Spirit of Uganda Troupe Celebrates Life, to perform at the Carver Community Cultural Center

Posted January 22, 2012 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Featured ~ 2,307 views


By Jasmina Wellinghoff, For the Express-News ~ Peter Kasule can empathize with his young performers in the touring troupe Spirit of Uganda, all of whom are either orphans or at-risk youths.

An orphan whose parents died of AIDS, like so many of his adult countrymen in his native Uganda, Kasule, 30, got his start as a performer in a production similar to Spirit. Today, he is its artistic director.

Produced by Dallas-based Empower African Children, which mentors young Ugandans with the goal of preparing future national leaders, Spirit of Uganda stops at the Carver Community Cultural Center on Saturday.

“All the children in the show are either orphans or vulnerable youths that we support,” explained EAC founder Alexis

Hefley. “They are the ambassadors for their country and ambassadors for what’s possible when young people are given opportunities and resources to pursue their dreams.”

Kasule knows this first-hand. After his start in performing as a youth, he later received financial support to attend an arts high school in Dallas and ultimately the College of Santa Fe (N.M.), where he earned a degree in music technology.

“It changed my entire life,” he said by phone. “I was given an education and an opportunity to see a different world. It now allows me to work with kids who are where I was at their age. I know where they are coming from.”

The show’s 22 youths, ages 8 to 20, perform a colorful program of folkloric and new songs and dances representing the main ethnic groups of Uganda and neighboring countries. Adapted and choreographed by Kasule, the 19 numbers, accompanied by drums, are either rooted in old legends or represent everyday activities and common rituals.

Thus, the opening piece, “Amaggunju,” is said to have been originally performed to keep a royal baby from crying at the court of a Bugandan king (south-central Uganda). “Ding Ding” comes from the Acholi people in the north and is danced by girls trying to attract boys while engaging in birdlike movements.

“Kinyarwanda” has a story behind it, involving elephant hunters and a woman who helped them get their prey. Because she helped, it became OK for men and women to dance together in a society that formerly frowned on the sexes co-mingling in public.

Kasule will narrate and serve as master of ceremonies.

Despite the devastation of AIDS, poverty and civil war, for Ugandans, music and dance are the “breath of life,” he said.

“No matter what, Ugandans are smiling, singing and dancing,” he said. “These are aspects of life that keep us going. What you’ll see on stage is our lifestyle; it’s our life.”

About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.


Be the first to comment!

Leave a Response