Music composers caught reproducing Acholi anthem without permission

Some artists in Northern Uganda are on the spot for pirating the Acholi Anthem. So far there have been three attempts aimed at changing the order of the wordings of the anthem.

Some local music composers have introduced parallel versions. The original composition, with two stanzas, was the brain child of the late Prof. Okot Pa Bitek, a former novelist, scholar and poet in 1956.

Currently, the anthem is made up of three stanzas. The first stanza calls for the divine protection of the paramount chief, the second, Acholi ethnic group and third, Acholi land.

Denis Ojwee, a choir instructor at Christ’s Church Gulu says the original composition by Prof. Okot Pa Bitek had only two stanzas. He says the silence of Ker Kwaro Acholi on the right version of the anthem is giving room for pirates to distort the anthem further.

Although he vehemently denies wrong doing, Ojwee is one of those accused of pirating the anthem.  According to Ojwee, he came into contact with the original anthem through his deceased father, Luka Labeja.

According to Ojwee, the third stanza of the anthem was introduced by the late Janani Okot, the father of Jolly Andruvile Okot, the co-founder of Invisible Children in Uganda
Another music composer accused of circulating a parallel version of the anthem is a female musician based in the diaspora trading as Nyinomugisha.

In 2014, Nyinomugisha recorded a song titled “Ot Ker Pa Acholi” as the official Acholi anthem and circulated it over the internet, music vendors and some radio stations in the region.

On You Tube, the song plays in Luo dialect with an English translation running over photographs of various dancers putting on the costumes of Acholi tradition dancers.

Uganda Radio Network obtained a copy of the audio but could not verify how it came to be known as the Acholi Anthem alias Lubaro Pa Acholi.

Felix Apire Opoka, is an instructor at Bright Way Band and a junior music instructor in Gulu’s UPDF 4th Division army barracks. He says the anthem has also been transposed by Col. Abenego Orec, the former military music director at the 4th Division barracks.

Opoka says the various copyright violations have resulted into confusion among band members to the extent that different versions are played at parallel functions.

Uganda Radio Network couldn’t trace retired Col. Abenego Orec for an interview. Ambrose Olaa, the Prime Minister of Acholi Cultural Institution, says the official version of Acholi Anthem is that composed by the late Prof. Okot Pa Bitek in 1956.

The Prime Minister says Bitek’s version was formally gazetted as Lubaro Pa Acholi by the then joint Acholi district Council meetings in Gulu district.

He says the major change in the anthem is on the title of the paramount chief, the Lawirwodi which was previously Laloyo Maber (the good leader).

Olaa says recently the Council of Elders, the institution’s policy making organ resolved to produce and distribute copies of the anthem to institutions of learning, local governments and lower chiefdoms to popularize and eliminate pirated versions in circulations.

Although Uganda Registration Service Bureau is attempting to enforce the existing copyright law to protect intellectual properties, the agency is yet to crack a whip on offenders in the country.

Below is a copy of the Anthem being distributed by Ker Kwaro Acholi:

1.     Lubanga gwok Lawirwodi
Kure ikom tic mere
Mi gum ki kuc i gang Kalle
Ot Ker me Acholi
Walegi Rwot madit
Pi Lawirwodi wa
Kure-re, tire-re
I tic merre pi Acholi.

2.     Lubanga gwokiwa Acholi
Wadyero kwowa i cingi
Mi gen, ribbe ki mer ikinwa
Ki kaki murumuwa
Walegi Rwot madit
Mi mar aye oloo lobowa
Rib-wa, tel-wa,
Wadong lobo me Acholi

3.     Lubanga gwok lobo Acholi
Lonye pi pitowa
Mi ceng ki Kot muromo pi
Gin aketa ma iiye
Walegi Rwot madit
Pi lutelawa weng
Rib-gi, tel-gi
Ki ngee ni in aye Won twer.