By Bamuturaki Musinguzi
Published November 16, 2015
The heavy downpour and bone-chilling weather could not deter hundreds of people from singing and dancing, sampling cuisine, tasting beer and participating in movie-making in a tropical paradise of open spaces interlaced with surrealist concrete sculptures, hidden pathways and follies, complete with a beach and surrounded by a lush green equatorial forest.
Welcome to the inaugural three-day Nyege Nyege International Music Festival held on the Nile Discovery Beach–right on the source of River Nile located behind the Nalubaale Dam–in Njeru town near Jinja District in eastern Uganda October 16-18, 2015.
Each reveller paid Sh95000 (US$27) for a seasonal ticket for the festival that attracted artists from Africa, Europe, South America, North America and Asia performing on two stages alongside cutting-edge international DJs.
Offering modern Ugandan traditional music were Nilotika Cultural Ensemble and West Nile Fusion Band. The former played indigenous traditional Afro jazz and percussion with an abstract sound and movement known as kidayimanda with their songs, Yaayayaa and Katitira. It also performed traditional folk dance pieces like Ndalide, Ntayi, Abagenyi Tusimye and Easikubera Mototo besides hip-hop (luga-Flo), poems and riddles (okutontoma in Luganda), and dancehall and raga on traditional instruments.
Leaf Latif, a designer of clothes, presented his live clothing construction which ended with modelling of his outfits on stage.
FOKN Bois from Ghana were identified through their raw and eccentric unconventional entertainment with ingeniously tasteful shock lyrics, revolutionary performance art and indulgent progressive Afro sounds. The award-winning music duo, Mensa (M3NSA) and Wanlov the Kubolor, who were performing in East Africa for the first time with their kind of indigenous hip-hop, played Broken Language and Gime Pinch Yo, among others.
While Ugandan guitarist Brian Corpus Mallengye alias Body of Brian played his songs, Pink Flower, Staw Away and A Boy and his Dog, Berlin (Germany)-based DJ Zhao from China, who has been spinning disks for seven years, kept his fans dancing to his remixes from Ghana and Burkina Faso plus house music from South Africa and Angola.
DJ Zhao, who has specialised in African music and performed around the world, told ArtMatters.Info, “I don’t like African music and I don’t care about African music. I only care about quality and ideas in music and it so happens that the best is in Africa. I think the traditional African rhythms are a central cultural heritage of our homo sapiens. Evolutionary speaking rhythms have to bring people together to sing and dance in order to build trust. Cooperation is very important for the survival of the human being.”
“In Africa the rhythm is a science. What is dance music?” DJ Zhao posed rhetorically. “Dance music is designing patterns of sound according to and for proportions of the body. And there are a million ways to engage, heal and celebrate the body.”
UK based reggae sound system Mungo’s Hi-Fi, who were performing for the first time in Africa, showcased their ground-breaking reggae, dub and dancehall sounds. Mungo’s Hi-Fi featured Charlie P, one of the most talented MCs to have come out of the UK in recent times.
Celebrating the diverse dishes of East Africa and the world in general was integral to the festival. In collaboration with a team from Yujo Restaurant, the festival featured a wide range of recipes, ranging from East and West African snacks, East African gastronomy, Afro-Asian fusion, Thai and Indian curries and mouth-watering barbaque.
A special boutique was opened during the festival, where the artists availed their art and unique clothing items handcrafted by designers from the region. In the “Kitenge Corner”, tailors were available with fabrics from across the continent, ready to make a custom-made pieces for anyone wishing to get clothes made during the festival.
Defining ‘underground music’ as being ‘non-commercial and more adventurous’, the organisers of Nyege Nyege, co-directors Arlen Dilsizian and Derrick Debru, say African and Independent musicians should get a wider platform on which to showcase their work across the continent. Nyege Nyege, they say, is an opportunity to showcase underground talent from across East Africa together alongside cutting-edge producers from Europe and USA to an East African audience.
Dilsizian said they started Nyege Nyege after realising that the best underground African musicians are more likely to play abroad than in other African countries.
“So we have created a platform to showcase the best of the underground African music. Most Africans really get a chance to experience world class musicians and DJs. The idea is if the underground musicians can’t travel to the West let the West travel here,” Dilsizian said.
“We are creating a bridge between East African artists and their other African counterparts to expose them to other forms of emerging music forms and genres,” Debru chipped in.