The Nyege Nyege festival has dared to be different. In so many ways the festival, whose second edition returned to the Nile Discovery Beach from 2 - 4 September, proved to be a gem for eastern Uganda.
The festival showcased the next wave of electronic music as it honoured African electronic music legends. Whether it is through booking the pioneers of African Electronic music (Niger’s Mamman Sani) or by hosting eclectic showcases, the second edition of the fast growing festival brought to Uganda some of the best artists from around Africa.
Gato Preto, Tetu Shani, Shoeshine Boy and the Undercover Brothers were some of the acts that stood out from the more than 200 acts from 31 countries. Indeed Nyege Nyege Festival is fast becoming a festival to watch within East Africa. The organizers outdid themselves by booking a more even spread of EDM, hip-hop, reggae and indie and jam bands. It also paid homage to authentic sounds from Uganda.
From the first day revelers were assured of a music filled weekend. With its two stages, the Bell stage and the Eternal disco stage, the festival fed its audience with music non-stop over the three days. On the first night, Kenyan reggae artist Shoeshine Boy put on an eclectic performance lasting close to an hour. While his music has a sprinkling of spiritual messages and day to day life experiences, he reminded many the power of music.
The fans taken in by his upbeat reggae rhythms ignored his songs' content, rather they were immersed in the performance and asked for more. His performance was well coordinated and for any keen observer it was clear that each aspect of his performance, whether it was the lighting or his dance, all added spice to his music.
Up next was Kenyan Swahili rock band Rash. Coming after such an energetic performer as Shoeshine Boy meant that the five-piece band had to do its best to match or outdo him. They did not dissappoint. They put on a show that was above average. Rash Band has been on the Kenyan music scene since 2013, releasing single after single. The song 'Let it Be Rock' earned them a huge following. At the end of their performance, the five-man band had good news for fans: The band announced 24 September as the release date of their debut album at the Alliance Francaise, Nairobi.
As more and more acts came on, the action shifted to the Eternal Disco stage where DJs played music from across the globe. Berlin-based DJ Zhao got people on the dance floor with popular music from Kenya. DJ Zhao, who also played at the inaugural Nyege Nyege edition, continued to impress revelers with dance music from wildly different times and places that came together with an artful sense of composition and mixing technique. Born in Beijing, DJ Zhao is a musicologist, bringing a poly-cultural understanding of sound to his deeply percussive cross-genre sets. As the night wore on, the music got better and better.
On Saturday, not even the scorching sun could hold back the throng ready to be entertained. The Bell stage came alive at noon with DJ Moroto Heavy Industries setting the pace for the day. The stage was set and acts like Kenya’s Labdi and Tetu Shani, Wakastarz and The Dons from Uganda, took to the stage.
In the evening, 60-year old Mamman Sani came on for a powerful showcase. His age notwithstanding, the energy bursting through every chord incited more serious thought. His performance was his first within East Africa and it was refreshing to hear pieces of music from the Western Sahel region.
At midnight, the duo Gato Preto revived the festival's energy with a set that infused DJ elements, percussion and dance. Even when the skies threatened to open up in a downpour, the fans taken in by the energetic dance moves danced in the drizzle.
While one would have expected the energy levels to have dipped on the final day, revelers seemed to have been re-energized to see the festival come to an end on a high. The line-up on this day showed some outstanding acts from Uganda. It is commendable that the festival sought to include acts from the East Africa region.
The afternoon saw female artists from Eritrea as well as an Ethiopian male singer take to the stage. Even though using playbacks their danceable tunes from this two East African nations got the audience excited. Including Eritrean and Ethiopian acts is an area more festival programmers should look into within the region.
The festivals marketing efforts worked and as this is only the second edition, the bar has been set quite high and followers will be looking forward to an even better event in 2017. For the the organizers planning ahead for the next edition is their focus. According to Arlen Diszlan, one of the organizers, scouting for artists for the next edition has already begun.
To keep up with news of the festival visit the Nyege Nyege Festival website.