Alliance Francaise, the cultural and language promotion arm of the French Embassy, marginally pulled of its signature calendar event, World Music Day at the National Theatre last Saturday. There was little else beyond a stage, passable audio output and the delight that there would be no playback artistes on stage even with the sighting of an Apple laptop-carrying DJ during rapper Ruyonga’s set. The visible differentiator at the annual event that is experiencing year-on-year diminishing marginal returns was an itinerant symphony orchestra. That in itself was a challenge considering the afternoon downpour that made all that classical music sound grey on the ear.
My solemn prayer for 2016 is for the emergence of a band that can craft a Ugandan sound for export. That is a big ask of a nation that boasts being the most diverse globally in terms of ethnic representation. The UN did name Uganda thus owing to our 65+ ethnic groupings, each with its own signature cuisine and songs amongst other attributes.
But my New Year prayer request may turn out to be a tall order, what with most of the notable Kampala live music opting to settle for being extensions of the US music industry. The bulk of their repertoire comprises passable renditions of the American Top 40 playlist, a dictate of the venues at which the bands play. Apparently, the mostly weary corporates who are the principal audiences these city and suburbia hangouts need the alien songs as a salve to unwind from the office grind.
Rather than dwell on the semantics of which among the Qwela Junction III line-up is a true diva or just a chanteuse, Qwanza Music’s Joe Kahirimbanyi prefers to dwell on the added value his event brings to the Kampala city cultural landscape. “Qwela Junction” is a quarterly showcase of collaborative concerts featuring handpicked artistes of a particular discipline. They all come together in a one-night only high quality live music showcase. The third edition brings together some of the finest voices and instrumentalists for a Sunday November 29th, 2015 concert at the plush Kampala Serena. They are the legendary Rachel Magoola, the soulful multi-instrumentalist MoRoots, the sultry Naava Grey, reality show star Sandra Suubi, stage gladiator Jemimah Sanyu, the steadfastly rising Solome and acoustic fret board Rita Sabiiti.
If you fancy teasing your artsy palate with fine stage drama, then the 2015 Kampala International Theatre Festival is your sort of indulgence. The second edition has lined up works from Iraq (ISIS hasn’t decimated the arts there just yet), Belgium (the arts aren’t o lockdown here either) and Kosovo (the arts definitely survived the ‘90s Balkan mayhem. Closer to home is new Ugandan work and fine stage offerings from the very prolific Kenyan dramatic arts scene.
Jazz appreciation in Uganda straddles two audience divides; the purists and pretenders. The former are the kind that can tell Miles Davis from Earl Klugh while the latter are the kind that will tag along to a jazz event for the snob value that brings. The purists are most likely the lot that grew up with playing LPs as a family ritual complete with removing a giant black disc from its sleeve, delicately placing it on a circular revolving platform and placing a needle onto it to elicit the crackle of Davis’ trumpet. The pretenders are mostly the come-latelys for whom any saxophonist is by default a jazz artiste even when that musician is simply a fine instrumentalist. Their regular jazz fix is the measly hour-long weekly radio show installment where the purist would binge on at least a jazz CD a day.
Kampala Fashion Week (KFW) returns for its second edition looking more like a couture charade than a fashion exhibition showpiece. The most visible of its diminishing marginal returns is the shift from the grand Kololo Airstrip, venue for last year’s inaugural event to the more miniscule Acacia Mall rooftop this year. The monthly showcases in the run-up to its Thursday November 12th showcase also exposed KFW founder, designer Gloria Wavamunno as one not running a tight ship after she arrived fashionably late for the October activation and blaming city traffic for her delay.
September (18th to 20th) sees the return of Kampala’s premier arts events, the annual Bayimba International Festival of the Arts for its eighth edition. And while the purists gripe about the appearance of the ear grating video-vixen-turned-singer, Sheebah Karungi on the hallowed Bayimba stage, there are a couple of options to ensure you are not part that crass lot that swears to the luscious singer’s “Ice Cream” anthem.
- Maddox Sematimba (Friday. 7pm. Main Stage)
Uganda’s reggae icon closed the festival last year and returns to open the 2015 edition and enchant his syrupy hits that have become the soundtrack to most people’s lives. The dreadlocked star’s Namagembe could easily pass for a Shakespearean sonnet.
- Kenneth Mugabi (Friday. 5pm. Upper Stage)
If ever there was a neo-Kadongo Kamu star in the mould of Christopher Sebaduka (RIP), then Kenneth Mugabi is that artiste. A one-man act most of the time, he fuses deep lyrics with a signature voice and superb fondling of the fretboard enough to earn him a Mr. Romantic Guitar title. He should have been on the main stage instead of Levixone Lala.
Gastronomy is an integral part of Bollywood culture and what better way for the Zee World channel to enchant than through a culinary Indian experience as an ice-breaker for discourse around its dynamic channel that’s been customized for mainstream audiences in Africa. Launched earlier this year by Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL), a leading television, media and entertainment company, Zee World is now synonymous across the continent as a conduit for spicy hot Bollywood movies, series, reality and food shows.
Zee World’s pedigree includes over 33 channels that entertain 960 million viewers across 169 countries. Feted as pioneers of television entertainment industry in India, ZEEL’s well-known international brands include Zee TV, &TV, Zee Cinema, Zing, Zee Punjabi, Zee Khana Khazana and Zee Living amongst others. ZEEL first foray into Africa was 18 years ago as the brands first international territory and its widely acclaimed flagship channel ZEE TV has been present on DStv platform since 1996 and Canal Plus since 2006.
And to cement its presence on the continent further, ZEEL will launch another channel for its French audiences in Francophone Africa before end of this year with more channels scheduled for launch next year. All content on the channel has undergone extensive research and customization, including editing and dubbing. The content research is a continuous process for all upcoming shows in future on Zee World. In the meantime, the channel’s loyal audiences on DStv channel 166 and GOtv Plus channel 25 can enjoy award-winning shows like Saloni, Laali, The Promise and Destiny seasoned with a wide collection of star studded blockbuster Bollywood movies with other genres like food, reality, health shows and other world series coming soon.
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Even a misogamist like me does occasionally appreciate the effort that goes into putting together a wedding. Nuptials are a whole industry of their own complete with a job ecosystem comprising designers, florists, caterers, beauticians and the like. Which is precisely what DStv’s Lifetime channel 131 aims to do; demystify weddings beyond begging meetings by thrusting viewers right into the action. And who better to play wedding planner than the bevy of journalists that have been flown down to Mauritius for the Multichoice Africa Content Showcase.
An activation for the channel’s hit format “Four Weddings” required journos to create the wedding of a lifetime with a chance of winning a luxury holiday for two. Four teams were charged with dressing up a male and female mannequin each (representing a bride and groom), garnish wedding cakes and decorate a bridal table fit ornate for enough nuptials on the beach. The inspiration for the challenge is exclusive local commission Four Weddings South Africa, the jewel in the tiara of Lifetime’s fantastic Friday night wedding-themed content this season. This will complement other wedding-themed shows like famous couples fighting to save their marriage in Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars (ends September 25, 8pm CAT); rivalry between two bridal shops in Best in Bridal (Fridays 9pm); an extraordinary wedding planner in Mikie Saves the Date (October 8pm); unions that include entire families in Arranged; and the return of the popular Married at First Sight in which complete strangers, matched by experts, meet for the first time on their wedding day.
Viewers can expect fiery brides, complex relationships and a great deal of drama to keep Lifetime viewers glued to the screen every week. “Four Weddings SA” debuts on October 16th at 9.50pm CAT (10.50pm Ugandan time) and each episode follows four pushy wives-to-be as they attend each other’s special wedding day. At the end of the festivities, they must vote on which ceremony takes the cake, with the winning bride and groom whisked off to a dream honeymoon destination. From naked brides to biker brides, from Zulu brides to Tswana brides, from bitchy brides to chocolate box brides, this series is bound to entertain.
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Those with a palate for snotty (and often-times toffee-nosed) British culture can indulge in the now rebranded BBC Brit DStv Channel 120 that promises “intelligent but irreverent” programming that gladly steers clear of the Keeping Up Appearances mould. The channel will mostly piggyback off its predecessor BBC Entertainment staples like Top Gear with all new episodes airing first on BBC Brit. Complementing this acclaimed car-themed programming will be stuff on science, adventure, business, life-changing moments, extreme characters, quirky eccentrics and comedy all packaged as quick-witted entertainment, the preserve of DStv Premium, Compact Plus and Compact customers.
And all this “haute” British TV stuff has specifically been designed to reach a diverse pan-African audience, reflecting a wide range of voices, ages and cultures. Handpicked shows to look forward to include;
Youngers; a fresh and exciting new comedy drama set in the UK urban music scene, Youngers follows the journey of two teenage boys, Yemi and Jay, in their quest to break into the music industry. (Airing Tuesdays 20:00 CAT) .
Bad Robots; a brand new hidden camera show where technology is out to humiliate, aggravate and exasperate the unsuspecting public. From photo booths that distort your face for your passport photo, to a library search machine that announces you are searching for “pictures of horses in thongs”. No one is safe from Bad Robots. From Monday 7 September at 21:30 CAT.
Royal Marines Commando School; a series that takes a look behind the scenes of one of the most arduous basic military training programmes in the world. Like rabbits in headlights, the recruits struggle to cope with the gruelling demands of their new way of life, toiling tirelessly to master the details, stay awake and even suppress giggles in the face of their drill instructors’ wrath. Some question their decision to join up, while others have their career as a Marine cut short when it’s barely begun. From 7 September at 20:00 CAT.
Duck Quacks Don’t Echo; here, comedian Lee Mack presents a brand new panel show that explores bizarre and fascinating facts. Each week, three celebrity guests will offer an incredible fact for discussion and with some expert help they’ll attempt to prove to their fellow panellists – and the nation – that it’s true. From Friday 4 September at 21:00 CAT.