In April 2011, when Ugandans began ditching their cars and public transport to protest disputed elections and rising food and gas prices, Burney MC was getting inspired. The Ugandan rapper wrote the song “Walk to Work” for the same-named movement.
In this video edition of My Song, the rapper talks about the urge he felt to contribute peacefully to the demonstration in which many of his compatriots were participating.
“I wanted to write a song which is going to protest for the years to come,” he said.
The track was released almost three years ago, but little seems to have changed since. Various international organizations suggest that the Ugandan government has become increasingly repressive; its Anti-Homosexuality Bill passed by parliament this past December as one recent example.
Since 2010, the country has dropped to the 140th place in the global corruption perceptions index by Transparency International. Journalists are, more and more, deprived of their freedom of expression.
And the passing of the Public Order Management Act almost six months ago put a bigger restriction on everyday Ugandans’ freedom of speech and right to assemble.
It’s more than clear that years after the release of ”Walk to Work,” Burney MC’s lyrical protest still has resonance.
Even though order may have returned to the streets of Uganda’s cities, songs like this remind listeners how vulnerable their freedoms are. They also document the impact of making their voices about that very issue heard.
Because artists often occupy a space in which they can be more critical of social issues, My Song makes a point of allowing each musical guest to express his or her views openly. There’s no presenter or interviewer to get in the way. Each episode begins with a song, but concludes with a reassuring notion for its young audience: everyone faces hardships, even world-renowned musicians and pop icons.
Look out for regular episodes of My Song here on the ONE blog.
You can also explore the history of protest song, from slavery to women’s rights, and watch artists like Mumford & Sons, Ed Sheeran and Jessie J cover iconic protest songs for ONE’s agit8 project.