President Yoweri Museveni and Ministry of Health for their exemplary leadership in coming up with effective containment measures.
The anthem has been released at a time most politicians and government officials Uganda have been holding public gatherings that attract throngs putting many at risk of contracting the virus as they prepare for the 2021 general elections.
Dusk to dawn curfew, which has been in place since April, has lately been ignored with citizens going about their businesses late into the night. Bars, which were ordered closed, have found ways to operate, selling alcoholic drinks as it were before the pandemic.
A number of public transport vehicles have been carrying full capacity passengers in disregard for social distancing.
And what is more worrying is that most people in Kampala have started ignoring the standard operating procedures like putting on masks, washing hands regularly and social distancing despite the heavy congestion.
Generally, a sense of normalcy has been gripping East Africa after the governments lifted partial lockdowns and allowed some economic activity to take place. This has led to a spike in the infected numbers. Currently, Uganda has registered about 4,300 infections with 48 deaths.
Since Uganda confirmed its first COVID-19 case, the government has announced 34 measures to curb the virus. These have registered early success against infections and have included a mass shutdown and an extended lockdown. Parliament passed a supplementary budget of approximately US $82 million to fight COVID-19.
Besides the health ministry’s COVID-19 messaging on state media, including television and radio, political leaders have also recorded messages in local languages to sensitize communities. Local leaders also broadcast COVID-19 information to their neighborhoods, sometimes with loudhailers.
Although popular musicians are powerful tools of mobilization, the Ugandan government has neither included them on any COVID-19 task forces nor formally contracted them to mobilize the public.
Inclusion of musicians in official campaigns against COVID-19 could have boosted the state’s fight in meaningful ways, particularly in combating stigmatization of the victims.
If there is any bright side it’s that dark times produce a lot of art, which can be calming, and in this age of quarantine and chill, high vibrational distractions are welcome. Creativity is a good remedy for hopelessness, especially when it’s channeled through rhythm.
But even better than that are the artists who have been creating original tunes inspired by the COVID-19 virus. Web stars, celebrities, and others have figured out ways to put the power of tempo to work, and here are some of the best tunes to ride this pandemic out to.
Ugandan pop musicians have released a raft of songs and music videos to educate and alert the public about COVID-19.
Notable among them have been Bobi Wine and Nubian Li’s Corona Virus Alert and Bebe Cool’s Corona Distance. But there are also the likes of Pastor Frank Kyeyune’s KatondaYekkaku Corona (God Only On Corona), Dickens Ahabwe’s coronavirus in Uganda and corona by Ykee Benda, King Saha, Joanita Kawalya, B2C, FefeBusu, Dre Cali and MyciOu.
Bobi Wine – who is also a politician and vocal opponent of government – created a hit that soon passed a million clicks on YouTube and has garnered international kudos.
In Corona Virus Alert he and Nubian Li emphasise, among others, the responsibility of all Ugandans to wash and sanitise their hands, observe social distancing, to isolate by going into quarantine if symptoms appear. The artists also list the signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
For their part, Bebe Cool and his associates display the ministry of health’s COVID-19 hotline number throughout their video. They implore people to avoid touching eyes, mouths and noses with unwashed hands and to not shake hands. People need to use tissues or bended elbow to cough and sneeze into. The song ends with an emphasis on the need to heed the lockdown.
Like most coronavirus songs on Ugandan TV and radio, messages are embedded in videos with visuals and text. Bobi Wine and Nubian Li exploit the text more than the visual element – mostly a studio setting – to underscore their message.
These are simple songs that assume a responsibility to help educate citizens. They are dense in information about COVID-19, about preventing its spread and getting help if one is infected.
Uganda’s national COVID-19 taskforce would do well to employ a multi-faceted approach to its public health communication. One where music – in schools, on radio, on the internet – is embraced as a measure towards preventing disease and loss as well as resettling the victims in their community lives.
Artistes and opinion leaders across the globe have embraced the power of music to encourage the public and warn about the dangers of the new strain of coronavirus’ COVID-19, which is ravaging the world.
Songs can be a valuable tool of communication in health pandemics. HIV/AIDS studies show that music not only creates awareness about the ways the virus is transmitted, it also sensitizes people on how to prevent it.
Moreover, music is a mechanism for counseling. Due to their power to employ metaphor, songs become objects through which impossibilities of daily discourses can be turned into hope, participating in the healing process of the patient.
The pandemic can be prevented through frequent hand washing, social distancing, sanitizing and self-isolation, among other measures.
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