Geoffrey Oryema’s music has a hypnotic quality that is very relaxing. I suspect, though, that for speakers of Acholi and Swahili, the effect might be a little different. I don’t have any way of knowing exactly the content of Oryema’s lyrics, but I do know that he often returns to themes of sorrow and nostalgia, as befits a longtime exile and refugee. As an activist, Oryema is deeply concerned about the continued political instability in his native Uganda, and has also been working as an advocate for children across Africa who have been forcibly conscripted as soldiers by unscrupulous warlords like Joseph Kony and groups like the Lord’s Resistance Army. Naturally, his music has become more politically focused. His latest album is a collection of protest songs, including one that takes the form of an open letter to Kony himself, begging the warlord to end his reign of terror. Clearly, the music that sounds merely pleasant and relaxing has a deeper and more important meaning, and masks a righteous anger.


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