Twelve hours through the night in Kirombe, Gulu, Northern Uganda. Monday 11 August
The call to prayer from the local mosque, has he bought himself a bigger loudspeaker after Ramadan?
Children are singing and screaming and shouting
The evening rain beating on our iron roof, thunder rumbling away to the West
Dogs are preparing themselves for the evening as the sun sets
Trucks, vans and motorbikes rush by trying to get home before dark
A goat calls for her kid, the kid bleats like a petulant child
Fully dark now
The call to prayer
A local church has begun an evening service, shouting mostly
Another service begins elsewhere, singing this one
Acholi drumming starts
Children still screaming etc
Men are settling in for an evening of cards, drinking and discussion at the trading centre next door.
8pm – 9pm
Apart from the mosque this is the quietest part of the evening, 9pm is usually the last call of the night.
The churches are still going
Drummers still at it
Men having a good time next door
The orange painted bar at the corner of the Comboni Samaritans road begins to play music: Ugandan pop songs.
Other clubs in Gulu town heard in the distance
One of the churches has stopped, but the other has really hit its stride, interchanging Acholi singing with hymns and calls for Halleluiah.
The dogs are fully awake and barking away
The Acholi drumming is back, and another church is fading in and out,
Men are drifting away from the trading centre, the dogs bark at them
Gulu clubs going well
2pm – 4am
Lorries continue to drive up the hill nearby, on the major road out to South Sudan
The bar winds down
The dogs do not
Acholi drumming fades in and out
The church plays a sort of 1 fingered organ solo accompanied by a 1-2 beat on an electronic drum pattern and a lively voice put through a wah-wah effect. It is not designed to be restful. On a recent bus journey to Lira, the man next to me, Apostle Charles from the Roc-Life ministries, in between trying to gain a convert and sponsor to his church, told me that “Gulu is for pleasure and Lira is for business”. He was travelling to Nairobi to spread the word, accompanied by his wife and new baby, two hours into a twenty hour journey and the baby was not impressed.
This organ work is easier listening than the all night casting out of devils that we sometimes hear. Is tonight an important liturgical event? Later research shows twelve possible saints days, perhaps St Clare of Assisi, the patron saint of television? But most homes are without electricity, personal TV is still rare, you go to a bar to watch football. Anyway this church is probably Anglican. High days and Holy days? The transfiguration of Christ was on the 6th and nothing much until the celebration of the Virgin on the 15th. The Anglican communion is far bigger outside the UK, is the passionate all night singing that has now replaced the organ noodling what Thomas Cromwell had in mind when Henry the Eighth declared himself Head of the Anglican church in 1529? You could say that it mimics the timetable of the mediaeval monasteries that Henry destroyed; prayers and psalms every hour or so from 1’o’ clock through to 7 in the morning. Somehow you couldn’t get further away from plainsong by cold male monks than this highly amplified fervour.
Is it because tomorrow is International Youth Day? A colleague at lunch yesterday told me about International Decentralisation Day, recently held in the western Ruwenzori area of Uganda, where there has been a lot of trouble. Apparently every government official in that region was given a medal to mark the day, but the rest of Uganda was not, how this celebrated decentralisation was unclear.
The first call to prayer of the day, always the loudest and most urgent
The chickens begin a few tentative crows and the dogs rest their tired throats
Church still going strong
Drummers and Acholi singers still in earshot
Most of the clubs have finished for the night
Second call to prayer
Chickens in full cry, birds starting to call
Children shouting happily at a new morning
Dogs wander off to sleep all day
The all night church singing stops
A more formal call and response church service begins elsewhere
Music starts at another trading centre
Drumming fades away
Bodas pass, trucks drive by. Matatus and other taxis drive up to the trading centre and sound their horns for customers
The goat cannot locate her kid, it is calling frantically again