Uganda is home to a number of arts festivals but few are dedicated to nurturing new talents. Taking a different path, artiste Suzan Kerunen and producer Jude Mugerwa have for years chosen to fill the void with their annual Pearl Rhythm Festival, which is the climax of their intensive talent lab called The Stage Coach.
Following years of ruins caused by the global Covid-19 pandemic, Uganda’s annual alternative music experience, the Pearl Rhythm Festival returned to the National Theatre during the weekend with new additions to Uganda’s music industry.
Emulating her father’s underappreciated talent, Sheila Gabriela Karungi, the daughter of guitarist and singer Harry ‘Lungfishman’ Lwanga, impressed on the first day .
“I am a daughter of a king .. I am beautiful,” Karungi’s soothing melodious voice moved revellers as she literally sought for her place in the world of soul music.
The festival also unleashed a star in new talent Tushi Nabakyaala, whose glossolalia approach to music proved special to the audience. Tushi blends story telling with instruments to provide a unique version of hip-hop.
Unlike the other Pearl rhythm stage coach graduates, Tushi can dare various music genres, delivering quality music.
Most of the artistes who performed, including the closing act and his entire band have had such an attachment to the festival and the Stage Coach programme, a mentorship programme where artistes get training on performance, recording and above all, have a Ugandan spin to their music.
“As an aim of contributing to a larger pool of authentic, creative and original music talent in Uganda, a number of artistes are auditioned and those with the most potential are selected, trained and prepared to create on their own,” Kerunen said.
This year’s edition of the Pearl Rhythm featured some leading international fusion acts, including France-based Kyekyeku , US based black panther activist Charlotte Hill O’Neal, alias Mama C, who also run a master class late this month at the American Centre.
There were also performances by Uganda’s General Czarbu , the Batwa Community from Kisoro, Brian Alidekki, Noah Muhumuza Infectious, Andereya Baguma, Salim Ssembajjwe, Vicent Kiberu, aka Vix Luga Finix, Sandra K and Mercy Bero, among others.
The festival was started by Pearl Rhythm Foundation, which is a Ugandan grassroots music and creative community, for the purpose of strengthening an independent music scene in Uganda.