Baganda Proverb

Wokuba engoma enyo, bulyomu awulira

You play drum loud, all people hear

Spoken in English: When you beat the drums loud, everyone hears.

I heard this from a friend from Uganda, and also saw it in a Ugandan newspaper article pertaining to corruption. A previous article describing the increase in Uganda’s rank among corrupt governments compelled a government official to downplay the media and public’s reaction by essentially stating that the Ugandan government was not as fraudulent as the masses believed, but had rather suffered from persistent media speculation which merely emphasized and dramatized what idiosyncrasies did exist within the government. The proverb he used to describe his argument was the aforementioned. I asked one of my friends from Uganda what this meant to him, and he responded that it means that whatever is fussed about will eventually be noticed.

I feel that the primary message here is to exert caution, for constant noise and persistence will emphasize any cause to accumulate support of others. At times this can be a useful tool, yet it can also attract unwanted or even detrimental attention to an idea, event, or group of people that would otherwise benefit without the publicity. However, as an example of the proverb in a more literal application, there is a general trend occurring in Uganda in which women are increasingly likely to play the drums, a once entirely male activity. Thus, their performance on the percussion instrument can be interpreted as an act of agency, and this is mirrored with recent political development in Uganda such as the banning of female genital mutilation (circumcision) and the implementation of a quota system for women in all levels of local and national government. The proverb conveniently applies to this phenomenon, showing that playing drums can perhaps literally draw attention to whatever the issue might be. While difficult to show, it would be fascinating to see if this proverb developed as a result of or in conjunction with the women playing drums. Conversely, it is interesting to think if women began playing drums because of the proverb and the message it contained. A similar one I have heard before in the U.S. but cannot locate is “the truth is what gets the loudest applause.”

Butagira, Tabu. “Corruption Worse in Country.” The Monitor, November 15, 2010. This is the news article containing documentation and contextual usage of the proverb.