When we reviewed the footage we had captured of the MDD school competition, we realized that we had a priceless record of some of the traditional music and dance of this region of Uganda. I offered to make recordings of the next round; this would be a good volunteer project. Nick agreed whole-heartedly, but first Big Beyond would have to get permission from the schools to make more recordings. We had noticed that the teachers and administrators were, indeed, slightly uneasy about us recording during the first competition round; was this just another way that strangers would exploit them?
Meanwhile, besides the four regular volunteers (me, Karel, Amy, and Michela), Big Beyond was hosting a group of scouts from the UK. We learned that they had brought a projector with them as a present to the local community, so we borrowed it and screened some of the raw footage from the competition at St. Peter’s primary school, the winning school. The students were really excited; for most of them, it was the first time ever that they saw themselves in a video. There was a lot of laughter and finger pointing at the screen! The teachers and especially Gaudence Tindikawa, the formidable headmistress of St. Peter’s, were really pleased with the recordings. That was all it took to convince everyone that this was a good thing, especially when they were told they could have digital copies of the files. Some of the teachers commented that dances their grandparents used to do had already been forgotten and lost. These recordings would hopefully protect the dances they were doing now from the same fate.
The second MDD competition round was held at the same location, only two days after the first round. As I knew what to expect, I could do a better job at preparing; I brought an external microphone (so I could pick up dialogue during drama) and battery chargers (so I would not run out of batteries during video taping). I packed everything in my photo backpack (which is really heavy); after breakfast, Sunday and I headed to the competition.
I was made to feel really welcome; it was obvious that the teachers of St. Peter’s had put in a good word for me and they made sure that I had a good seat to film the proceedings. Just as it had a few days earlier, the crowd grew during the day and I found myself completely surrounded by numerous curious and excited students – sometimes I was fearing for my camera’s safety. Fortunately, the school teachers were really helpful in driving the crowds back.
The day started again with the set piece, the formal hymn that was the same for all competitors. This time, only four schools were competing and one school hadn’t arrived yet. That was not really a problem, the late school was able to perform this part later.
The various items on the competition agenda were performed in a different order compared to the previous round. The poems, accompanied by big gestures, warned about the current problems that youth were facing.
Next, it was time to haul the musical instruments into the arena and entertain the audience with musical performances.
The next topic was the original composition, one of the crowd favorites.
After the traditional folk song performances, there was a break during which the drama curtain was raised again.
In my post about the first competition round, I mentioned how difficult sight reading was. You can watch and hear that for yourself in this video of St. Peter’s primary school’s team:
The best was saved for last: the traditional dance!
Overall, it was a great day. I was able to record the entire competition, including the drama portion; again, I stayed until the end of the day and the teachers were appreciative of my focus and dedication to make the recordings.
At the end of the competition, the winner was announced; just like two days ago, it was St. Peter’s primary school. And just as before, the victorious students celebrated their win by chanting and singing happy songs while walking home.This entry was posted in Uganda, Vacation 2016: East/South Africa