At its debut in 2008, Bayimba International Festival of the Arts attracted a paltry 60 culture vultures that nibbled on the three-day showcase held at the Kyadondo Rugby Grounds. Six editions later, the festival has positioned itself as an arts fete that draws in the purists and curious alike. Rumour has it that last year pulled a mammoth 100,000 goers streaming in and out of the National Theatre gates, enduring the discomfort of the tarmac to soak up haute culture of the non-Ekiggunda kind. This year may have fewer big name international acts but it’s still offers a good chance to savour indigenous acts that have mostly flown beneath the radar but are worth their weight in arts gold. Here are our festival picks for this year.
Janzi Band 8PM
The consensus is that they should have won the recent Nile Gold Last Band Standing contest had it been more about the music and not the beer. This band that gigs thrice weekly at Zone 7 (Wednesdays), Boda Boda (Thursdays) and Club Venom (Sundays) boasts a unique Afro-pop style that trademarks it from its band peers. Band front man James Ssewakiryanga uses his irresistible energy and mastery of Uganda and East Africa’s rhythm percussion and traditional instruments to present a world-class cultural experience of Afro-fusion music. The sound of the Akoogo, Adungu, Entongoli, Endigiddi, Amadinda, Calabash and Engoma fuses with the guitar, saxophone, keyboard and the drums to come up with an authentic Ugandan ethnic rhythm rooted heavily in folklore. Buoyed by the ideology that “the world speaks the same language of music” the band hopes to bait new converts with its soul and traditional rhythm repertoire.
Herbert Kinobe 11PM
Kinobe is a prodigy-turned-maestro who alongside elder brother Damascus Kafumbe started out as teenage instrumentalist in Percussion Discussion Africa. This was after the duo built their multi-instrumentalist skill set at Makerere College School, one of the top performing arts high schools at the time. He is reputed for his inspired synthesis of African roots and global fusion, the later honed from sharing the same stage with international World Music artistes of note like Toumani Diabate, Youssou N’dour, Salif Keita, Angelique Kidjo, Oliver Mtukudzi and Baaba Maal. His life goal is to bring love and joy to people through his music and contributing to building healthier lives and communities for children and families everywhere. Kinobe has given concerts and workshops all over Europe, North America and Africa, bringing a powerful World-roots-dance sound to festival main stages and theatres, and intimately captivating solo shows that showcase the diversity of the traditional instruments. Kinobe is proud to be a World Ambassador for the Harmony Foundation (CANADA) supporting their important work on environmental protection and social development and improving the lives of children and their families around the world
Yuttah Konvicts 7PM
Kenneth Desire Tereka, an immensely talented dance prodigy started Yuttah Konvict Society in 2007 to pave the way for other young dancers like him who were being stifled by industry veterans of the day. Despite rarely getting opportunities to learn or perform the contemporary dance genre, they were spurred on by their love for dance inspired by the tales of convicts in Luzira prisons. Yuttah Konvictz uses dance as a basic means of communication with the influence of props and other accessory usage to advance character analysis or role imposition. This allows the dancers to express there emotion, empathy and acting while explaining the theme through highly imaginative dance expressions. Performance execution usually includes various activities like singing, poetry, abstractness and visual artistry during the performance execution and ever since its conception they do.
Kaya Kagimu 10PM
Kaya Kagimu Mukasa’s performing arts CV includes stints as a film actress, arts practitioner, dancer and instrumentalist boasting over 20 years of professional experience. An alumna of The Royal Court Theatre International Playwrights’ Residency, United Kingdom, she has worked on drama and film projects in over 16 countries, taking on different roles. She has also written and managed plays for Dinner Theatre and is also founder of Arts Treasure, a theatre company she runs. Kaya returns to Bayimba 2013 with a theatre play “My Maid and I” a story of two friends in conversation about the understanding of their current and previous maids. “There are so many stories that people who have maids can tell”, Kaya says. “I have chosen a few aspects to deal with in this humorously teasing drama. It is a play acted by two women.”
Myko Ouma comes to Bayimba 2013 fresh from a two-night headlining gig held at Kati Kati last weekend. The ace guitarist is fast gaining recognition as a jazz and contemporary world music artiste from Uganda. After studying music at Makerere College School, Myko began investigating traditional Ugandan instrumentation. Proficient on a variety of distinctive traditional instruments, Myko’s musical vision is to integrate Ugandan folk music and jazz. As a guitarist, he has developed a unique playing style informed by the traditional rhythms and melodies of Ugandan roots music. He is an active producer both in studio and live events. Together with his long-time colleague Kinobe Herbert, he co-founded the Ugandan band, SOUL BEAT AFRICA and in Feb 2010, he released his self- titled debut solo album.
Dan Mugula 8PM
Dan Mugula is from the quintessential kadongo kamu era of picking guitarists, the kind that narrate lyrics over individually plucked box guitar strings. The 67-year-old veteran artiste released his first jukebox two records in 1968 with the help of Eclas Kawalya, dad to Afrigo diva Joanita Muganga Kawalya. At a time – Dan Mugula says, there were no public concerts,” he was living in the village singing and digging of a farmland. 1973 saw him team up with Paul Ddamulira, Bernard Nsubuga, Christopher Ssebadduka to form Picking Guitarists and their first show was at Mugongo, Kyengera. At that time, Dan had his popular songs like Ntongo (1970), Balaba Taliiyo (1971) about the return of Sir Edward Mutesa’s body for burial, Kanegoote, Abakyala Okwenobya, Najjuma, Eky’okukola Kyabula. According to Dan Mugula, these were his best moments in life. He has since retired from active singing but continued composing.
Okello Lawrence 7PM
At 26, Okello Lawrence can boast about having transitioned from a child prodigy to a seasoned artiste that can now hold his own fort solo. He honed is craft as part of Ndere Troupe which he joined aged just 10. The outfit is reputed to be the de-facto cultural ambassadors of Uganda and Okello credits his tome with the troupe for having moulded him into the fine and versatile Ugandan traditional/classical Musician he is today. And the thing about him is that he does not limit himself to a particular culture or group of people. His style cuts across the plains, mountains, valleys, grasslands and plateaus of this culturally endowed pearl of Africa. His impressive musical resume includes playing with bands like; Joel Sebunjo and Sundiata, Qwela Band, the Nile Project Band based in Egypt comprising various musicians from countries along the Nile River and others.
Tabu-Flo Dance Crew 10PM
In six years, Tabu-Flo Dance Crew has established itself as a much sought-after urban dance outfit that stretches its repertoire beyond corporate product endorsements to theatrical performances that create a lot of arts buzz. Their last production Abaseezi: The Myth of the Night Dancers was all the rage in 2011 and they hope to replicate the same magic with Kalabanda: The Skeletor, an Afro-hip-hop dance production at the National Theatre this September 27-29, 2013. Their performance at the 6th Bayimba International Festival of the Arts will include a sneak preview of their upcoming theatre production alongside their enchanting repertoire that has cemented their status as the city’s biggest urban dance export.
Text: MOSES SERUGO (firstname.lastname@example.org)