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A successful return for Nyege Nyege

Ugandan Nyege Nyege festival-goers react at the Itanda Falls on the second day of Nyege Nyege festival, the annual four-day international music festival, in Jinja, on September 17, 2022. PHOTO/ANDREW BAGALA

By the time you read this, a few performances at both the Dark Star or Boiler Room stages at this year’s annual Nyege Nyege International Festival are yet to kick off or just ended. These are some of the most exciting stages at the fes-tival – for their uniqueness of electronic music that brings together Techno, House and Amapiano.

For the past editions, the Boiler Room stage has been one of the busiest stages, with just a small audience that has their fun from the time the festival opens to the day it closes.

This year, however, even when both the Boiler Room and the Dark Star managed to happen, it was clear they lost some of the spark and spirit, yet they are what made Nyege Nyege the festival it became.

When the festival was at the Nile Discovery Resort, these stages took place in two areas you could call hidden, the Boiler Room literally took place at an abandoned balcony that combined mystery and spontaneity to create magic.

Two years later, after a pandemic, a lot has happened to Nyege Nyege; the festival lost a venue and almost did not happen after a number of politicians thought it should not.

But last Thursday, Nyege Nyege came back for a big six, a bigger space and bigger plans at Itanda Falls in Jinja.
From the many changes happening, the festi-val also had to come clean to the public that all the five editions they thought were in Jinja were actually held in Njeru, Buikwe District.

This edition was the first to actually take place in Jinja.
The Boiler Room, of course too, had to change venues, from an abandoned balcony to a makeshift open club in a pine forest.
It was the same case with the Dark Star, which used to be in an incomplete building but was all of a sudden in some distant area with curtains hanging in abandon – but we still got the gothic vibes.

The two stages have for long remained the soul of Nyege Nyege, even in the face of sponsorships that at times tend to ignore the gist of the festival as a platform for ‘other’ music.

The two stages remained authentic. People have even often joked that they always felt like the first edition of the festival. This year, however, the music was there, Dark Star and Boiler Room were still the centre of the energy but in one or more ways their fun felt tampered with.

For instance, with the two stages in close proximity to each other, as well as many other undefined stages, the two were almost drowned out.
This year, the festival was brought to life by Uganda Waragi and thus had a special stage for the occasion. But there were other sponsors that, instead of probably having hospitality tents here and there, chose to have stages too.

This meant that Nyege Nyege altogether had about seven known stages and about five unofficial ones. For many festivals, 11 is a good number, for Nyege Nyege though, besides a main stage that had a variety of performances and DJs, Dark Star and Boiler Room, the others all played the same music.

Being a big venue, there were a lot of move-ments between stages, people got lost, which is good for the thrill but unfortunately, the thrill was killed by the fact that the music was the same.

And later the activities in the stages became the same; a DJ, dancers, karaoke, MC and at times a surprise artiste, in that order.
Majority of these stages did not have clear schedules thus, you were there when it was fun and later walked aimlessly to the next.

But the main stage, even with some forgettable performances, was a marvel, with artistes Brian Aliddeki, Janzi Band, Sylvia Saaru and Cindy Sanyu among others.

Aliddeki was the surprise act. With songs about Uganda, culture and norms, he seemed to be the artiste that understood the assignment. A mix of his electronic guitar and ethno instruments, he had the public eating out of his palms with his fusion that created a hybrid of electronic and contemporary music.

Cindy too managed to have the audience screaming and singing along. It was surpris-ing, considering the audience at the festival enjoys DJs and their hypemen more than actual performers.

But that does not also mean all DJs were outstanding, some tried to bite more than they could chew and fell flat. An example is TV presenter-cum-DJ, Zahara Toto alias DJ Zato. An ambitious performer still getting her act to-gether, the Nyege Nyege stage proved too big, not even the supposed hyping and a mid Navio performance seemed to save her showcase.

But elsewhere, the festival delivered what it does best; the best artistes to be discovered by Nyege Nyege’s studio and label arm Nyege Nyege Tapes serenaded stages both at the Boiler Room and the main.

Despite the change of venue, there was a massive turn up for the four-day festival. PHOTO/AANDREW BAGALA

Otim Alpha and the trinity of Catu Diosis, Kampire and Decay were all doing what they do best. Surprising, many of them took time off their European tours to play at the festival.

Unlike the past years though, their favourite stage, the Boiler Room was not a transday and transnight affair.
In fact, there were days the stage went for two hours silent, which probably spells a change in culture.

The festival turn up may have been higher than the past editions. According to Treepz, the official transport partner of the festival, on Thursday alone they transported 510 people from Kampala to Jinja.

About 224 people from Jinja to Itanda and had for the past two weeks been transporting either festival goers or artistes that chose to travel early. The new venue is overly big.

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