Vol 29 No 4 (2020): Nordic Journal of African Studies
Articles Social Studies

Ugandan music stars between political agency, patronage, and market relations: cultural brokerage in times of elections

Nanna Schneidermann
Department of Anthropology, Aarhus University
Published December 15, 2020
  • Uganda,
  • politics,
  • popular music,
  • elections youth,
  • cultural broker


The political agency of musicians in Africa has been analysed in terms of patronage, as either praising or protesting against political leaders. However, in the last few years, musicians across the continent have also become leading political figures themselves, with Bobi Wine and the People Power Movement in Uganda as the most prominent example. This article examines the changing relations between popular music and politics by focusing on how musicians engaged with the general election campaigns in Uganda in 2011, 2016, and beyond. Their engagement with formal politics cannot be characterised as political activism, patronage, nor as market relations. To understand this ambiguous political agency, I offer the notion of cultural brokerage as a way of approaching the plural strategies and indeterminate actions of young musicians on the political scene. Ultimately, the “bigness” of music stars has a different relational form than conventional patronage politics, and this may be changing how politics is done in Uganda.