Uganda: Nyege Nyege Festival's Impact Can No Longer Be Ignored

The Nyege Nyege International Music Festival, despite the controversies that dogged it especially last year, has quickly established itself on Uganda's social calendar as a top tourist and party animal magnet.

And even the formerly skeptical government has noted. The festival brings together thousands of performers and revelers from all parts of the world, and is now called the biggest East African event of the year. East Africans are known to arrive in Jinja by busloads days ahead of the festival, to enjoy Uganda's renowned nightlife and hospitality as a starter.

And from September 5 to 8, all roads once again lead to Jinja's Nile Discovery beach, where the party is known to spill off the artistes' stage and into the crowd, come rain or shine.

Ugandans have become known regionally as the party animals who can whip up the mother of all parties for the most ridiculous excuses. And Nyege Nyege festival crowns them all.

With music genres including kuduros, kwaito, Afro-house, hiplife, Tuareg rock, cosmic synths from Niger, Arab tech, Morrocan bass, zouk bass, soukous, balani, funana, and Swahili trap as well as Tigrinian blues, organisers are promising no shortage of musical variety.

Last year State Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo temporarily banned the festival, saying that it promotes promiscuity and homosexuality, but he just could have become the best thing to happen to the festival, which only exploded as defiant Ugandans and foreigners stormed Jinja out of curiosity, more than anything else.

Even Internal Affairs minister Maj Gen Jeje Odongo conceded that the festival generates a lot of income for the government through tourism, currently the biggest forex earner for the country.

Now in a twist of irony - considering it is the same government Lokodo still works for - the ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities has this year partnered Nyege Nyege festival to milk its potential to the fullest.

Speaking at the launch, Derrick Debru, Nyege Nyege's founder, said the festival has over the years contributed tremendously not only to the government but the locals too, in terms of creating employment before, during and after the event.

"We are so excited about this edition; above all, we are excited about the kind of results that we receive from the festival both locally, in terms of employment and also tourism. This year we received 'Best Event of the Year' award from the ministry of Tourism," he said.

With more than 300 performers coming from at least 30 countries, the festival will this year explore the spectrum of alternative pop sounds from a new generation of African producers, including Ethiopian EDM.

There will also be music from Dutch Nyege Nyege resident DJ Marcelle and Shanghai's 33EMYBW. This year's edition will mainly focus on bringing forth the full force of the Ugandan and East African creative spirit. Ugandan artistes Sheebah Karungi and Pallaso will grace the Nyege Nyege stage as it promotes Ugandan music too.

At a news conference, Ali Alibhai, Talent Africa boss, said the company is proud to work with Nyege Nyege and they will start to promote more local artistes as they will be featuring every edition.

As Sheebah and Pallaso make their debut at the festival this year, patrons shall also see the return of the original Cranes band - a 1960s/70s group that gave birth to today's Afrigo band. Moses Matovu, Tony Ssenkebejje, and Remmy Kasule will help stoke the Cranes band nostalgia.

There will be five stages. While some people will be on Stage 1 being swept away by a legendary performer, others will be on Stage 2 being blown away by a powerful DJ.

Basically, there will be something for everyone, organisers promise. At the three-day festival set on the banks of River Nile, revelers are known to come with tents and other camping gear, which is what has set Nyege Nyege apart compared to the other festivals.

So, at whatever time of the day or night during the long weekend, the party continues in some form.

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