National Anthem – We May As Well Rename Uganda [editorial]

In recent weeks, the country has been abuzz with talk that there is need to ‘jazz-up’ the national anthem of the republic of Uganda.

Media reports quoted Tourism Minister Maria Mutagamba as saying that local entertainer Alex Mukulu was in charge of a project worth about Shs 180m for this noble purpose. The minister explained that the objective was not to “change” the anthem but to use its message in drama and other ways so as to help an increasingly-indifferent public to identify with their motherland.

However, Mukulu was quoted last week as saying that he was indeed going to change the anthem. Predictably, this news has split debate, with many Ugandans totally opposing any tampering with what they consider one of the most beautiful pieces of music they have heard.

Our view is that the government needs to tread cautiously on this and other issues linked to our national heritage. Otherwise, we should not be surprised if a minister suggests, one of these days, that we should change the name Uganda to something fancier and more appealing.

Obviously, Uganda would not be the first country to change its anthem – but neither would it be joining a large club of dithering nations. Switzerland, for instance, is considering changing its anthem. Five months ago, it was reported that an online petition was gaining momentum to try and change the United States anthem.

However, we need to think critically about why we should want to tamper with the anthem. For instance, in Switzerland, it has been argued that the old anthem is too religious, while younger generations are not.

If the change is to make us more patriotic and attached to the country, then that can be done through music and drama without tampering with the official anthem. The idea that we can change things to suit evolving tastes exists in tension with the need to bequeath youth some enduring heritage.

This whole obsession with aesthetics seems to speak to the hankerings of more impressionable youth that prize form over substance. Uganda’s national anthem is not terribly wanting, and the country has more pressing needs on which it could spend Shs 180m.

Source : The Observer

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