Festivals are about diversity and creating memorable moments for festival-goers. For close to eight years Uganda’s Bayimba International Festival of the arts has strived to create unique experiences for followers of the multi-cultural festival. Held since 2008 and now in its ninth edition, the organizers say they are programming the best of the arts world. Already a stellar line-up of artists from across the world has been announced for the three-day festival that holds at the National cultural Centre in Kampala between 16 and 18 September.
“Every year the festival offers a different feeling to both the artists and attendees. Throughout the year we work on how to make this experience worthwhile,” Philip Masembe, the Festival media director says. Besides the fun, Masembe notes that the other purpose of festivals is to strengthen the skills for practitioners who work in the music industry.
This year for instance, Bayimba will host a week-long workshop for sound and lighting technicians. With more than 30 sound engineers from Uganda already signed up, the workshop will be conducted by Asad Rajput a live sound engineer born and raised in Kenya and John Otieno Ochaka an accomplished lighting and audio engineer. Asad’s passion for music led him to work as a sound engineer for a popular Afro-fusion band called African Heritage.
He later founded the Events Sound n Light EA Ltd through which he has had opportunities to work on live concerts for International artists such as Sean Paul, Youssou N’dour, Wayne Wonder, Shaggy, Burning Spear, Angelique Kidjo, Ba Cissoko and Ayub Ogada among others. Jack on the other hand has worked with Alliance Francaise for more than 10 years throughout East Africa.
Aside from the sound workshop the festival will also mentor young talents in the area of graphic design.
With the arts scene opening up in Uganda, Philip notes that the Bayimba organizing team has had to embrace more and more forms of art and continually learn in order to present an exciting program year after year.
“Festival programming is a skill and a process that one has to commit to with endless openness, eagerness and enthusiasm and that person has to have a team,” he says. He says for the festival to bring festival-goers the best of each art form, Bayimba collaborates with like-minded organizations like Maisha film lab that have in the past curated the festival’s film program and 32 degrees East who are instrumental in the visual art programing. This year the festival will work with SEED Show who will curate the fashion program this year.
Additionally, curator Robinah Nansubuga has been commissioned to present the Ekyoto Arena— an Informal gathering of artists, art lovers, scholars, critics and writers to encourage artistic discussions. Renowned visual artist Paul Ndema on the other hand will present the backdrop for the main stage. All these programs, according to the organizers, are geared to encourage public engagement and strengthen artist participation.
Unlike other festivals that are centred on a specific theme, every year Bayimba welcomes artists to pitch ideas on how different elements of the festival should be curated. The festival believes that by keeping the program open artists are not boxed in on what their art should address.
With such diverse aspects of the festival, Masembe notes that a festival programmer has to continually learn to effectively discharge their roles. He mourns the lack of many festivals within Uganda saying that this has made it difficult for new programmers to learn from different programs. “By having few festivals, most festival tends to look alike resulting in no new avenues for young programmers to broaden their programming scope.”
Nevertheless, Masembe is optimistic that Uganda is still new to the culture of festivals and thus there is room for more. He says as more festivals continue to come up, the need for more programmers is inevitable.
For the 2016 edition, the music will have a special focus on Kadongo Kamu music from Uganda. Lined to perform are American rapper Akua Naru, Tribute 'Birdie' Mboweni (South Africa), Kenyan acts Winyo and Gravitti Band and Congolese trumpeter Ya Tatchi.
For more information visit the festival website.