The Odungu Players

Opio Charles and Okello David made my day today. No question at all. I was photographing in Purongo Market (it’s near Pakwach, in the North West of Uganda) and I could hear some really amazing music coming from somewhere. I walked around until I found its source- sitting on the little wall outside a small shop, two odungu players sitting and strumming their instruments.

The Shop

The odungu is a sort of harp, or maybe like a guitar with a warped neck. The body has a piece of skin stretched tightly to form the amplifier, and the strings, bits of nylon, are stretched up to nails which are carefully tightened. Like most instruments its form varies from the rudimentary to the refined, but these two instruments were beautifully made and looked like they were played daily.

Okello David is blind, but I didn’t twig until after I had listened for a while and I tried to shake his hand while introducing myself. My mum is an eye doctor and always tells amazing stories of people who do more with no sight than most do with full vision, but to play a mini harp/guitar really takes dexterity. I was amazed.

Okello David playing

Opio Charles tells him what is going on, and when to shake hands. The two were an amazing pair, and I was sorry to be working. I could have spent ages with them and their music, but I had to run.

So here is a measly two minutes, badly recorded off a mobile phone and intercut with me sounding like an idiot, of their wonderful sound. They practise in Purongo, beside the market, and they’re amazing to hear. Amazing.

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About Muzungu

I’m a Uganda-based freelance photographer (and occasional writer) working for a broad range of clients including NGOs, newspapers and magazines and development agencies. My work has taken me across East Africa, South America and Europe, and previous clients include USAID, the World Bank and the East African. I also work on personal documentary projects in my spare time. If you’d like to hire me or to know more, please feel free to get in touch.
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8 Responses to The Odungu Players

  1. Lucie says:

    beautiful! sounds very tropical.

  2. HB says:

    beautiful & calming –thanx 4 the post!

  3. BIGSAM says:

    Great pics. This will go a long way to show the world what blind people are capable of doing. I am loving the sound too.

  4. Kara says:

    Loved the strength of their face and hands in the pics. Thanks for sharing your tales. Okello David is amazing!

  5. Anna says:

    lovely, Will. though i was hoping for more of your voice!!
    Buena Vista Odungu Players?
    x

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