Ugandan artists fuse Chinese, African music to strengthen people-to-people ties

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Strong African beats fused with Chinese melodies is the latest genre Ugandan artists are promoting to strengthen the people-to-people ties between the two countries.

For now over a month, the artists have been practicing Chinese popular songs as they seek to reach out to the Chinese audience.

Clad in African traditional wear, playing African music instruments but bellowing out Chinese tunes, the artists sing about patriotism and love.

John Bosco Katende, group’s trainer told Xinhua that practicing singing in Chinese was at first difficult but because of the persistence, the musicians were able to get the notes right.

“It is a new experience because of the language, but when we go to the music language it is the same only that you find the Chinese are using so much of pentatonic scale as Ugandans, majority, use the diatonic scale,” Katende said.

“Music is the same language, so it is easy to find that some notes can be fused into the African style leaving the Asian style. So it was so easy using the music knowledge,” he added, as the group did a recording session at the National Theatre also known as the Uganda National Cultural Center (UNCC).

Katende who has been a trainer for the last 20 years said he believes that the group can now comfortably perform on a Chinese stage as well as doing exchanges with Chinese performers.

“We are looking forward to exchanging the art, Ugandans going to China and Chinese coming here and they perform,” he said.

Florence Nakijoba, a Chinese language teacher said it was easy for the musicians to quickly grasp what she taught them. Nakijoba, who was part of a Ugandan government program to train teachers who will teach mandarin in secondary schools, was in charge of teaching the musicians the various songs and their meaning.

The musicians performed among others the Chinese national anthem, a children’s song Chun Tian Zai Na Li, a patriotic song Wan Jiang, a Chinese New Year songGong Xi Fa Cai, and a love song Tian Mi Mi.

Josephine Mugerwa, one of the performers and also a popular musician told Xinhua that China is one of the fastest developing countries in the world and therefore strengthening ties with such a country not only economically or politically but also socially must be explored.

“We are trying to strengthen the friendship between Uganda and China. China has been in a relationship with Uganda for some good time, when it comes to trade but this time we want to do it socially through music. It feels good when you see another person from another country singing your music,” she said.

“We are promoting patriotism, we want to promote Uganda in China that is why you see us singing Chinese songs, but then we are putting on Ugandan outfits,” she added.

Mugerwa said through music the Chinese and Ugandan people can be brought together for the good of both communities.

Sam Okello, chairperson board of trustees UNCC said there are several lessons to pick from China especially at a time when perceived modernity is threating indigenous cultures.

“The strength of China stemmed from the people, China lived as a closed community for a long time and by the time it was opened to the world, everything was done according to the cultural values of China,” Okello said.

He said although modernity is good, it can also be negatively disruptive, especially among young people who may adopt it forgetting their traditional values.

Okello argued that nations grow basing on their cultural values, adding that Chinese culture is what has made China become advanced and developed. 

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