Ruyonga the poet is mostly unashamed in a sense. With music, I have to hide this entire message behind a catchy beat and melody,” said gospel hip hop sensation Eddie Ruyonga. Within two hours, this messenger lyrically poured about 20 poems.
Tuesday’s Poetry Shrine at the National Theatre has watched him perform before, but never at length like this.
He rhymed self-criticism and critiqued Uganda’s current social political situation, naming the show “Theo-Politan” (God-City); to do with understand our relationship with God in this city.
An apparition of God (this bare feet guy in a kanzu walking with a warmed microphone voice echoing in baritone), came across as Ruyonga knelt in prayer mode. This reminder that Christ already died, had him self-searching, calling God titles; when what he needed was letting God know exactly what’s bothering him. Mentions like my redeemer lives, Alpha and Omega, “God of this Country, God of this City” which he said in music, bread of life...and allusion to Noah, and Prophet Jonah were made.
“Reflection” and “Red Light” (which begun with a red flood light over him) tackled emotional diverges. “Music has been an opportunity to go to those places and explore them so that I don’t lose my mind. I just write them and put them out there for the world to see because for me it is release,” Ruyonga explained.
In poetry he referred to his work as this anti liquor campaign that suffers sobriety, hunting for piety. He made several rather distinct rhyme; ‘Sobriety-Piety’. He questioned what is right, religion, utilized repetition; showing how man’s life is a rotation, we sin, feel guilty, sleep, ‘share’ beds with people, drink, repent and yet still repeat the process.
He wittily pounded the wounded country, its metropolitan dream state where sex is in demand with a short supply of love, of airtime more pricy than China phones, of tear gas, that won’t hold tears back, of unemployed kids from college, little progress in parliament and how those in power stay in power while other stay in load shedding.
“Jobs” gave humourous criticisms; “...traffic cop looking for a bribe on the job...security night guard sleeping on the job, politicians ‘mbu’ no taxes with over paid fees on the job...can’t seem to find enough to pay for school fees on job...too many Ugandan Youth are looking for jobs,” were as funny as they are serious.
He criticised the nation’s poor time keeping blamed on traffic jam, prostitution (girls exposing their petals to pests/investors interested only in what’s in their jeans). Wickedness, family, fame, relationships and self-worth were also tackled. “Everyone struggles with the same things, pressure, needs, appearances...deep things that they don’t have answers to. Yet when you go out into the world people don’t want you talk about that stuff.” he said.
Opening covered in black drapping- hoodie over black tie tuxedo, Ruyonga ended the night with shirt tucked out, arms folded and vest showing. He went through changes on stage.
Instrumentalists and percussion added to the experience, some pieces begun with vendors selling biscuits/pesticides like is norm in Kampala. He said it was a grueling four days of preparation as it’s tasking not to rap to rhythm, yet he didn’t want to do that.