Twelve hours through the night in Kirombe, Gulu, Northern Uganda. Monday 11 August

Kirombe Skies

Kirombe Skies: Rain Coming On


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

Kirombe Skies: Dusk

Kirombe Skies: Dusk


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.

Kirombe Skies: Dusk

Kirombe Skies: Dusk

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

Kirombe Skies: Dusk

Kirombe Skies: Dusk

10 pm

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

Kirombe Skies: Night

Kirombe Skies: Night


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

Kirombe Skies: Night

Kirombe Skies: Night

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.

Kirombe Skies: Dawn

Kirombe Skies: Dawn

5 am

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

Kirombe Skies: Dawn

Kirombe Skies: Dawn

6 am

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

Kirombe Skies

Kirombe Skies