History of MAKWAA

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Although it was established in 2009, the history of MAKWAA goes back to June 2004, when the organizers of the International Seminar on Popular Cultural Materials and Public Spheres at Roskilde University in Denmark asked Dr. Sylvia Nannyonga-Tamusuza to present a paper on the “Challenges of Archiving Popular Music in Uganda.”

This paper has since been published twice in a South African Journal in 2007 and as a chapter in a book published by Seagull in 2009. The research on archiving music in Uganda revealed a pathetic situation. Generally, archiving music in Uganda is left to the private sphere: to the personal collections of individuals and a few private organizations.

Klaus WachsmannThe state-owned institutions, namely the Uganda Museum, the National Archive at Entebbe, public libraries and university libraries, preserve other archival materials, but not music recordings.

Although Uganda Radio and Uganda Television (now all under one umbrella: Uganda Broadcasting Corporation) have archived music since their founding in 1953 and 1963, respectively, researchers and the general public have no access to their collections except through the occasional broadcast of a few songs during the “Music to Remember” programs on radio.

Through the research at the Uganda Museum, Dr. Nannyonga-Tamusuza discovered that Klaus Wachsmann, its first curator, an ethnomusicologist, teacher and researcher on music of the Ugandan people, had made music collections in the 1940s and 1950s.

Specifically, he collected 1575 from 26 ethnic groups in Uganda and while he had deposited copies of this collection at the Uganda Museum, they were not accessible at all.

Wachsmann (Picture-left)! Wachmann's initiative became the inspiration for establishing Makerere University Klaus Wachsmann Music Archive and indeed the naming of the archive after him.

In fact, it was Wachsmann’s desire to have his collection at Makerere University as revealed in an interview conducted by Lucy Duran in 1983, just a year before Wachsmann’s passing in 1984.

Wachsmann said: “I wanted to record a lullaby – and then played it back to her, and she burst into tears and said “you’ve taken my child’s voice away” – I explained that the recordings would be at Makerere University so she could go and listen. This made it ok.” (Wachsmann, 1949)

Indeed, in 2009, the British Library Sound Archive handled over digitalized copies of Wachsmann collection to a fairly equipped Makerere University Klaus Wachsmann Music Archive, which is housed in the University’s Main Library.

The Music, Dance and Drama Department in partnership with the University Main Library run the Archive.