KAMPALA (Reuters) - A row has broken out in Uganda over an attempt by President Yoweri Museveni to copyright a “rap” he performed that has become a smash hit on the African country’s radio stations and in its nightclubs.
The aging leader took to the stage at two party rallies over the last few months and performed two children’s folk chants from his birthplace in Western Uganda - Naatema akati (I cut a stick) and Mp‘enkoni (Give me the stick).
Record producers then began mixing the performance with hip-hop beats and audio of Museveni telling the crowd that young people had told him about rap music.
The song was named, “You want another rap?” after a question Museveni shouted at the rallies and it quickly began appearing for sale in capital Kampala.
The east African country is due to hold elections in February, seen as a test of democracy for the country. Museveni, a former cattle herder and student activist in power since 1986, could face his stiffest challenge yet if the opposition coalition holds together.
An application lodged by Museveni’s lawyers for exclusive rights to the song has drawn fierce criticism from the president’s opponents, some of whom say he is trying to cash-in on the huge number of Ugandans using it as a ringtone.
“Nobody, not the President, not me has the right to copyright folk chants,” Mwambustya Ndebesa, a history lecturer at Kampala’s Makerere University, told Reuters.
“They should belong to everybody, not be used for political capital.”
Ndebesa says he is consulting lawyers and will try to block the copyrighting.
Museveni’s National Resistance Movement party hopes the song will endear him to the country’s sizeable population of under-30s ahead of February elections.
An opposition party has said it is planning to record its own song as a reply to Museveni’s hit. The Democratic Party says it will be called: “Your rap is crap.”
Ruling party officials are pleased with the popularity of the song, but are unhappy with newspapers that published doctored photographs depicting the 65-year-old leader as topless and tattooed.
Editing by James Macharia and Jon Hemming