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A socially-distanced music fete

Joel Sebunjo performing at one of the past World Music Day festivals and below, music enthusiasts enjoy themselves. Photos by Andrew Kaggwa

Yesterday, the world came together to celebrate World Music Day, albeit in a very unusual way. In Uganda, the French Embassy worked together with Talent Africa to make the fete happen despite the lockdown.

Fete de La Musique, also known as the World Music Day has always lit up music lovers all over the globe.
Happening every June 21, it is the day people are allowed to play music in both conventional and non-conventional spaces. Since the shows or music performances are made in appreciation of music, they are free for all.

Fete de La Musique’s history dates back to October 1981 when Maurice Fleuret, a French composer became the director of Music and Dance at the Ministry of Culture in France.

Fleuret applied his reflections to the musical practice and its evolution, “the music everywhere and the concert nowhere”. In 1982, when he discovered through a study on the cultural habits of the French, that five million people, one young person out of two, played a musical instrument, he began to dream of a way to bring people out on the streets.

This later happened in Paris as Fete de La Musique but has since spread to different Francophone countries and the non-Francophone ones such as USA, China, Brazil, Italy, Mexico, Japan and of course Africa nations such as Kenya and Uganda.

In Uganda, Fete de La Musique celebrations have been organised by the French Embassy in collaboration with Alliance Francaise for many years.
The celebrations have through the years changed formats. For instance, there are times they have been taken to the streets yet other times they were just a concert.

But never the less, the days have given music lovers some cutting edge performances from people such as Susan Kerunen, Joel Sebunjo, Sandra Nankoma, Maurice Kirya, Sylvester and Abramz and Undercover Brothers among others.

Sometimes it was never about the presence of an artiste but the package they brought to the table, thanks to the curation, for example, the mashup performance between Maurice Kirya and Sebunjo took many by surprise or the duo showcase by brothers Michael Kitanda and Happy Kyazze.

These surprise packages always make the celebrations stand tall from an ordinary Kampala concert.
Unfortunately, this year, Covid-19 paused life as it is known to many people — the French community in Uganda had to cancel a number of activities that included a football match with African soccer legends and a concert with renowned band, Kassav.

That was only a package of what was meant to be an eventful year. Before curtains had gone crushing on social life and art, the community had joined Ugandans to celebrate International Women’s Day with a concert headlined by Congolese singer and songwriter, Celine Banza.

However, Covid-19 happened. With many of activities going online, Fete de La Musique was not about to be missed.
Yesterday, the embassy and Alliance Francaise collaborated with Talent Africa to join the world in yet another celebration of music.

The online show brought together artistes of different genres to celebrate an art they hold dear. With a cast of Irene Namubiru, Joel Sebunjo, Susan Kerunen, Herbert Ssensamba, French Ugandan singer Sara Vauclair and Dodiva and Cojack from DRC.

According to H.E Jules-Armand Ainembossou, the France Ambassador to Uganda, music is a great tool for sharing culture and values, thus, they are proud to be part of the celebrations.

Elsewhere, virtual celebrations were held in Germany, France, Burkina Faso, Italy and Kenya, attracting artistes such as Shaggy, Sting, Black Eyed Peas, Angelique Kidjo, Yemi Alade, Gravitti Band and Karun.

Much as the shows were widely virtual for reasons of social distancing, in France where the culture was born, Fete de La Musique was considered the first post lockdown concert with at least 2000 people attending one of the concerts.

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