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Music edges out Visual Art at LaBa!’s tenth

ife piankhi
Ife Piankhi during a performance

Every time the LaBa festival has been held in the past 10 years, the theme of visual art coming to the street would override everything else.

Yet as the festival celebrated a decade at Bukoto street on Saturday, it was hard saying that visual art came out on to the streets to play. The show was well curated, managed and run but it seemed that everything was just done to fit a music festival.

Not that there was no visual art; it did feature, just that it was at the far end, besides the number of installations by the likes of Xenson Senkaaba.

The festival attracted artists dabbling in pottery, sculpture, body painting and provisional art. However, unlike the past years where they used much of the festival space to showcase, this time round they were limited to the smallest space to accommodate other forms of artistic expression such as dance, fashion and mostly music.

Not that it is a bad thing, but for a festival that has been known to give visual art priority, a concerned artist could not help but note, “…seems we have lost this festival to music too.”

Mame
Mame N’Diack during a performance

Ken Mvvalye, the cultural coordinator at Goethe Zentrum one of the organizers, says this year the focus was more on installation art so as to weed out craft vendors that had turned the festival into a market.

For this year’s festival, 23 artists were invited to showcase compared to the 10 musical acts; however, since the two art forms are presented separately, it was easy for a lot of art to go unnoticed.

The biggest action at the festival was happening at the main stage; artistes Ruyonga, Sandra Nankoma, Haka Mukiga and Mame N’diack among others were working up a sweat.

Festivals are usually guilty of rotating performers; for instance, just last year, Mame N’diack with his Saba Zibula band performed at LaBa, Bayimba, Nyege Nyege and Milege World Music festivals.

Thus this year, the curators went for younger talents with just a mix of the older ones including Muserebende, who has actually performed at the last three consecutive LaBa festivals.

Nonetheless, the fresh talent was all amazing; Sandy Soul, who is in the process of completing her debut album and two Pearl Rhythm Stage Coach protégées – Haka Mukiga and Ann Nassanga alias Afrie – thrilled festival goers.

Apart from Haka who had a rough time due to technical issues, Sandy Soul enjoyed her time despite the bad sound; she was initially supposed to be on stage at 5pm but due to rains she took to the stage 30 minutes late.

But since she had earlier performed in a poetry skit alongside Rashida Namulondo and Linda Nabasa, with whom they make AfroMan Spice, the audience was not that eager to see her again, but she managed to pull off some Afro-Jazz fusions with songs such as Ssemusajja and Omusadha w’Eka.

Little known Afrie could have stolen the shine by performing equally unfamiliar songs but managing to get the audience on to its feet. She mixes Afro-pop and RnB, but is also gifted with wit and a stage presence.

She plays a piano, thus some of the songs she performed including Fembi and Teri Mulala were rather deep.

The music aside, dance and poetry were also represented.

The main installation of the day, the stage – an eye logo of LaBa! was designed by Reagan Kadole an eco-artist and youth development worker. The other visual work on display was Tunnel Vision by photographer Darlyne Komukama, Phoebe Batchelor, Roshan Karmali and Johan Bosman, a builder and tinkerer; patrons loved the installation because it looked like a makeshift studio and were taking selfies from there.

Filmmaker Malcolm Bigyemano, who was attending the festival for the second time said he loves meeting new artists at the do, but believes the impact of the show will only be felt in the long run.

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