Ugandan superstar singer Philly Lutaaya was introduced to many of us in a documentary Alone in which he shares his experience as a man suffering from Aids in 1990.
I watched the documentary of the man who had died in 1989 as a teenager in Nairobi and I have to say that it affected me quite a bit. We were all mortally scared of the disease at the time; if you were told you had HIV/AIDS you were known as a dead man walking. Then this famous Ugandan singer humanises the diseases and tells us all that not only strange prostitute shaggers were likely to get it.
Fast forward to 2015. I had long forgotten about the documentary until I was told that there was someone who would be performing a play about the life of Philly Lutaaya at the Writivism Festival. I was first introduced to this gentleman Donald Molosi when he did a playwriting masterclass on Thursday with Angela Emurwo. At that masterclass, he introduced his project and the most interesting thing was that this was a man from Botswana writing and performing the work of a Ugandan Aids activist. He told us about how long he took learning about the culture of the people he was going to be portraying before he even started writing his play. It was a very touching thing the US-trained actor was trying to do. With this pitch, you know no one was going to miss it.
I watched the second night of the play called Today It’s Me and I was amazed by his portrayal of the late superstar. His play included some of Lutaaya’s songs like Tumusiime the Christmas carol and a few more. He starts the play it in Sweden when he finds out that he has the disease and it tracks him going back home to address a press conference. He then starts going to schools to warn kids about the disease before he passes on. I was sitting next to a Ugandan lass, shout out to Lydia Namubiru, and he was giving the language justice.
At the very end he sang the signature song of that 1990 documentary Alone and Frightened and I found that I was singing it alongside with crowd. Amazing that I could still do this twenty-five years on. And tears came to my eyes (manly tears of course). There I was singing along to the words;
Out there somewhere, alone and frightened
Oh the darkness, the days are long
Life in hiding, no more making new contacts
No more loving arms thrown around my neck
Plays are a part of literature and this wonderful play brought out the story of this remarkable man.
Kudos to you Donald Molosi.
P.s. In a weird turn of fate, Speke Road which was where Ugandans were hosting their vigils for their Philly as he fought death at the top of the Sheraton Hotel in 1989 is where you the partaker of prostitution services need to go today. You just can’t make this up.