A stream of frenetically funky bass and snare drums pumps out of a battered boom box. “Feel the beat,” proclaims a loose-limbed B-boy. “However you feel it doesn’t matter, just feel it!” he says, stepping out on the snare.
The motley crew of t-shirt-sporting kids, Converse-sneakered teens and barefoot, board-shorted street urchins lurches into action. Stepping out on the snare… bip… left, then right feet rocking the bass… boom-boom… cross-stepping… bip… back-stepping… bip… skip-stepping… bip… they begin to rock the beat in unison… boom-boom.
This is Breakdance Project Uganda (BPU), a cadre of cultural freedom fighters that utilizes hip-hop to empower Ugandan youths.
This is Breakdance Project Uganda (BPU), a cadre of cultural freedom fighters that utilizes hip-hop to empower Ugandan youths whose identity has been systematically shattered. Years of colonization -- followed by the brutality of Idi Amin Dada’s post-independence power trip, and the savagery of military “messiah” Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army -- have all left their legacy.
For successive generations, tens of thousands of kids were abducted to serve as child soldiers; young girls and women were raped; and men were mutilated in a decades-long civil war that divided families and displaced millions.
At the heart of the country is the capital, Kampala. An urban planner’s nightmare, Kampala’s fabled seven-hilled pulse spawns a sprawl of arterial slums pumping with people carving out a living. Its potholed roads are home to three million inhabitants: a thrumming hive of street trade, where vendors flog sunglasses, single cigarettes, and Fong Kong clothing, and telecom shanties lining the sidewalks sell SIM cards under single neon lightbulbs. There are no street lights; it’s left to the swarm of boda-boda motorcycles and matatu (private) minibus taxis to light your way.
Check out the December issue of Red Bulletin magazine (on newsstands November 15) for more of the article. To read the magazine on your iPad, download the Red Bulletin iPad app.