UNTIL 2020: Rocking their formal clothes and looking neater than the night before, it was time to return to reality for the handful of Ugandans that stayed to the final day of Nyege Nyege. Andrew Kaggwa follows the last hours of Nyege Nyege after four days of music, dance and binge.
She looks back at him faking a smile. They are still holding hands but she is clearly leaving; after four days together, they had created a bond or were even in a relationship. Yet all of a sudden, she was going back to Spain, her flight was later in the day but she had moved in a contingent of other people that had also flown from Europe for this specific weekend and were leaving.
“I will call you, probably I will even be back sooner than you imagine,” she said before moving closer to kiss his forehead and then dashing off.
It was not one of the most moving ends to a Nyege Nyege story that had started on Thursday evening — then people, especially expatriates, were jetting in for East Africa’s most anticipated four-day festival. And just like that, many of them had mingled with locals, made friends, lovers, eaten the rolex and swam in the Nile.
After days of taking all sorts of cocktails, all the Nyege Nyege programmes had been exhausted by 7am on Monday, in fact, it was the Dark Star stage that still had a DJ winding up and of course, the Boiler Room, the soul of Nyege Nyege that had not stopped happening since the festival started on Thursday.
During the festival, many stages took breaks in the day but not the Boiler Room. Their programme was always on, that some people found themselves only staying at the stage.
On Monday, it was the only stage that still had a performance pending at 7am, and some people were actually looking forward to it. “I’m still here because my friend is the closing DJ at 8am,” said art curator Robinah Nansubuga.
Bringing down the camp
But in other places, people were busy trying to leave the festival grounds.
Derrick Debru, one of the founders of the festival, said Thursday and Sunday are for Nyege Nyege diehards.
He said people start leaving for their Kampala jobs on Sunday evening, and indeed, he was right. Early in the morning, a good number of people had folded their tents and probably waiting for that one final performance.
By Sunday, probably only 200 tents or even less were still pitched, but going down at an epic speed – they had started going down as early as 5am.
Back to life
There were some Ugandans that had chosen to stay yet had a Monday hustle to cater to. They were a muse to watch; they showered, dressed up formally and asked the boys to fold their tents and carry them to their cars, which were parked quite a distance from the festival grounds. In their formal clothes, they had totally transformed from the shirtless revellers they had been all weekend. They carried themselves more seriously and were ready to warn any camera wielding chap that Nyege Nyege was done and thus, were ready to beat you up if you dared take their picture.
People at Nyege Nyege are always friendly, they pose for pictures even when they are not sure where the photographer is taking them, but on Monday, it is okay to say the festival spirit leaves them.
They will remember that they told their mother they are at a retreat in Nigeria or down with a fever.
On Monday, tents were going down quicker than they went up. Since many had been hired, they were only removing their belongings and leaving, thus, even when some tents were up, they had been empty for at least a night.
“I came to the festival without a mattress, and I did not want to pay for one, so, yesterday, I walked around looking for a free tent with a mattress and I was sorted,” said one of the revellers.
That final selfie and nap
Some revellers were seen capturing moments, taking selfies, having that final laugh and exchanging contacts. It was surprising, the festival this year had an influx of Kenyans; you could feel their brotherhood, friendship and togetherness.
You could think they walked out of the same house, yet, as they got ready to leave, it was clear they too did not know each other that much, like Ugandans and Europeans, they too shared contacts and promised to call.
“You will not call, I know that,” said one of the girls after giving one of the guys her number.
But others scattered in all places, had let the four-day work take a toll on them; they were not napping, they were sleeping and at times, not even the surrounding was going to wake them up. For instance, one slept at the Uganda Waragi stage that not even the fact that it was being dismantled could get him out of sleep.
Some had actually blacked out and others could be seen on the ground, safeguarding their bags in sleep.
Unlucky for them, they had no idea how those awake were taking photos and probably sharing them online.
Nyege Nyege is not the kind of festival where people come alone, people tend to come as a group and always look for each other when they have to leave or look for food.
Of course this can be limiting since you do not move across the stages whenever you want to, you will have to tell the group that you are going to the main stage or Dark Star before going there.
Some that wanted their fun, dumped their groups and in the heat of the moment, they had left them behind; this category of people staggered around the grounds looking for anyone going to Kampala.
The story of the waste
For the past editions of the festival, Nyege Nyege, may have had a problem with handling waste. In 2017 for instance, disposables had already mixed with mud since it had rained for all the days of the festival, while in 2015, people had piled empty bottles of liquor and beer to create some sort of a mountain.
Much as it was a simple way of collecting all used bottles, many of the brands were not Ugandan and thus, organisers had nowhere to return them for recycling.
The bottles over the years have been turned into art and thus part of the decoration at the grounds, but of course, the festival was not looking at gathering more decorations.
The years that have followed, the place had continued to look like a mess after people litter plastic and bottles.
This year, the trick was to hire as many cleaners to clean the grounds while the festival was on; in their neon coats, they moved through the crowds to collect littered plastic, bottles and polythene.
While the festival too, on their part had innovations to curb littering, for example, half a basketball court had been erected at one of the stages with a dustbin fit at the ring.
As you could imagine, people managed some of the would-be waste by striving to score.
Leaving Nyege Nyege
The festival is an experience that keeps giving, for instance, as the grounds were becoming empty, security was afraid outsiders would carry things that do not belong to them. They did not even trust boda boda riders from the Njeru stage, instead, they partnered with Boda Be, a boda boda app that operates in Jinja.
They were the only riders allowed to fetch revellers from the grounds since their reflector jackets have a number that can easily be tracked.
As we left, the party was clearly still on people’s minds — at least if their continuous chanting of Big Trill’s Parte After Parte is anything to go by. The song, alongside Diamond Platinumz’s Mwanza/Nyege Nyege were the most played throughout the four days, but the former had garnered a cult following.
Later on, some of them posted a video at the airport still singing for the parte. And like that, it was all done. The Nile Discovery Resort was probably back to being a quiet resort it is most of the year yet for those that were part of the parte, Nyege Nyege is a festival that has a lasting impression.
The vibe, according to a South African DJ that performed, can be compared to Bush Fire in Swaziland, Burning Man in the United States and Belgium’s Tomorrowland.
“Of course, even when I am not invited next year, I will try to come back,” she said.
And many of them always come back, either for the party, experience and of course hooking or breaking up with a guy they thought they had fallen for at the end of the 2019 edition.