When I was a child, maybe five or six, some phrases plunged me into utter perplexity whenever I heard them. For instance, adults used the expression, 'okuteera amabare', which directly translates to 'the knocking of stones' to describe the making of music. When their discourse turned to the war that was then raging in the country, they said Museveni was 'fighting for the drum' (narwaanira engoma). I remember thinking deeply about the stones in the compound and the pebbles at the well side, wondering how the mere act of knocking them together could result in the beautiful music I often heard blaring out of the radio. I remember wondering whether a drum – it was a familiar object, for I was a regular at the village church – could be so important that, for its sake, Museveni engaged in a fight that entailed the ominous throbs of gunfire that sporadically reached our village. But the adults threw these phrases about in a matter-of-fact fashion, as though it was the most natural thing in the world that knocking stones together could result in music, or that dispute over a drum could translate into a fierce exchange of gunfire. I became absolutely baffled. And because my father was rather severe, and signs of slow wits could fetch a spank, I didn't voice my questions. I kept curiously glancing at stones and drums, and figuring that there must be something about life that was beyond the reach of my little head.

Every afternoon, throughout my first two primary school years, as a final act before breaking up for lunch, we sang a vernacular song whose lyrics were:

Nkabugana orwoma nitwetambuza

Omujungu yarutera embundu

Ruti ndekura

Osiibegye masita, twagarukayo

Eshaha zietu zahika ezokutaha

Kare bayi bayi, kare bayi bayi.

 

Loosely translated, they say:

I met a walking cable

A white man struck it with a gun

“Leave me alone,” it said

Have a good day, teacher,

We now return home,

It's our usual time for departure,

So bye-bye, so bye-bye.