During the tension that arose between Uganda National Cultural Center (UNCC) and the artists earlier this year, it was claimed that the management was giving away a performance space to wedding meeting, commercial promotions and thus leaving the arts in the cold.
Much as the artists were right, another school of thought was reasoning that the art had failed in the first place because of being conservative; “People think that art is supposed to be in specific places and thus the audience has to look for it, what if we adopt the church way of taking the gospel to the people on streets, radio, TV and all those other places?” questioned one of the critics.
And it was literally the story of the 2016 edition of the Fete De Le Musique/World Music Day celebrations in Kampala on Saturday. Initially, World Music Day is celebrated on June 21 of every year, but since the day was going to come on Tuesday, the organisers decided to have the festivities on Saturday.
Like the very first Fete de Le Musique in 2014, the street performances were brought back though unlike two years back where it was all convenient, experimental and there was no urgency, this time though, the shows were happening when artistes are doing their best to show Ugandans that their art is not complicated, it’s accessible and can come down to them.
In 2014, the music on the streets was much more of folklore and thus known to many Ugandans, it was the normal, Nankansa, kadinda and Mpunyi being played on the streets, thus it was easy for them to get the crowd involved since this is music that has proved to adopt to all spaces regardless.
But on Saturday, the organisers were taking a risk not just with the very unpredictable weather but even with the type of music they were putting on the streets – the orchestra.
The show had started in a safe place, the French Embassy, who went out of their way to open their gates to the public to watch some classic music – but being the embassy, it is still not as accessible thus not many Ugandans showed up.
But the places that followed were friendlier, the constitutional square, Colville Street corner and the IPS building along the Parliamentary Avenue were easily accessed by the kind of people that rarely go for orchestra shows.
The shows were divided according to the different parts of the orchestra for instance, the brass section played at the Parliamentary avenue, the string quartet at Kampala Road, while the Woodwinds at the embassy.
The plan was to showcase solo sections of the music before graduating it to a full orchestra at the official performance at the National Theater later in the day, and they pulled it off.
Yes, the performances on Saturday faced a lot of issues since they literally happened amidst an aftermath of a heavy downpour, and the audience they found in the different locations simply looked at them as aliens and of course a bleak sound.
It could have been a problem of the choice of numbers many of which were famous scores from Hollywood films, but to a crowd that consumes this music without even caring about lighting in film, there was no way they could appreciate a score from Tom and Jerry or one from Star Wars.
Badru Kanyike, a boda boda rider that followed the two last performances noted that the music sounds fancy; “I think its music for people that hang with whites,” he noted.
And true, part of the audience especially the one that moved with the precisions of the performances was made up of expats. The music fused with the streets, which was evident that if smart, KCCA can use the street to appreciate art than placing redundant fountains.
With the way people in Kampala were curious to see what was happening, whether they stayed throught it or not, it was clear that the city has more than enough space for art to be showcased.
The rest of the festivities happened at the National Theater where Brass for Africa took people on a journey of African music done on the brass section with songs like Thula Baba, African Funk and Kampala among others.
Other performers were Ruyonga, Lawrence Okello and Kojack, a former guitarist of Papa Wemba that took time off to pay tribute to his fallen boss.