Mixed reactions as Nyege Nyege ends

Revellers and performers at the Nyege Nyege Festival in Jinja City at the weekend. PHOTOS/ANDREW KAGGWA

What you need to know:

  • This year’s edition of Nyege Nyege Festival took place at the Source of the Nile, Nile Park, Jinja Golf Ground and Jinja Agricultural Showground. However, the festival only had a stable location when it was taking place at the vast Nile Discovery Resort in Njeru. The change of location, two years in a row, means that revellers had to adapt to a new place and learn how to navigate the four days without missing out on activities.

Arguably Uganda’s most renowned arts and culture celebration, the Nyege Nyege Festival ended in Jinja City yesterday.
The festival is one that has over the years divided opinions but nothing whatsoever has ever stopped its happening.

Starting on Thursday, the four-day festival left a mixed bag of reactions among revellers for the first time. Some say the idea needs to be rethought, and others believe festival organisers need to settle their venue crisis once and for all.

The festival only had a stable location when it was taking place at the vast Nile Discovery Resort in Njeru.
After seven successful editions, the property was rumoured to have been put up for sale amid a family wrangle in 2022. Then it was announced that Nyege Nyege was going to take place in a new location – Itanda Falls.

This year’s edition took place at the Source of the Nile.
The change of location, two years in a row, means that Nyege Nyege’s faithful audiences, for the second time, had to adapt to a new place and learn how to navigate the four days without missing out on activities.
“It’s like you spend a big bunch of the festival trying to know which stage is where, and by the time you’re comfortable with the location, it is already Sunday,” said one of the revellers, who has attended at least four editions of the festival.

The Source of the Nile occupies a vast property that includes a golf course and a number of offices and hotels. The festival is mainly taking place on the Golf Course, even though there are about two stages scattered around it.
The traditional music stage and the Busoga music stage are, for instance, more than 30 minutes away from the rest of the fun. Thus, these stages have not at any time of the festival attracted an audience of 50 people through the festival run.
The size of the place meant that many people spent a big part of the day moving between stages or settling for only a stage and ignoring everything that was happening elsewhere.

Six stages
This year offered six stages, the main stage, the Uganda Waragi stage, Hakuna Kulala, Smirnoff Rave, Busoga Music, and the Traditional Stage. Some of the most fun stages from past editions were removed, and others were rebranded.

For instance, Nyege Nyege made its name as an outsiders’ music festival; it was the place where electronic music subgenres such as techno, gabba, house, gumboot or pop dance were the main course.
Stages such as Darkstar and Boiler Room became a mainstay for people who came looking for this kind of music. This time, however, these two stages were merged into one and hidden at the extremes of the festival space.

Another reveller dances to music at the festival in Jinja City.

It was a menace to walk through the muddy maze to find the stage.
Yet, besides the hardships, there was good that happened at the festival—kicking off on Thursday amid terror threats, it is easy to believe the edition was doomed from the start.
The low turnout on day one did not save the situation; people were cautious of each other and at times opting to sit out performances in hospitality tents and restaurant areas.

There was a heavy security personnel deployment and an increased number of checkpoints—to be specific, five checkpoints.
Much as they were necessary, they killed people’s movement on the festival grounds; afraid of going through more of the same, some people opted to be in the same location.
But there was something to write home about, such as the spirited performers such as Tash LC, ODO, A Pass, Karole Kasita, and Sho Madjozi.

Sho Madjozi, the South African singer and rapper, has been to Uganda at Nyege Nyege before in 2018. She got the audience dancing to Huku and Idhom off her Limpopo Champions League debut album.
Less than a year after her Nyege Nyege performance, Sho Madjozi won a BET Award and later released John Cena, a song that would catch the attention of wrestler himself. Then there was singer and talkshow host Kelly Clarkson and Ellen DeGeneres, catapulting her onto the global scene.

Her performance was so anticipated that even when she performed at 2am, about two hours past her scheduled time, she still delivered, making the audience sing and dance with her throughout.
Sho Madjozi is an experimental artiste, her first visit paid off, and thus she used Saturday night to show off the fruits of her visit, an ethno song with the lyrics of the folk ekibobo. She closed her performance with a snippet of Disco Matanga, John Cena, and Wakanda Forever.

Yes, this time the festival did not offer accommodation or camping service, thanks to the crisis created at Itanda Falls, but that’s a story for another day.