The activities gearing up for the tenth Bayimba International Festival of the Arts started taking shape at the National Theatre a week before the initial event kicked off.
By Tuesday, the stage was being erected and visual artists in charge of installations were too getting work done, in fact, as all the Bayimba eves, Thursday was almost a festival of its own with people just staying by, either playing music or just watching things unfold.
But the main festival started on Friday with a programme that was ambitious yet daring, for instance, for the first time, they had decided to curate Jose Chameleone, a very risky artiste and Bobi Wine, a musician turned politician to close day two and three respectively.
The fears were that Chameleone can’t be trusted, he has the biggest number of botched shows while Bobi Wine, since becoming a politicians, he is hard to count on as he can easily get caught up or even arrested.
And all these fears were valid, for instance, by Friday, when Bayimba was kicking off, Bobi was returning to the country and his procession had allegedly caused a standstill of businesses on Entebbe road, many were worried he could end up in jail and stay in for the weekend.
Much as Bobi Wine was never arrested, the fears on the Chameleone side indeed became a reality; on Saturday, he wasn’t available for rehearsals and even later in the night, he was nowhere when it was time for him to hit the stage.
Unlike other shows where the audience grows wild, that of Bayimba stayed around only for Chameleone to show up minutes after midnight – his presence may have annoyed the audience that became agitated as he tried to apologize saying that he would compensate by performing on the closing night.
But besides the drama that was Chameleone, the music of this edition of Bayimba was delivered to greatness by Uganda’s oldies; from Maddox Ssematimba, Limit X, Mariam Ndagire, Chance Nalubega to Fred Ssebata, it was clear that the current crop of music still has a lot to learn.
It had all started with Ndagire on Friday, taking the audience through her most loved songs like Byonna Twala, Majagwa, Maama, Ansisitira and Kibunomu among others.
With no gimmicks but just the band and back up artistes, she got the audience not only dancing but singing along, something that surprised her too; “Most of the times, we are told that these festivals are only attended by whites and their friends.”
She noted that she had been earlier contacted by the festival to perform but had decline since she thought she could offer nothing to the audience; “But right now I feel like I can do it again.”
Chance Nalubega had the biggest showcase in the auditorium that got packed to the brim; with a well-choreographed and rehearsed band, the artiste took millennials down the memory lane, with vocals that are still clean, lazy and playful, she went into those new millennium hits like Abakyakala Mukyakale, Guma Omwoyo, Yiga Okwagala and Abennugu.
With every song she unveiled, her audience would grow making people wonder why she wasn’t booked at the spaceous mainstage in the parking lot, with the auditorium, only a few people would fit in and with seats, dancing was hard.
But that didn’t stop the party, especially as the entire auditorium chanted to, “Munfudde embozi,ninga nga Museveni……” a line that starts one of her most famous songs, Abatesi which closed her showcase, it was clear oldie was gold even by Ugandan standards.
Bayimba closed on Sunday with Fred Sebata and Matendo Promoted Singers in the auditorium, closing the chapter of oldies at this year’s edition.
Many of the people that watched the shows noted that it is hard finding Kadongo Kamu or other older music catalogues on the mainstream media as well as performance showcases which made Bayimba memorable for giving them a platform.