Ndere, Kansiime keep Kenyan coast in stitches

Anne Kansiime (2nd right) with fans. She was one of the popular attractions at the festival. Photos | Andrew Kaggwa

What you need to know:

  • Initially, Kansiime was announced as a co-host of the festival with former news anchor Maurice Mugisha but just hours into the show, she had already zoned into a bonafide performance. 

Listening to local media will always make it look like the only art Uganda exports is music. But the past five days in the coastal regions of Kenya proved that Uganda exports more than music. It was the inaugural Uganda Festival held in three regions; Mombasa; Diani, Malindi and Vipingo, an over 100 acre gated community on Mombasa Road and the Mombasa mainland.

The festival, whose aim is to promote Uganda to people in the coastal areas, comes from an initiative birthed in 2022 by the coastal governments of Uganda and Mombasa.

The vision, according to the Uganda Consul General in Mombasa, Ambassador Paul Mukumbya, was to work with Mombasa instead of trying to compete with them. He says much as competition is healthy, both Uganda and Mombasa have their strengths that can be exploited to benefit both countries.

“For instance, the white sand beaches are in Mombasa are magical,” said the ambassador.

The four-day festival was held in four different counties of the coast region, with each of them representing a unique group of visitors that the Ugandan consulate is trying to attract to the Pearl of Africa.

But above everything that was going around marketing Uganda to possible tourists, comedian Anne Kansiime and Ndere Dance Troupe are what kept the four days of the festival intact.

From electric dance moves, crazy stories and experiences, the two acts of the festival did not just perform but used each opportunity available to sell Uganda as a destination.

Initially, Kansiime was announced as a co-host of the festival with former news anchor Maurice Mugisha but just hours into the show, she had already zoned into a bonafide performance. That was in Diani, a slow day where most of the expected guests were still arriving and some performers were dealing with travel fatigue.

But those were only problems for the first day; in the days that followed, the performers had found their rhythm even when the weather had different plans. For instance, even when the festival went on as planned on day two, it was raining.

However, the days that followed were smoother.

Steven Rwangyenzi, the founder of Ndere Centre and Ndere Troupe, proved to be the star of the festival. With real life experience stories, folksongs, and wit, he won over audiences everywhere the festival was held.

Ndere boss Rwangyenzi performs.

He was the bridge of the many dance routines that Ndere dancers showcased; he made sure that he kept the audience engaged as the dancers were changing outfits or resting between the different moves, and he did it with grace and charisma.

From telling stories of how an Africa without borders was disrupted by white men who partitioned it, dividing villages, clans, and families to explaining the Buganda Kingdom’s democracy, this was a link that was educative, comedic and entertaining.

Sometimes, you felt like he was the second comedian of the night, alongside Anne Kansiime.

Kansiime, on the other hand, was the most popular Ugandan. There are very many Ugandans that have curved out an audience in Kenya, including Azawi, Joshua Baraka, Bebe Cool and Juliana Kanyomozi, but none have the effect or the love Kenyans have for Jose Chameleone and Anne Kansiime.

Kenyans go crazy when they see Kansiime; whether she is performing or not, she has the kind of effect Eric Omondi and Sauti Sol have on Ugandans.

Anne Kansiime’s showcase during the festival bordered so much on storytelling, just like Rwangyezi. The difference is that where Rwangyezi heavily relied on history, Anne used her life experiences.   

Anne rarely performs in Kampala and the truth is, over the years, she has changed her performance styles from skits to storytelling, which makes her performances smoother and easier to enjoy. Her ability to pounce on situations to tell a joke is also impeccable, but above all, she has mastered the art of repeating her jokes with twists, so even when she has to repeat material she told in another province, there will be something fresh to it, even for a person hearing it for the second or third time.

The festival ended on Saturday at Fort Jesus in Mombasa and the show there also featured Eric Omondi as a guest performer.