Much as Pearl Rhythm Festival has always made it a point to give very fresh artiste a chance to perform, there have always tried to mix it up with older or more famous acts; for instance, in 2014, the show was closed by Jackie Chandiru and last year, it was the legendary Sammy Kasule joined by Moses Matovu and the rest of Afrigo Band.
The Pearl Rhythm affair has always been a relationship of the present, future and the gold, yet this year’s festival that took place at the National Theatre in October, it was a totally different feel – Suzan Kerunen and team decided to flip things by going for mostly a young cast of performers this year.
With this year’s stage coach artistes, Bantu Clan, Wake, Jaq Dewey and Derrick Komakech, the organisers threw in fairly established artistes but not really big on the mainstream circuit – these were acts like guitarist Myko Ouma, Saxophonist Happy K, rap duo Slyvester and Abramz, Baximba Waves, Lilly Kadima and Tabu Flo’s Faizal Ddamba Mostrixx.
You could think they were testing some mucky waters of sorts with the lineup; musically brilliant but not really a crowd pulling one, and it later showed.
By the time performances opened at 5pm, the grounds were virtually empty with mostly technical guys running around, of course as time went on in the night, the numbers grew but were still rather small.
Some blamed it on the double cost of the ticket, while others argued that the format and style of music at the pearl Rhythm, as local and Ugandan as it is, it is quiet alien to many Ugandan music consumers.
But the most sensible reasoning for the low turn up was a divided audience, for instance, Goethe Zetrum, was hosting a poetry theatrical show by the Afroman Spice trio, an Open Mic Fusion at Design Agenda on Parliament Avenue and Albert Sempeke was performing at the Maisha Gardens in Buziga.
Sadly, all these events have the same artisan audience.
But Pearl Rhythm still had a good show, mainly on the stage, with performances from experimental acts like Joshua Kagimu, the Rap Poet, Zoey the Poet and the stage coach artistes, they managed to wow and amuse in equal measures.
This year, the stage coach much as it featured two rappers Wake and Bantu Clan, their productions were more grounded and heavy on our traditional instruments – Wake has a background of a poet thus his wordsmith skill can’t even be ignored.
Born Mugoda Gordons, he’s proud of being a Mugwere and it comes of in many of his lyrics in such songs like Omusaija Weka and Tinsobola.
Dewey, mostly known for her day time job on KFM was a surprise for many, she pulled off a fantastic performance though fell short on a fact that hers was more digital than organic, her set had more guitars pianos with just a minimal of the pearl rhythm in play.
Like all the performers of the day, she celebrated her Gishu heritage.
Komakech too had a brilliant time on stage, dressed in a tribal headgear, it’s like he took the audience to an adventure, not only selling them his voice but his culture too. You could tell he was singing from the soul especially with songs about loss and migration.
Lilly Kadima was amazing with songs like Nyazala and Akuloga that got many on their feet, though the highlight of the night could have been a union between the saxophone brothers Michael Kitanda and Happy K, together, they played a song they co-wrote and their individual interpretation of the wind instrument is one to envy.
Festival also featured an energetic performance of Slyvester and Abramz, Myko Ouma as well as the Baximba Waves.