Uganda: Nyege Nyege Turns Five

The Nyege Nyege International Music Festival marked its fifth anniversary this month in Uganda's Buikwe district.

The four-day musical celebration and arts extravaganza was held from September 5 to 8 at Moley Resort on the shores of the River Nile, where performances included underground and pioneering musical styles as well as mainstream rhythms and beats.

This year's edition was held on four stages and the 154 Stage River Bay. The line-up featured some of the best underground musicians from Africa and the rest of the world, traditional troupes in an idyllic acoustic setting, DJ's, producers and artists.

33EMYBW from Canada, Afrorack, Agwara Sound System, DJ Dash and DJ Kampire from Uganda, Anti-Virus, Bamba Pana and DJ Fundi from Tanzania, Andee from South Africa, Armaghedion and Lady Hash from Ethiopia, Bamao Yendé and Camille from France, Bill Kouligas from Germany, Bushali from Rwanda, David Tinning and DJ Ninja from the UK, DJ Die Soon from Japan, DJ Marcelle from the Netherlands and DJ Mufasa from Kenya performed, among others.

Kenyan folk and afro-fusion musician Olith Ratego on vocals and playing his kodo musical instrument performed his ohangla songs Ngoma Nimzito, Aora, Okitwoye, Joka Awor and Auma from his new album Auma, to be released next month.

He was accompanied by Sven Kacirek from Germany on percussion.

"I am very happy to perform at this festival. I have been applying to play here and failed several times, but this time I got the opportunity," Ratego told The EastAfrican.

"We need to play our traditional music from our cultures in order for it to grow. If we continue playing music that is not ours, our children will be lost. People in West Africa have maintained their traditional music and they are playing it well," Ratego said.

The upcoming Ugandan songstress Sandra Kisakye known by her stage name Sandra K performed Nenda Buti, Beautiful People, Tyenda, Nali Ntamire and Tomaite.

"This is a dream come true for me to perform at this festival that welcomes people from all over the world," Kisakye said.

The Kuruka Chama a Burundian refugee band based in Kigali, kept the crowd on the dance floor with their songs Yoyi Yoyi, Misambi, Happy Bus, Burundi Times, Sokoru, Plane, and Kuruka Santana. Kuruka Chama blends traditional Burundian rhythms with funk and rock.

Ugandan Nihiloxica Band wowed the audience with their songs: Endongo, Gunjula, Kidansolo, Kadodi, Busoga Riddim, Tewali Sukali, Powola and Ding Ding. Nihiloxica plays the energetic drumming rhythms and sounds from Buganda.

The festival was started to promote underground music and was non-commercial. But as it has grown in popularity, the festival has attracted corporate sponsorship that now brings on board mainstream musicians.

"In the beginning there were few people and the festival was limited to underground artistes. Today there are artists from different parts of the world. For the first time, there are mainstream artists like Palaso," Jjaja Kalanda, leader of the Ugandan Nilotika Drum Ensemble, said.

Derrick Debru, Nyege Nyege co-founder said their annual cost is Ush1 billion ($268,769) with most of their revenue coming from ticket sales.

"We have never made a profit which is normal for a festival like this one. It can only make a profit after five years," he said.

Nyege Nyege is growing in popularity. "The festival goers who understand what we are about come to recharge and get new ideas, to feel happy and alive, and make memories," Debru said.

But there are concerns that East Africans are being priced out of the festival by the expensive tickets. A full festival pass for East African citizens was Ushs288,888 ($77.6), and tickets for non-East African citizens were Ushs258,888 ($69.5).

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