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Down Memory Lane:  Merry Christmas by Philly Lutaaya

by Editorial Team
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By Dennis Asiimwe

I quietly hate this song. Let me just get that off my chest.

Yes, I know Philly Lutaaya is a legend. Literally untouchable, and something of a musical genius. However, this particular song doesn’t do his legacy justice. It has a repetitive groove to it that is simply infuriating. And when the taxi drivers decided that along with Boney M, it was the soundtrack of the city in December, we grew up being beaten to death by the sound of that song.

It doesn’t compare to the jolly, happy-go-lucky bit of musical genius that is Born In Africa. That feels like an anthem of a continent discovering itself. Merry Christmas just sounds like a soundtrack that you listen to when you wake up in hell, and discover that hell is one loud, smelly taxi stuck in the jam as you try to get out of the Old Taxi Park.

Yes, I know Philly Lutaaya is a legend. Literally untouchable, and something of a musical genius. However, this particular song doesn’t do his legacy justice. It has a repetitive groove to it that is simply infuriating. And when the taxi drivers decided that along with Boney M, it was the soundtrack of the city in December, we grew up being beaten to death by the sound of that song

However, there is some stuff that works for the song, even though you will usually listen to it about 8,000 times in the month of December. It’s beautifully inclusive – Philly was writing a Christmas song for the whole country, and its pretty apt the way he names towns and locations.

It also has that synthetic, brassy, big band feel that Philly was famed for pulling off – he uses it again in songs like Born In Africa, as well as another Philly Christmas classic, Katujaguze.

The song’s simple, everyman format also works, so in terms of ‘a song for everyone’, it works in this regard. The song’s prominent baseline also helps drive the song forward. And then, of course, there’s Philly Lutaaya’s voice – it doesn’t rescue the song (it’s far too gone for that), but it makes it bearable, until you are listening to the song endlessly, as most of downtown Kampala ensures you do.

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