In Uganda, the electronic music festival Nyege Nyege is making a comeback

After two editions canceled due to Covid-19, it is an understatement to say that the return of the Nyege Nyege festival, the biggest electronic music event in East Africa, was awaited by the organizers and the public. “We find a bit of the atmosphere of our beginnings”, smiles Derek Debru, co-founder of the event. Installed this year on the heights of the White Nile and the spectacular rapids of Itanda, the Nyege Nyege, which means “the irresistible and sudden desire to dance” in Luganda, offered itself as a new beginning.

On the site, much larger than the previous one, visitors enjoy daytime activities such as kayaking or paddleboarding, or lounging on the banks of the river. At night, they go from one stage to another to dance to the sounds of Tanzanian singeli, experimental electro or South African amapiano thanks to a rich program of almost 300 artists. “I came to be surprised because I don’t usually listen to this kind of music, explains Moses, of Kenyan origin. For the scenes, I am far from disappointed, but the organization is not optimal. The tent I had booked was not available when I arrived”.

Read also: Uganda: accused of being “immoral”, the electronic music festival Nyege Nyege finally authorized

When the festivities kicked off, the camps that were supposed to host the festival-goers were far from ready. Even on the second day, all the tents, toilets and showers had not yet been completed, and some chalets, the most expensive accommodation on the site, had never been built. “We realized at the last moment that the contractor did not have the necessary equipment to do his job and that we had been duped”regret Derek Debru.

“Close to the worship of the devil”

Several authorities in the country also tried to ban the event. On September 6, the Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among, claimed to cancel the festival, accused of “promoting immorality”. The news was quickly contradicted by the government, which assured, however, of strengthening security and prohibiting “orgies and nudity”. “We’re getting used to these announcements, I don’t worry anymore when I see that Nyege is banned”laughs Jane Bugeme, who came with friends for her third edition. Already in 2018, the festival had escaped cancellation, formulated by the Reverend Simon Lokodo, former minister of ethics, openly homophobic, who described it as “close to the worship of the devil”.

“It’s sad to talk about that instead of programming and artistic vision”regret Derek Debru. Despite these pressures, the Nyege Nyege and its two labels, Nyege Nyege Tapes and Hakuna Kulala, have established themselves in a few years as key players in the various alternative scenes on the African continent, launching pads for many artists who now perform on the continent. ‘international.

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