It is right to imagine the news of the Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo cancelling Nyege Nyege indeed worked in the favor of the organisers.
Never in the four years the festival has been held, has it garnered such interest from locals like it has this time round. For instance, tickets that were sold in Kampala sold out, hotels were booked out and even during the festival, at midnight, people were still buying tickets.
This was the first time the festival was happening for four days after being a three-day event since its inaugural edition in 2015.
For this particular showcase, the organisers had to deal with perceptions that cropped from the locals, the church and in the last stages, the state; “Am particularly happy that we managed to have the show this year, thanks to our fans from all over the world, the people of Jinja and the Ugandan government,” said the Nyege Nyege co-founder Derek Debru, while talking to media on the opening night.
That was Thursday and yet the grounds were already packed, the main stage had started an hour late but they had not been moved by the delay since in the festival that has five active spaces, other four were active even before it was 5pm.
Forged from a Luganda word ekinyegenyege, it means the uncontrollable urge to dance, yet, in Nairobi where the Ugandan festival found a lot of love, nyege means horny and in Busoga, whose borders in Njeru the fest happens, nyege is definition of a sexual organ and of course there’s a reknowned traditional dance called Orunyege.
“It is a smart wordplay that can be criticized and defended in equal measures, Lokodo was right about it having a meaning leaned towards sex, but unfortunately the meaning is from Kenya not Uganda, “noted one of the patrons at the festival.
It was their first time at the fest and they had been persuaded to come because a friend had told them the energy at Nyege Nyege doesn’t leave you the same.
Mostly criticized by artisans as a festival that celebrates binge with little art, this year the festival out did themselves with the programming on the main stage, this saw a mix of rap, electronic dance music, rock and roll, folklore, reggae and RnB among others all come to play.
To exhibit more art, they had worked with curator Robinah Nansubuga as the art director for the festival, this saw the showcase host a number of art installations, like the famous umbrella canopy done by an artiste from Burundi, Sandra Suubi straight from the Kampala Art Biennale too had an installation and so did Pamela Acaye, whose art work, The Womb, was inviting the public to interact with the process of child labor.
There was, however, only one problem. The audience that comes to Nyege Nyege, regardless of the art presented before them come for other things, thus much of this art may have gone unnoticed.
For those that had been at the festival for all the past three editions, this edition was a letdown since the sponsor partnerships saw the festival lose a lot of its unconventional nature that had made it a hit.
With lots of sponsors, a big part of the festival looked like a trade fair with poorly dressed people, the music was not worth an international festival but a promotion anyone can walk into on a Kampala street.
Such festivals celebrate music and thus programme DJs that are not simply looping songs but are performing with them. They experiment and introduce new sounds even for songs the audience may have heard before, yet what was at a festival mostly defined by electronic dance music in the past, was a batch of Kampala lads excited to juggle Fik Fameica’s hits with those of Mun*G.
But nonetheless, the programming and the hype invited the kind of audience, most of whom were Ugandan first timers and they enjoyed the festival all through till Monday morning at 8pm, when Disfig stopped playing.