Bayimba Arts Festival is one that has always gained a lot of pride from its internationalism nature. From curating acts like Germany based American rapper Akua Naru, Kenya’s Sarabi Band, South African acapella band The Soil, at times, even some of the Ugandan acts at the festival where never based here, take an example of Faridah Rose, a Ugandan songstress based in Denmark.
It has been a festival where international acts make up a quarter of the main stage performances and at times half of the other spaces the festival avails.
Yet for the 12 edition, they seemed to change the formula by programming 99 per cent a Ugandan cast on all stages; be it theatre, main stage of an after party stage that had mostly DJs, there was a change with the programming.
The four-day festival opened on Thursday; since they shifted to Lunkulu, an island on Lake Victoria after their tenth edition in 2017, revellers have complained that access to the festival is harder than when they were at the National Theatre.
Because of this, the festival doesn’t start as early as it used to; in fact, on Thursday at 6pm, many people coming for the festival were still making their way to the island – the opening act on the main stage Iddi Masaba almost performed for the crew and volunteers.
It was Gravity Omutujju that got everyone out of hiding – a powerful performance many were vividly seeing for the first time, his short coming though was its vulgar nature, he continuously threw innuendos or mentioned body parts and while at it, asking the audience to join in.
The festival though came to life on Saturday when Ssali Muserebende, Sandra Nankoma, Kenneth Mugabi and Aziz Azion took the main stage, they all took on the stage after a long downpour, the grass was wet and vividly, no one in the audience was attempting to sit.
With his music that fuses different Ugandan ethno sounds, an urban feel and Congo influence, he had the audience eat out of his palms, they could not sing along since they did not know the songs but fed off his energy, he officially became the first artiste people asked to do at least a song when his time was done.
Rising artiste Mugabi is truly coming of age and if his Saturday performance is anything to go by, he has a brilliant future – you could conclude that his show was a choir session where the audience was in a competition of who know the lyrics better.
Yet Afrima award winner Nankoma may have had a divided audience that failed to choose between her and her gifted band – she sang her soul to people that basically had no idea of what soul or blues mean but seemed to follow her through.
Besides the musical showcase, the festival had other activities such as film, fashion and reggae music jam sessions.