Acclaimed documentary Bouncing Cats tells the story of one man’s efforts to uplift the young men and women of war-torn Uganda through hip-hop. That man is Abramz and this is his story.
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 lurch 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 who utilise hip-hop to empower Ugandan youths whose identity has been systematically shattered. Years of colonisation 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 has left its legacy. For successive generations, tens of thousands of kids were abducted as child soldiers, women raped and men mutilated in a decades-long civil war that divided families and displaced millions.
At the heart of the country is Kampala. An urban planner’s nightmare, its fabled seven-hilled pulse spawns a sprawl of arterial slums pumping with people carving out a living. Its pot-holed roads are home to its three million inhabitants: a thrumming hive of informal trade where street vendors flog sunglasses, single cigarettes and Fong Kong clothing, and telecoms shanties scattered along the sidewalks sell sim cards under single neon light bulbs. There are no street lights. It’s left to the swarm of boda-boda motorcycles and matatu mini-bus taxis to light your way.
Read the full story in October's issue of the Red Bulletin.