KAMPALA, Uganda — Seeking the youth vote in his re-election campaign, President Yoweri Museveni has released a hip hop single that has become widely popular.
"You Want Another Rap?" delivered by Museveni in his indigenous Runyanole language is Uganda's first election season hit.
The rap and video have been fashioned from a recording of Museveni giving a speech in which he says that he knows about rap music and he says it is part of African tradition. He recites a verse and then asks the audience "You want another rap?" The young audience responds "Ye Ssebo!" the equivalent of "Yes sir!"
An enthusiastic Museveni supporter and music producer, Steve Jean, added a driving club beat to Museveni's delivery and produced an accompanying video. The producers have used the Museveni material a few times and added studio voices to stretch it into a full song.
The presidential rap is being played on dance floors, is in heavy rotation on radio and has even become available as a ring tone. Museveni has been dubbed "M-7 Cent," a play on the president's name and the American rap star, 50 Cent.
With "You Want Another Rap?" Museveni has found a popular way to kick off his presidential campaign.
“People are crazy about it. They play it in the clubs, on radio ... they consider it hip. They say, ‘our president is cool. He can drop a beat!’” said Yvonne Koreta, a disc jockey and radio personality.
Museveni, 66, has been Uganda's president for 24 years and is running for an unprecedented fourth term. The Museveni administration has been criticized, both internationally and at home, for corruption and an economy that is in the doldrums, not to mention a pernicious fight against rebels from the Lords Resistance Army, who appear to be based in Sudan and the Central African Republic.
Eight candidates have said they will challenge Museveni in the 2011 vote, scheduled for Feb. 9.
Museveni said that while traveling around Uganda, young people told him about their love of hip hop and rap music. This intrigued the Ugandan president and he began to acquaint himself with the American urban music phenomenon.
While giving a campaign speech, he discussed this newfound knowledge of music. Museveni said, “I recently learned about the black, African roots of hip hop music ... I can do some rap myself,” he said and proceeded to "spit his rhyme."
Sounding more griot than gangsta, Museveni’s rap is an ancient folktale. The first verse is translated:
“I cut a stick that strayed into Igara (a village in western Uganda) where Ntambiko reigns. Ntambiko gave me a knife, I gave the knife to millet harvesters, the millet harvesters gave me millet, I gave the millet to a hen, the hen gave me an egg, I gave the egg to children, the children gave me a monkey, I gave the monkey to the king, the king gave me a cow, that I used to marry my wife. She gave me a child, I called the child Mugarura, who raided back what belonged to me and his grandfathers."
The chorus goes: "Today these young people taught me about this rap, because I was not following what they were saying. You want another rap?" And young people respond: "Ye Ssebo!"
“I rap along and have a copy of the song on my flashdrive. People play it a lot. I like the beat, beat-wise it’s good and I can dance to it,” said Hillary Muheebwa, 22, a documentarian and a Runyankole speaker.
However, not everybody is in favor of Museveni's rap debut.
“I don’t like it,” said Jemie Ondoga, 28. “The president has never been much among the youth in other parts of the country. In fact, he only regards Bunyankole (Museveni's ethnic group) youth to be Ugandan youth, he shouldn’t have rapped in Runyankole if he is looking to reach all Ugandan youth.”
Ondoga, a domestic worker, added, “His rap has revealed him as a tribal chief ... 'You Want Another Rap?' is like he is asking if we want another term. I say we need term limits!”
In what might become a political rap war, opposition candidate, Norbert Mao of the Democratic Party, said he will produce a response rap called "Your Rap Is Crap!"
DJ Yvonne Koreta said the song has become popular, but remains skeptical about Museveni's campaign.
“Yeah, people know the words, but give me something I can see like good roads, hospitals with medicine and maybe I will nod my head to his beat."