In 2008, when it was all nothing but a new festival, they were known as Bayimba International Music and Arts Festival, then taking place at Kyadondo Rugby Grounds.
Much as it was a three day event, it’s been widely said that the edition was a flop that only managed to attract less than twenty people, a number that didn’t grow even when the organizers made it a free event.
But then, just like the name Bayimba (they are singing) the festival was mostly tailored around its main stage music performances; from Percussion Discussion Africa to Radio and Weasel, the mainstage has played host to all sorts of acts.
Yet at the just concluded tenth edition, the festival seemed to reinforce something they’ve been experimenting with in the past few years – full inclusion of the visual arts like theatre, dance, photography, painting and film among others.
Each year, the festival has veered away from a theory that they are only a music festival to general arts thanks to the programming.
But the tenth edition that was concluded last night was proof that after doing the festival for ten years, the organizers have finally taken on a role of housing almost all the consumed art forms in the country with music simply being the most popular one.
Of course the biggest nonmusical art showcases were on the two main stages that were located at the National Theatre parking lot and the gardens; two installations that were inviting and yet provoked the audience to think deeper.
The main stage installation for instance by Xenson Ssenkabba was titled ‘You’re here…..Else where’, poetic yet monumental work based on interactive maps that speak to both the young and old; the art work that was mostly recycled with beverage cans presented a man with a kettle on one corner of the stage pouring a pool of different used cans that eventually created the backdrop.
Being the same artiste that designed the very first backdrop for the first Bayimba Festival in 2008, many thought that his installation was representing the journey and the productivity that has come out of an event that was deemed too small at the beginning, thus the bigger stage backdrop coming out of a smaller kettle held by a man.
But the art on display ‘Facing the Climate’ exhibition by the Swedish Institute in collaboration with Bayimba was the real deal, collecting fifteen cartoon illustrations from Uganda and Sweden, they intended to address issues surrounding climate change and how people perceive it.
Curated by Martha Kazungu, the show was intended to help people understand the effects of climate change and what they can do about it; “It was key for us that the participants had to articulate the issue of climate change according to the way it affects their countries,” she says.
Kazungu also says that the festival inviting different art forms in one place is one way of allowing different artistes tap into the different markets that probably wouldn’t have come to their gallery exhibitions.
“The idea of blending different forms of art in one place gives the festival more meaning.”
Elsewhere, different visual arts like fashion by Kkoolo Fashions, Ras Kasozi and Gloria Wavamuno were held at the dance space just behind the auditorium, yet on Sunday, the show also hosted the world premiere of the Punishment Island, a documentary film about the Akampene islands on Lake Bunyonyi.
But of course there was music to toast to the ten years of the festival, from acts like Mariam Ndagire who were facing the Bayimba stage for the first time, Berita, a south African vocalist that was visiting East Africa for the first time and Maddox Ssematimba, Jemimah Sanyu and Percussion Discussion Africa all who have been on the stage more than once.
Since gracing the stage in 2014, Maddox has been a darling that people keep asking the organizers to return, Percussion Discussion Africa on the other hand, was one of the Ugandan acts that graced the Bayimba stage in 2008 and thus their return to the platform was historical.
According to Ndagire, the festival has always asked her to showcase but had a fear that there was nothing she could offer the Bayimba audience, though after her well received performance, she noted that she can now do it over and over.
“We need more platforms like Bayimba to take artistes out of their comfort zones,” she said adding that with the regular shows artistes do, they barely push themselves to rehearse or imagine singing to a different crowd all together.
The festival ended on Sunday with more artistes like Makadem, Limit X, Maurice Kirya, Cindy and Jose Chameleone performing on Saturday and Sunday.