Singing politics: popular music, popular politics and contingencies of protest in NRM's Uganda
This thesis project is an analytical examination of the deployment of musical expression in the practice of state politics under Uganda’s National Resistance Movement (NRM). There are two dimensions under which this examination is done: first, how the NRM deploys musical expression for its political project and two, how society uses musical expression to create new and or alternative ways of engaging with the NRM politics, which also includes the transformational aspect that is created on individuals and society in general. Drawing on extensive fieldwork within Kampala and the surrounding districts in the period of NRM’s recurrent political project, this thesis argues that right from its formation in the early 1980’s, musical expression has become popular as a result of its strategic deployment as a tool of NRM’s political mobilisation and legitimization. The emerging performing arts industry in Uganda has been under a strategic deployment to produce NRM subjects and products of power. This has been buttressed by political reforms and practices that have arguably been very instrumental in the production of prolific musical activities across NRM’s time and space. Such policies like Neoliberalisation whose privatization policy enabled the establishment of several communication and media houses, in turn reproduced musical and other forms of artistic expression en masse. On the other hand, the deployment of musical expression for NRM’s power project has also produced contingencies of protest emerging as alternative avenues of engagement with the NRM state. This has prompted the NRM to use repressive mechanisms to counter musical-led political dissent. This thesis employs a Foucauldian theory that critically examines discourse of knowledge and power, that is spread everywhere in society. In this analysis, the Foucauldian approach acts as an unsettling point regarding other theories of musical expression, the debate on Socialist realism versus the debate on art for art’s sake and Althusser’s theory of Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus. The central argument is that musical expression is not only an avenue through which state power percolates into society for the purpose of control but it is as well a means by which society creates alternative ways of thinking and engaging with the dominant politics of the state. By using Musical expression as an analytical category, this thesis project contributes to the understanding of power in Uganda’s emerging democracy with a particular focus on the National Resistance Movement. And beyond the NRM and Uganda in particular, it contributes to the growing body of knowledge that is based on the interface between music and politics within the East African region and beyond. This study draws attention to interdisciplinary scholarship that combines historical, cultural, and political studies.