- Oct 25, 2009
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has "written" a rap song ahead of the February election that's become the most popular ring tone in this hip-hop-loving nation, and now he's looking to copyright his smash hit.
There's just one problem: He didn't compose the rhyme; it's a Kinyankole children's song to which Museveni has added the single line, "You want another rap?" -- which is also the song's title.
The song's lyrics ignore pressing electoral issues like corruption, high unemployment and rising tribal tensions in favor of a tale about a knife that's traded for millet that's given to a hen that produces an egg.
Museveni did not actually "sing" the rap; he'd spoken the lyrics at a campaign stop, and a producer later electronically engineered the president's voice over a rap track. The mix was then played at the president's prenomination celebration, surprising Museveni as much as anyone. Moments later, according to state-run media, he was taking credit for it: "That is my song! That is my song!"
Museveni's lawyer, Edgar Tabaro, confirms that the president has filed for copyright, which if authorized would allow him to reap profits from the ring tone and song sales. Ugandan regulations require the copyright application to be accompanied by an ad in a local publication, and if no objection to the copyright is made within 60 days, a certification of registration is granted.
But Mwambutsya Ndebesa, a political historian at Makerere University in Kampala, told AOL News he intends to file a complaint with the Registration Service Bureau in an effort to stop what he sees as an attempt to unfairly exploit traditional culture.
"I don't have a problem with him singing," Ndebesa said. "But this is an age-old heritage song."
Ndebesa questions why a president whose family has reportedly amassed untold wealth during his quarter century in power is seeking to profit from a song he didn't write. Ndebesa said Museveni's attempt to extend his ownership to the domain of traditional culture is symptomatic of an unquenchable thirst for personal gain. "Whatever he does is subordinate to his project to retain power," he said.
But the law may be on the president's side. Uganda's Copyright and Neighboring Rights Act of 2006 appears to authorize the copyrighting of minor adjustments made to others' works. Section 5 states that copyright can be granted to "translators, adaptations and other translations of pre-existing works," including musical works, "which by selection and arrangement of its content, constitute original work."
Regardless of how much Museveni profits financially from his hit, the former rebel bush leader is clearly enjoying his life as a fledgling rap star and sees a future in it -- according to the Daily Monitor he plans to record and release an album of songs.
The rap hit has helped rejuvenate the image of a leader who was increasingly seen as lacking the political will or vision to see the country through to a higher stage of development.
"It's a brilliant campaign move," said Simon Osborn of the Deepening Democracy Program in Kampala, which has been conducting opinion polls to monitor voter trends. "You've been in power 25 years. Your problem is you're out of touch; you're surrounded by an insular clique. And the first thing you do in the campaign season is a rap. Suddenly, you're seen to be back in touch."
The rap is helping Museveni's standing among Uganda's youth -- vital for presidential aspirants here, home to the world's second youngest population in the world (next to Niger). How many votes it's actually worth is anyone's guess, but crowds at campaign stops reportedly have urged Museveni to demonstrate his rap skills rather than outline his policy positions. Youth are affectionately incorporating the rap's title into everyday speech, filling in "rap" with a word that befits casual situations they're in, as in, "You want another drink?"
Some local observers say the phenomenon is stealing the thunder from some of the more youth-oriented candidates, like Norbert Mao of the Democratic Party, who is said to have an Obama-like magnetism, and the Forum for Democratic Change's Kizza Besigye, who is promising to trim the government's bureaucracy and tackle the system of patronage. Besigye lost to Museveni in the 2001 and 2006 presidential contests, both of which the Supreme Court said contained massive irregularities.
But Museveni has more than a rap on his side. He and his National Resistance Movement have brought stability to a country still traumatized by the rule of Idi Amin and Milton Obote, responsible for an estimated 250,000 and 300,000 civilian deaths, respectively. Uganda's economy now embraces deregulation and private-sector growth, and there's been a broadening of personal freedoms despite complaints about an abuse of power and rigged elections.
Museveni's handlers insist he will win February's contest fair and square. And while there have been crackdowns on opposition rallies leading up to the election, so far Uganda has avoided the kind of state-stoked chaos that characterized the last two presidential campaigns here.
Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a political scientist and researcher at Uganda's Makerere Institute of Social Research, suspects that will change if and when the opposition begins to look like a real threat. "As the regime begins to see large numbers of opposition supporters, [the level of tolerance] will change," he said.
For now, Museveni's rap is helping keep things light.
Source: Uganda's Rapping President Yoweri Museveni Gets Rapped for Song