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Bayimba’s 2016 experiment pays off

Almost each year, the organisers of Bayimba International Festival of the Arts ticker while making selections of the mainstage.

It’s rather the biggest attraction at the festival that even when other spaces have activity, it’s the mainstage that people stay the longest, in fact even when the festival is closing, all activities in other spaces end and it’s just the mainstage.

Thus, just like last year when Bayimba faithful went hard after Sheebah Karungi was announced a performer, you had the same sentiments come up when among all people, Iryn Namubiru was announced as a performer.

For reasons known to different parties, they thought she wasn’t fit or simply ready, but that wasn’t all, the festival programme  seemed a bit strange; for some reason there was Kadongo Kamu on the mainstage, then Magic Hornz, MoRoots and Tribute Birdie Mboweni that are all in between soul and Jazz music and American/German rapper Akua Naru.

The festival has in the past been graced by fusion soul artistes like Sandy Soul, Kaz Kasozi and even guitarist Myko Ouma, but having all three of them on the main stage with Kadongo Kamu in the mix was quite risky, they were risking a slow festival.

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Tribute Birdie Mboweni, performs at Bayimba (Photo by Gilbert Bwette)

But the gamble paid off, Magic Hornz could be playing mostly on trumpets but indeed knew how to involve the audience and even their choice of songs some of them being folklore, they touched the traditional bone in almost everyone in the audience, they didn’t need a vocalist at times, the audience was willing to offer the vocals.

But the marriage between our traditional instruments and Electronic music courtesy of the Amadinda Sound System was unbelievable – the band consists of four Ugandans and an Austrian vocalist and a DJ.

Lawrence Okello, one of the Ugandans was impressive on the two sets of Madinda that he played through most of the songs but what was amazing was the way such historical songs like the famous Musango gw’abalere managed to adopt an House/electronic music and became groovy, it was an act many had wanted to write off even before it started but it proved to be the best thing that would usher Saturday night to MoRoots and later Iryn Namubiru.

In fact both the Amadinda Sound system and MoRoots could have made life harder for Namubiru for they are used to performing on festival stages; MoRoots with Soul Deep bandhad serenaded the house with a mixture of funk and soul, creating magic especially by inviting friends Solome Basuta and Sandra Ssubi to do one hell of a medley.

Their kind of energy could have put off Namubiru that she seemed scared by the stage when she had just come up, but a fact that people knew her music got her the confidence that she managed to smoothly sail through her set.

On Sunday night though, it became hard to tell who could have owned the night between the two visiting acts Tribute and Akua Naru, they both do very different styles of music yet perform with a lot of soul especially while preaching African unity.

The festival benefited from the many acts touring both Africa and the world with three of the performers being art tourists, for instance, the auditorium show of Lamentations @12 from Zimbabwe is on a world tour, just like Akua Naru and Tribute Birdie.

Tribute is relatively new on the African music scene even when she’s already scaling the heights, her music is heavily jazz and soul though still has a lot of influence from her home that even with a Ugandan crowd that doesn’t warm up to Jazz music easily, her sound was rather easy for the ears, it didn’t remind you that you were listening to a soul or jazz artiste, it simply reminded you that you were watching an African creative.

Naru on the other hand was the epitome of energy, came to an audience that knew so little about her but somehow conquered them, if a festival had programmed more Ugandan rappers on the same stage this year, it would have been rather hard to sell rap to Ugandans after seeing Naru.

Akua Naru on stage (Photo by Zahara Abdul)

It’s however the headliners of the three nights that the audience didn’t really warm to, maybe it was because they followed very strong acts – Chris Evans, Mathias Walukagga and Ronald Mayinja that closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday respectively.

According to Jude Mugerwa a producer, unlike people like MoRoots that are used to festivals, many mainstream acts find it hard to adapt on a stage where audiences don’t scream at the mention of their names.

This is a revised version of the same story that appeared in The Observer by the same author

About Kaggwa Andrew

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